The Most Wonderful (Stressful) Time of the Year

January 27, 2016

The winter holiday season that just passed is a stressful time for many, whether because of travel anxiety, the desire to find just the right gifts, or tension between family members at holiday gatherings. But it turns out one of the greatest sources of year-round stress for many people are the environments of the organizations in which they work. In fact, according to the 2015/2016 Towers Watson* Staying@Work survey of 1,669 employers globally, fielded in June and July of 2015, workplace stress is the #1 lifestyle issue in every region except Asia Pacific, where it ranks second.

It’s no wonder reducing stress in the workplace is a primary aim of employer-sponsored wellness programs. The view is that less stress at work translates into healthier and more productive employees — and lower health care costs.

Despite their good intentions, employer wellness programs have been plagued by the unmet promise of return on investment (ROI). Programs may be reducing stress and improving employee health and productivity in the workplace, but the reality is, that gain is not reflected in the numbers. Employers recognize this disconnect, with less than half of them describing any specific aspect of their health and productivity programs as successful, where success is defined as achieving goals such as lower cost, fewer employee sick days, and reduced chronic disease and lifestyle-related risks in employee and dependent populations.

The ROI challenge does not mean, however, that employers are poised to abandon wellness programs. In fact, according to the Staying@Work survey data, 84% of employers identify health and productivity improvement as essential or moderately important to their health strategies. Additionally, 77% of these companies said they plan to increase or significantly increase their commitment to employee wellness and well-being in the next three years.

As we progress through the new year, we may see improved methods of capturing the ROI of these programs or other means of measuring their success. That remains to be seen. But it is clear that employers remain committed to programs that promise to reduce stress in the workplace well into 2016 and beyond.


For other OneExchange posts on wellness, see:

Wellness Programs and the Challenge of Pinning Down ROI

Survey Reveals Employers’ New Year’s Resolution: Employee Wellness


*Towers Watson is now Willis Towers Watson, following the merger of equals between Wills and Towers Watson on December 11, 2015.

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