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Employers Expanding and Incentivizing Their Well-Being Programs

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Many organizations are incentivizing their wellness plans this year, according to research from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).

The “Health and Well-Being Survey” revealed that 57% of the 164 employers surveyed provide financial incentives to employees by reducing their health-care plan premiums and more than a third (34%) of employers provide incentives by funding an employee’s health care account, such as a health savings account (HSA).

Overall, the survey found that companies across the country are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on well-being programs in 2019 to help create healthier and more productive workforces. While there are various components to corporate well-being programs, the study revealed that more than one-third (40%) of these budgets will be applied to financial incentives that encourage employees, and their spouses/domestic partners, to participate in these programs.

The average per-employee incentive decreased slightly to $762 for 2019, down from $784 in 2018, but is still nearly three times the average employee incentive of $260 reported in 2009. In addition, the percentage of employers offering incentives to spouses and domestic partners increased to 58% in 2019, up from 54% in 2018, while the average incentive for spouses/domestic partners increased to $601, up from $596 in 2018.

Overall, employers are expected to continue to focus on financial incentives as a key benefit within well-being platforms in the future, as 33% of employers indicated they plan to continue to increase the amount of financial incentives for employees over the next three-to-five years.

Employers Recognize Interconnectedness in Well-being Programs Beyond Physical Health
While programs focused on physical health remain the most popular offering on well-being platforms, employers continue to recognize the interrelationship between physical, financial, work and life well-being.

For example, recent research from Fidelity indicates that employees who need help with their financial well-being are significantly less likely to be physically healthy and more likely to report feeling frequently stressed or anxious, which can impact job performance and productivity. In addition, employees with low job satisfaction also tend to feel burned out at work and miss an average of nine days each year. However, employees who engage in some kind of regular community involvement, such as volunteering on a weekly basis, are more likely to have lower stress and greater life satisfaction, which can enhance workplace productivity.

As a result, employers continue to focus on providing programs focused on well-being beyond physical health, including emotional/mental health (92%), financial health (88%), community involvement (69%), social connectedness (54%) and job satisfaction (43%).

“More employers view their investments in health and well-being as integral to deploying the most engaged, productive and competitive workforce possible,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of NBGH. “Their focus is holistic, with physical health being a component rather than the only priority. Employers recognize that their employees have different needs and want to engage in different ways. Financial and emotional stress, for example, are major detractors from work performance and employers are doubling down on these areas.”  

Well-Being Programs Continue to Expand Globally, but Tailored to Local Workforce
Employers with a multinational workforce are increasingly interested in developing a consistent benefits platform for their employees across different geographies, and many companies have taken steps to offer well-being programs to their global workforce.

More than half (56%) of employers surveyed offer well-being programs to their global employees, an increase from 44% in 2018, and another 14% are considering extending their well-being program to workers in multiple geographies by next year. However, only 34% of employers have a global strategy in place, while half (50%) let local markets focus on well-being as needed.

In addition, the overall objectives of well-being programs still vary by region. According to the survey, two of the top objectives of well-being programs in the United States are to manage health-care costs (82%) and improve employee productivity/reduce absenteeism (59%), while the top objectives globally are to improve employee engagement/performance (82%) and align employees with the corporate culture (72%).


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