U.S. Employers Struggle to Engage Employees in Health and Well-being Programs

January 7, 2016

Employers remain committed to the health and productivity of their workforce, driven by ongoing concerns over stress, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles among employees. A large majority (84%) of U.S. employers identify improving the health and productivity of their employees as essential or moderately important to their health strategies. In addition, 77% expect their organization’s commitment to increase or significantly increase in the next three years.

This data comes from the findings of two surveys, the 2015/2016 Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey and the annual Global Benefit Attitudes Survey, which were completed by 1,669 employers and 30,000 employees respectively. Willis Towers Watson reported results from both surveys in a recent press release.

While this continued commitment by employers is good news, current offerings may not be engaging employees or resulting in healthier choices. According to the survey findings, only a third of employees reported that well-being initiatives offered by their employers encouraged them to live healthier lifestyles.

Employees also reported that they prefer to manage their own health (71%), and in some cases that employer offerings don’t meet their needs (32%). While 50% of employees participated in a well-being activity or health management-related program in the last year, they weren’t taking full advantage of the incentives offered. Despite an average of $880 being offered through a range of annual incentives, employees collected just $365 on average and as many as two fifths didn’t earn any incentives at all.

Shelly Wolff, senior health care consultant at Willis Towers Watson, explained the challenge for employers: “U.S. employers have long recognized that the health and productivity of their workforce can influence business success and create competitive advantage. Yet while the hot-button issues of stress and obesity remain ever-present, the numerous programs and incentives designed to combat them have failed to effectively engage employees.”

The answer, Wolff suggests, may be looking at the program offerings from a different perspective. She said, “Employers may find the key to making better progress hinges on looking at these programs through an employee’s eyes.”

Determining how exactly this needs to be done is no easy task and depends on the individual employer’s industry and the occupations their employees fill.

To read the complete press release, click here.

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