Survey: Incentives Can Motivate Employees' Commitment to Wellness Programs

As wellness programs grow in popularity, employees overwhelmingly see value in these healthy activities, but don't stay committed to them according to a new survey from the Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America. Nearly half of employees who have participated in wellness programs in the past three years admit that their commitment trails off after just a few years.

However, there's hope. Sixty-eight of employees believe that incentives such as cash, gifts and extra vacation days can help them to shore up the willpower to adopt healthier behaviors such as exercising, eating properly and kicking their smoking habits. Two-thirds of all employees and 85 percent of those who are currently enrolled or have participated in a wellness program in the past three years say that these programs are very effective in promoting good health.

Guardian conducted the survey, "Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Group Medical," to gain insight about consumer viewpoints on health, wellness and medical insurance.

According to the study:

  • Three in 10 employees either currently participate and/or have participated in a wellness program in the past three years.
  • Only 35 percent of employees report that they have access to wellness programs at work. And half of those who believe that they have access at work are currently enrolled in a program.

"Workplace-based wellness programs are growing in popularity with employers, largely to promote prevention and early intervention as a means to help control the cost of healthcare," said Tim Bireley, vice president, Group Medical, Guardian. "With only a third of employees reporting that wellness programs are available at their jobs, employers and the benefits industry have to do a better job of increasing awareness about these programs. There is also an enormous opportunity to educate small and midsize business owners about the benefits of wellness initiatives. If most employees at companies large and small were actively participating in wellness programs we might see a significant decline in the cost of medical care in the United States."

A separate 2007 Guardian survey, shows that larger employers are more likely to embrace wellness programs.

  • 82 percent of small employers, 90 percent of midsize employers and 99 percent of large employers see value in implementing wellness programs. Only 57 percent of the small businesses that value wellness programs have implemented some type of plan.
  • This is compared to greater adoption in larger companies: 79 percent of the midsize businesses and 90 percent of large businesses that value wellness programs have one in place.

"Wellness programs can be simple, affordable and fun," Bireley said. "Employee incentives can be as elaborate as offering a trip to Tahiti in exchange for exercising an hour each day, or as basic as an extra vacation day for kicking a smoking habit."

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