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More employers' wellness programs matching employee interests: Study


Employers are making measurable progress in aligning their workplace wellness programs more closely with their employees' needs and interests, according to a new report by wellness program provider Virgin Pulse.

A 2014 survey of workplace wellness programs, “The Business of Healthy Employees,” by the Virgin Group Ltd. unit revealed that the gaps between employees' most prevalent programming interests and the specific wellness activities and resources employers most frequently offer have narrowed considerably since 2013.

Among the 10 wellness programming elements analyzed in both the 2013 and 2014 reports, employers' offerings became more closely aligned with employees' level of interest in all but two categories. In 2014, the percentage-point difference between surveyed employers offering physical activity programs — the most popular choice among employees — and surveyed workers interested in such programs shrank to 19 percentage points, down from 21 in the prior year.

Other gap reductions were far more dramatic. The percentage-point gulf between employees that want healthy on-site food choices and employers that actually provide them narrowed to 25 percentage points, compared with a 46-point gap in 2013.

The percentage of employers offering on-site gyms and fitness centers, health club memberships and health coaching also drew substantially closer to employees' demonstrated level of interest in those programs, with the percentage-point gap in each category narrowing by 18 points or more.

Program elements analyzed in both 2013 and 2014, in descending order of 2014 employee interest, are:

• Physical activities

• Healthy on-site food choices

• On-site fitness centers

• Nutrition programs

• Health club memberships

• Weight management

• Stress management

• Health coaching

• Mental health

• Smoking cessation

“Personalization is critical. Wellness programs need to be comprehensive and tailored to the individual, meeting them where they are and helping them keep their healthy goals and ambitions in check with robust resources,” Chris Boyce, the Framingham, Massachusetts-based CEO of Virgin Pulse, said in the report. “Regardless of anyone's age, gender, health status or any other factor, these programs have to be appealing and attainable for everyone.”