Wellness Programs Seen as Key Benefit, Survey Finds

By Staff Report

Mar. 19, 2009

Employers are stepping up communication with their employees about wellness and employee assistance programs available to them and are not planning to make significant cuts in their budgets for those programs, a survey shows.

“Despite pressure to reduce costs in many other areas of operations, 45 percent of respondents report increasing their wellness communications to highlight available services that can assist employees with issues brought on by the economic downturn,” said Ruth Hunt, a principal in Buck Consultants’ communication practice in New York, in a statement.

Hunt co-directed the survey with Barry Hall, Buck principal and global wellness leader, during the Fourth Annual Employer Health & Human Capital Congress, which took place in Washington last month. The survey was conducted interactively involving 200 audience members attending one of the meeting’s general sessions.

“Our findings suggest that wellness has ‘come of age’ as a vital benefit offering, especially during financially difficult times,” Hall said in the statement.

He said 53 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in the use of wellness services since the financial crisis began.

Among other survey findings:

• 19 percent plan to increase spending on wellness programs.
• 59 percent have experienced no budget changes, but are anxious about the possibility of having to make future cuts.
• Among those expecting cuts, 78 percent said that those involving wellness programs will be no greater than any reductions affecting other corporate spending areas.

Before the conference, Buck conducted a separate survey of 52 employer delegates to examine the culture of health—the creation of a workplace culture that promotes healthy lifestyle choices—in today’s workplace.

Those findings include:

Only one-third of respondents report having a culture of health today, while 87 percent intend to pursue this philosophy.
Measuring outcomes is the top priority for enhancing wellness programs among 56 percent of respondents.
Forty-seven percent of respondents reported the biggest barrier to achieving a culture of health in their organizations was getting a commitment from top management.

Results of the surveys have not been formally published.

Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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