BOSTON, Mass. and Washington D.C.– America’s workers will take greater responsibility for their health and participate in corporate wellness programs if there is a financial incentive, according to a survey released today by Virgin HealthMiles, a leading provider of health and productivity programs. Eighty nine percent of the 2,700 U.S. employees surveyed said financial rewards (e.g., cash, healthcare premium discounts) are important motivators for participating in wellness programs. Corporations today are on the front line of the healthcare issue, footing the bill for increased healthcare costs. These survey results underscore the private sector’s opportunity to lead healthcare reform by encouraging healthy behaviors that lessen the demand on the nation’s healthcare system and decrease costs.
The survey was released to mark the start of National Employee Wellness Month, September 2009. This initiative, sponsored by Virgin HealthMiles and the national not-for-profit health coalition, the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance, spotlights the critical role employers play in supporting healthy employee behaviors and preventing the onset of chronic conditions that are the primary drivers of our nation’s soaring healthcare costs. In total, more than 60 companies across the United States and more than 17,000 of their employees are participating in the inaugural year of this important national campaign.
“Promoting wellness in the workplace makes tremendous sense because the majority of healthcare costs impacting employers and employees are due to preventable chronic diseases,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles. “Forward-thinking employers know they can’t afford to wait for reform to happen on the federal level – they need to take action to control rising healthcare costs before they drain the lifeblood of American business. Through National Employee Wellness Month and this survey of U.S. employees and human resources managers, we hope to educate corporations and inspire employees to make simple lifestyle changes to improve their health. The private sector has a unique opportunity to create a sustainable solution to our nation’s healthcare woes, and the time to act is now.”
Workplace Wellness Viewed as Key to Healthcare Cost Containment
Eighty five percent of surveyed employers reported the need to control rising healthcare costs was key to their decision to implement a wellness program. The survey results closely follow the results of a July 2009 survey conducted by The Society of Human Resource Management. While 60 percent of human resources professionals report that the economic downturn has had an impact on benefits offerings, wellness and prevention is one area where there is an expected increase.
“The workplace is one important environment that could be better leveraged to fight obesity,” said Christine Ferguson, director of the STOP Obesity Alliance and Associate Research Professor, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “We are proud to support National Employee Wellness Month as a vehicle for educating businesses across the country about the value of a healthier and more productive workforce.”
Employees Value Wellness Programs that Get Them Moving as a Community
Seventy six percent of respondents agreed that community and social elements of their wellness program were influential in helping them stay committed to their fitness routines. This echoes a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which demonstrated the connection between one’s social ties and obesity/health. Most Americans spend a third of their weekdays at work, often spending more waking hours with colleagues than friends and family. If a workplace is focused as a community on becoming more active and healthy, it is likely more employees will be inspired to participate in a wellness initiative than they would on their own.
Survey respondents were also asked what workplace wellness programs they were likely to participate in if offered by their employer. The highest percentage of respondents indicated they were “Very Likely” to participate in programs designed to increase daily physical activity (70 percent).
Rewards, Measurable Results, Sustainable Behavior Key to Wellness Program Success
When asked about the factors contributing to the success of their wellness programs:
• 80 percent of human resources management pointed to the value of financial incentives integrated into the program, and
• 70 percent said measurement and reporting of wellness program effectiveness is critical.
The in-house survey was conducted August 1-14, 2009, via email and was completed by more than 50 Virgin HealthMiles clients and over 2,700 members. An executive summary of the survey results and more information on National Employee Wellness Month can be found at: http://www.nationalemployeewellnessmonth.com/.
About National Employee Wellness Month
National Employee Wellness Month is an annual initiative held in September that highlights the importance of creating healthier and more physically active communities in the workplace, and the critical role a proactive approach towards wellness plays in reducing national healthcare costs. This initiative provides a vehicle for educating both employers and employees about the benefits of preventative health within the workplace, and is a rallying call in support of increased wellness awareness.