Worker Wellness Wishes Revealed

By Rita Pyrillis

Aug. 4, 2014

Employers are paying greater attention to the wellness wants of their employees, according to a recent survey by wellness program provider Virgin Pulse, and topping the list are smoking cessation, physical fitness programs and mental health services.

The idea of tailoring wellness programs to meet the needs of employees depending on their industry, age, health status and other factors is critical in creating an effective program, Chris Boyce, CEO of Framingham, Massachusetts-based Virgin Pulse, said in the survey. However there are “significant gaps” between what employers are offering and what employees want, according to the report.

“Personalization is critical,” Boyce said in the report. “Wellness programs need to be comprehensive and tailored to the individual, meeting them where they are and helping them keep their healthy goals and ambitions in check with robust resources.”

For example, the most popular wellness programs among employers are smoking cessation programs with 54 percent offering them, followed by physical activity programs at 53 percent, mental health and depression management services at 52 percent, and health club memberships at 50 percent, according to the survey, “The Business of Healthy Employees,” done in conjunction with Workforcemagazine. But the top wellness demands for employees are physical activity at 72 percent, healthy on-site food choices at 65 percent, and on-site gym facilities or fitness classes at 62 percent.

One area of growing interest to employers is mental health, with 52 percent of employers offering mental health and depression management services in 2014, up 14 percent from the previous year.

Smoking cessation is a consistently popular offering, due mostly to matching funds provided for these programs through the Affordable Care Act, according to the report. Given the number of financial incentives offered by the ACA, like health club membership reimbursements and rewards for completing health risk assessments, the survey reports that few employers are taking advantage of them.

About 25 percent of employers surveyed were planning to take advantage of these financial incentives and nearly half have no plans to. About 14 percent didn’t even know such incentives existed.

But wellness programs continue to grow with nearly three-fourths of employers planning to expand their offerings in the future, the survey found.

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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