Study Shows Corporate Wellness Programs Reached a Plateau

by: Nichole Gunn August 15, 2011

Corporate health and wellness programs have reached an approximate 59 percent plateau. What does this actually mean? Well, the percentage of organizations that provide these programs has stalled for the past five years at around 59 percent. This information comes from the Society for Human Resource Management 2011 Employee Benefits Research Report; the study consisted of human resources practitioners.

This trend is surprising in that more and more businesses are seeking strategies to reduce increasing healthcare costs, while at the same time maintain employee benefits.

Director of research at the Society for Human Resource Management Mark Schmit spoke with Workforce Management magazine, “We don't see wellness programs growing (but) there's a huge opportunity here. In a meta-analysis of 56 studies that look at the impact of wellness programs, it was found that for one dollar spent an employer can reap six dollars of benefit.” He added that it is a wonder why more businesses are implementing these programs.

Eight percent of study participants who are lacking employee health programs cited intentions of initiating a program within the next year. Interestingly, while the number of organizations offering wellness programs have reached a plateau, there has been an 8 percent increase, since 2008, of organizations utilizing employee rewards incentives or offering employee bonuses.

Another aspect of the study focused on respondents who cited wellness programs were a part of their company’s benefits. The study statistics reveal:

  • 42% of the study participants cited offering health screenings
  • 39% hold annual health fairs
  • 37% percent afford lifestyle and health counseling
  • 36% provide smoking cessation help
  • 30% offer a program for weight loss
  • 17% provide nutrition counseling
  • 12% provide a program for stress reduction

In regard to motivating employees to establish a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise:

  • 30% provide reimbursement or subsidies for fitness center or gym memberships
  • 24% took it a step further and have on-site fitness centers
  • 16% offer on-site fitness classes
  • 4% provide reimbursement or subsidies for fitness equipment

To further motivate participation, healthcare insurance premium discounts were also mentioned:

  • 14% provide discounts to workers who participate in yearly health-risk assessments
  • 12% reward discounts for staying away from cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • 11% provide discounts to workers who simply participate in the wellness program
  • 7% reward discounts toward workers’ weight loss efforts

A study recently conducted by Deloitte revealed that employers’ top priority is to reduce the cost of employee healthcare benefits.