52 percent of American organizations offer a wellness program to employees, according to results of our recent benefits survey. By promoting healthier lifestyles, these programs can generate savings and improve employee health — but not all benefits are created equal.
Too often, wellness programs fall short, resulting in poor utilization and more fragmented care. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of five common corporate wellness programs to consider how your organization and their employees can best achieve their goals.
Increased physical activity can lead to better productivity and focus at work
Encourages healthy lifestyle
Onsite fitness facilities were a costly liability before COVID-19; now they have the added challenge of being even less in demand
Appeals primarily to employees who are already fit
A Paychex survey found that employees tend to eat healthier when working remotely. But the difference is slight: 38% of remote employees surveyed claim healthy eating habits, compared to 31% of in-office employees. There’s good news embedded here: Nutritional education remains a cost-effective opportunity to encourage employee health and wellness — no matter where they work (and eat) from.
Employees can achieve a healthier weight (and reduce healthcare costs)
Encourages healthy choices and lifestyles
Can be an effective and low-cost way to offer a wellness program
Employees can continue unhealthy nutrition habits regardless of access or education
Employees resistant to change don't have the support and tools they need to succeed
Health screenings and health risk assessments
Health screenings and risk assessments are becoming as prevalent as other employer-provided benefits. At a time when 56 percent of companies offer a 401(k) plan, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 33 percent of small organizations and 50 percent of large organizations offer in-person health screenings, while 42 percent of small organizations and 60 percent of large organizations offer a health risk assessment.
Identifies health risks connected to choices and habitual behaviors
Evidence-based support can be recommended
Helps employees get accustomed to monitoring their own health
Studies have shown that health risk assessment surveys disconnected from a comprehensive care plan are generally ineffective
Does not require employees to take any immediate action to improve health
Employers must be careful not to violate HIPAA, GINA, or ADA
While employer-provided weight-loss programs can be controversial, roughly 60 percent of employers offer a weight-loss program or are thinking about adding the benefit for their employees. Controversy aside, studies show some of these programs are helpful — but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your culture.
Creates community and encourages healthy lifestyles
Targets obesity, which can lead to substantial health improvements for employees
Can involve nutrition, exercise, and mental health programs
Some may be too shy or feel ashamed to engage
Possible cost of outside program sponsorship
Fitness and health competitions
The results of employer-sponsored fitness and health competitions can be difficult to quantify beyond anecdotal stories. Like weight loss programs, it’s best to consider the pros and cons of this incentive in light of your professional culture.
Creates friendly competition which encourages engagement
Invigorates morale and adds fun to health goals
Leads to goal-setting and accountability
Sustaining participation and enthusiasm can be difficult
May be isolating for uncompetitive people or foster unintended resentment based on varied results
Liability of an employee injury during a company-sponsored event
Behavior change is key
These five wellness programs all have one thing in common: They rely on behavior change to be effective. From fitness programs to weight-loss initiatives, employee engagement is key to any wellness program’s success.
Knowing that behavior change cannot be prescribed, we’ve built our advanced primary care (APC) model around patient-provider relationships built on trust, where patients are encouraged to take greater ownership of their health goals and improve their lifestyle through daily changes. Professional health coaches are also available (through virtual or in-person appointments at every Vera care center) to lend an empathetic ear as patients experience the privacy and support that helps them move through the five stages of change.
We think less in terms of the “right” or “wrong” program and more about how to help employees achieve lasting wellness through our comprehensive APC model. It’s a centralized care experience where wellness is a consistent focus. So, instead of paying for a weight loss wellness program benefit and a nutrition wellness program benefit, an organization can choose APC to significantly improve health and wellness outcomes while consolidating benefits. When behavior change is just one of APC’s proven outcomes, your employees stand the greatest chance of achieving health and wellness that lasts.