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Majority of Employees Report Dissatisfaction with Employer Wellness Programs


December 11, 2017

A recent survey by Willis Towers Watson—a global investment advisory, broking, and solutions company—found that a majority of employees reported that their employer’s integrated wellness programs were not satisfactory.

Integrated workplace wellness programs have a track record for improving the overall health of employees and are a common trend among the nation’s largest employers. According to the survey, technological advances have made innovative benefit designs, such as the inclusion of wellness programs, possible. They highlighted shifts to defined contribution arrangements, rising health care costs, tightening of public purses, and the growing multi-generation workforce, as forces that are driving the need for innovation in benefit design.

“Together with shifting workforce demographics and the breakneck pace of technological advances, these forces have significantly altered the employee benefit landscape,” the authors of the report wrote. “Many of these forces have been brewing for decades, but today they are coming together to create an opening for employers to offer a new proposition. And ideas that were not technologically feasible or cost effective before can now be realized.”

Of note, the survey highlight technological advances and a great emphasis on health and well being as primary drivers of the need for better benefits.

“Technology has reduced the costs of providing benefits and enabled greater benefit plan integration and more choice,” Willis Towers Watson wrote. “New delivery platforms are enabling employers to realize many ideas that have been percolating for decades (and to do so in a cost-effective, engaging way). Many employers have added programs — in some markets decades ago—to help employees adopt healthier lifestyles, to hold the line on health care costs and to improve productivity.”

The authors highlighted four core areas where employers are innovating in integrated wellness program design. These included: physical well-being, financial well-being, emotional well-being, and social well-being.

“Our latest research shows that employers plan to add more well-being programs of all types, than any other benefits, over the next three years,” the authors wrote. “While this suggests significant opportunities for the future, employees’ responses are that a broad array of health and well-being programs have so far fallen short of expectations.”

The report found that only 31% of employees in North America reported that they felt their employer’s well-being programs meet their needs. The authors noted that this satisfaction rate was much lower compared with the satisfaction rate of health benefits. They also highlight that the trend is leaning towards a more negative view of well-being programs over time, with satisfaction dropping from 41% in 2007.

“Clearly, employees do not view their employers’ health and well-being programs as being as attractive as products or services they see elsewhere in their daily lives,” the authors wrote.

The report also found that 73% of employees wanted to manage their own well-being benefits. The authors suggested that employers could improve their well-being program by integrated more wearables and other recent technologies. They added that the benefit of financial incentives is not clear at this time.

“Based on the last decade of experience with these programs, the research and evidence are clear: simply offering lots of programs or using incentives to drive participation is not enough,” they wrote. “But do financial incentives work? So far, the results have been mixed. It is not clear that incentives generally promote significant, sustainable changes in health-related behavior.”

David Costill


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