In our 2021 benefits survey, we found that 52% of United States organizations offer some form of wellness program to their employees. These programs have the potential to generate savings and improve employee health through the promotion of healthier lifestyles, but not all benefits are created equal.
Too often, wellness programs fall short, resulting in poor utilization and fragmented care. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of five common corporate wellness programs.
Promotes increased physical activity, which can lead to better productivity and focus at work
Encourages healthy lifestyles
Risks underutilization of benefits: 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 physically fit and inclined to participate in this form of exercise
Researchers found, in a survey of 15 million patients, that 39% put on weight during the pandemic. Whether employees work from home, onsite, or within a hybrid model, maintaining healthy eating habits improves their productivity, health, and happiness. Nutritional education remains a cost-effective opportunity to encourage the formation of these habits — no matter where employees work and eat.
Allows employees to achieve healthier weights (and reduce healthcare costs)
Encourages healthy choices and lifestyles
Potentially an effective and low-cost wellness program option
Employees resistant to change don't have the support and tools they need to succeed
Health screenings and health risk assessments
The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that organizations are beginning to take a closer look at their health screening and risk assessment offerings. With the hope of achieving better results, 32% of small organizations and 43% of large organizations have made adjustments to their available biometric screening programs since the beginning of the pandemic.
Identifies health risks connected to choices, histories, habitual behaviors, and more
Evidence-based support can be recommended
Helps employees become accustomed to monitoring their own health
Is generally ineffective when disconnected from a comprehensive care plan
Does not require employees to take any immediate action to improve their health
Employers must be careful not to violate HIPAA, GINA, or ADA standards
Fitness and health competitions
The results of employer-sponsored fitness and health competitions can be difficult to quantify beyond anecdotal stories. It’s best to consider the pros and cons of this incentive in light of your professional culture.
Creates friendly competition which encourages engagement
Boosts 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 employee injuries during a company-sponsored event
Provides employees with opportunities to reduce their distractions and stress
Encourages healthy sleep habits, with some apps providing tools to improve quality of sleep
Regular, disciplined practice can be difficult to achieve without accountability
Lack of relational, human support can prevent people from accomplishing their mindfulness goals
Behavior change is key
These five wellness programs all have one thing in common: They rely on behavior change to be effective. From nutritional education to mindfulness apps, employee engagement is key to the success of any health and wellness program.
Knowing that behavior change cannot be prescribed, we’ve crafted our advanced primary care (APC) model around building close patient-provider relationships, where patients are encouraged to take greater ownership of their health goals and improve their lifestyles through daily changes. Professional health coaches are also available (through virtual or in-person appointments at every Vera care center) to offer support, empathy, and privacy as patients move through the five stages of change.
Our partnership with Castlight Health will boost employee engagement and satisfaction even more. A patient’s ability to access a digital front door means they have greater control over their healthcare journey and digital support in taking proactive steps to improve their well-being.
We don’t think in terms of which wellness program is right and which is wrong. Instead, we’re focused on helping employees achieve lasting wellness through our proven APC model and with Castlight’s digital front door. The health and well-being of your employees is a constant focus.