Survey: New wellness programs on the rise, existing ones to expand

By Marli D. Riggs | April 4, 2012

More plan sponsors continue to start wellness programs, while the majority of organizations with programs currently in place are looking to expand and invest, according to the 2011 Willis Health and Productivity Survey by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice.

According to the survey, 60% of respondents indicate they have some type of wellness program, an increase of 13% from 2010. Additionally, 58% indicate they plan to expand their wellness initiatives with added programs or resources.

“Wellness programs continue to evolve and it is encouraging to see more organizations initiate programs despite economic pressures and continuing challenges in accurately measuring outcomes and results,” says Jennifer Price, senior health outcomes consultant at Willis Human Capital Practice.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • The most common types of wellness programs being offered by respondents include: physical activity programs (53%), tobacco cessation programs (49%) and weight management programs (45%).
  • Although 29% of survey respondents consider themselves to be a global organization, only 15% indicate they have implemented a wellness program for their global employees.
  • Forty-three percent of plan sponsors say the leading barrier to measuring success was difficulty in determining the influence of wellness compared with other factors impacting health care costs.

This year’s survey included a subset of questions that also asked employers about work/life balance programs. Findings reveal that 51% of respondents reported promoting work/life balance programs within their worksite wellness program. After employee assistance programs, flexible start/end times are the most common offering of work/life balance program options, say 81% of respondents. The survey finds helping employees achieve work/life balance is reported to be a significant concern by 18% of respondents, and somewhat of a concern by 54%.

“It is exciting to see more employers offering work/life balance programs as a part of their broader wellness efforts. Employers seem to realize that employees need resources to find the proper balance between the demands of work and personal life,” adds Price.

The survey represents the findings received from 1,598 plan sponsors. Forty-four percent of respondents had 1,000 or more employees.

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