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Employers increasingly buy into workplace well-being

Posted On: May. 19, 2016 12:00 AM CST

Employers increasingly buy into workplace well-being

Creating a healthy workplace culture is top of mind for most employers, a new analysis shows.

About two-thirds of U.S. employers — 64% — say that by 2018 they will focus on building a workplace culture that promotes employee well-being to get workers engaged in their health, according to the analysis by Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. released Thursday.

Last year, just 34% of employer considered a healthy culture a primary strategy, the analysis showed.

The analysis is based on the 2015/2016 Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey of 487 U.S. employers conducted in May and July 2015.

To build a healthy culture, 70% of employers say they have improved the workplace's physical environment to promote health. For example, they are adding walking paths, implementing bike-sharing programs or putting healthy foods in the cafeteria, according to the analysis.

Sixty-two percent of employers use “local champions” to influence healthy behaviors, 61% encourage workers to share personal stories of health, and 32% leverage social networks to foster a culture of wellness.

Seventy-four percent of employers offer employees online health improvement tools, and 58% provide a web portal devoted exclusively to health-related information.

Among the various well-being programs employers offered in 2015, employee assistance programs and tobacco cessation were available most often, at 98% and 89% respectively, according to the survey.

Eighty-eight percent of employers offered on-site vaccinations, 85% provided health risk assessments, and 73% offered biometric screenings, the survey showed.

Further, 81% of employers in 2015 offered access to weight management programs, 77% offered worksite diet and exercise activities, and 72% provided telephonic lifestyle behavior coaching programs.

Though telemedicine was offered by only 46% of employers in 2015, 24% said they planned to offer it in 2016, and 20% more said they were considering it for 2017 or 2018, according to the survey.

Forty-seven percent of employers are also including financial wellness programs as part of the overall well-being strategy, and 80% plan to include it by 2018, according to the analysis.

Though participation in most wellness programs tends to be low, the survey showed that employers spend about $461 annually per employee on well-being programs.

“Many employees today have a complex set of interconnected issues to deal with, which can prevent them from bringing their best selves to work each day,” Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, Boston-based national leader of the health management practice at Willis Towers Watson, said in the analysis. “Employers increasingly are understanding that to make a measureable difference in employees' overall health and productivity, they must drive well-being initiatives deeper into the organization and embed them in employees' day-to-day work experience.”