- It's an employees' market, and employers are feeling pressured to up their benefits offerings in response, according to a new study from Wellable, a firm specializing in employee wellness. Wellable gathered responses from 105 employee wellness professionals.
- Over one third (35%) of respondents said employers would spend more on wellness programs in 2018, while just 15% stated that they would decrease spending. Areas targeted for increased spending include telemedicine, mental health and financial wellness, while the opposite trend is predicted for health fairs, fitness classes, health coaching and health risk assessments, largely because these services are harder to scale and cost more per engaged employee, Wellable said.
- Results also showed that, when determining benefits investment, 79% of respondents cited a competitive benefits plan as an influencer, and 77% cited cost. The least influential factor was healthcare reform; less than 50% of respondents expect to be significantly influenced by legislative activity from Congress, while 20% expect healthcare reform to have little influence on employers.
For wellness programs to be worth the investment, employers and workers must agree on the value and effectiveness of those programs. In a 2018 Willis Towers Watson study, more than half of employers believed their wellness programs were effective, while just 32% of employees agreed. The demand for financial wellness has increased, with money problems being a major source of stress and distraction for employees at work.
Employers also must factor in their wellness programs' impact on recruitment, retention and engagement. Employees who generally are dissatisfied with their benefits will leave to work for an organization with better benefits. In fact, a 2018 Randstad U.S. survey showed that benefits can be a bigger employment draw than money; more than half of workers polled said they had left a job for one with better benefits.
Of course, return on investment (ROI) is a common test for wellness programs, and ROI measurements can be especially disappointing during the first year of implementation. One study released earlier this year showed no improvements in health behaviors, medical expenditures, employee productivity or self-reported health status after year one of an example program.
Employers must invest in the kind of wellness, or well-being, programs workers value most and avoid over-estimating the significance of these programs without proof of positive outcomes.