The Evolution of Employee Wellness Programs

By Javier Simon | January 05, 2017
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According to the Virgin Pulse survey, employees’ preferred methods of digesting information about wellness programs are via email (86%) and through the company intranet/website (51%). These are also the top two methods used by employers surveyed.

However, Boyce suggests there is still room for improvement. “HR communications has to be more personalized and targeted.” His own firm approaches this task by directing certain wellness-program information toward the employees who most likely would be interested in it based on what they feed into the platform.

“Let’s say I’m interested in reducing stress and we have an EAP program where you can get counseling online to reduce stress,” Boyce alludes. “The platform would recommend it to you if you’re interested based on what it knows about you in the system.”

Another important factor to consider is frequency. The survey found that most employees hear about their benefits on an annual or monthly basis (28%). Freeman argues the former may not be the best approach, especially when it comes to education-based components like financial wellness programs. “If you speak to employees about having better financial habits once a year, it’s just not enough,” Freeman explains.

“What we offer now is a combination of short videos. People are not going to sit through an hour-long presentation. But what we find is that a lot of companies still believe that’s what their employees want.”

Virgin Pulse recommends a variety of push and pull communication methods that utilize multimedia. As for the future of wellness programs, several providers predict it will continuously be more holistic and geared toward the emotional and social well-being of employees, while leveraging the innovations that lie ahead.  

“I think that corporations are going to lean into gamifying,” Boyce explains. “I think that the world of human capital management and all that’s already happening in the world of well-being will merge together. I think what clients want is a platform that will let them support their employees in growing and learning more in a variety of different ways.”

He also pointed to providers focusing on better ways to show these wellness programs can be effective in boosting employee productivity and overall well-being.

“One of my biggest fears is that there are a lot of wellness practitioners that are not good at showing those outcomes,” Boyce explains. “We believe that if you change behavior, you can change the output for individuals and for organizations. The industry as a whole needs to get more sophisticated in their ability to show those changes.” 

"The Business of Healthy Employees: A 2016 Survey of Workplace Health Priorities" can be found at

"PricewaterhouseCooper's 2016 Employee Financial Wellness Survey" can be found at

The RAND Corporation brief "Do Workplace Wellness Programs Save Employers Money?" can be found at