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U.S. Workers See Real Rewards from Workplace Wellness Programs


Jan. 30, 2013 — More U.S. workers recognize the rewards of participating in workplace wellness programs, according to the “Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers.” 62% of workers, up from 55% in 2011, believe workplace wellness activities are successful in improving health and reducing health risks.

The index, which surveys U.S. workers at growing businesses with 10 to 1,000 workers, was released by the Principal Financial Group and conducted by Harris Interactive. The findings focus specifically on wellness attitudes and behaviors among U.S. workers, and were taken from the fourth quarter 2012 index.

By taking advantage of workplace wellness offerings, U.S. employees are approaching their work with more energy and motivation. 51% of program participants feel wellness benefits encourage them to work harder and perform better, and 59% say they have more energy to be productive at work as a result of their participation in employer-sponsored wellness programs.

“As wellness programs become more established in the workplace, we are seeing a growing number of employees appreciate — and expect — that their employer offers these benefits,” said Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group. “In the wake of the financial crisis, which has left many companies stretched thin, maintaining a productive workforce is a priority for organizations.”

Nearly half (45%) of employees agree that an employer-sponsored wellness program would encourage them to stay in their current employment situation, up from 40% in 2011. Additionally, 43% of participants say wellness programs have led them to miss fewer days of work, up 8% from 2011. Despite the apparent benefits, about a third (34%) of workers still do not participate in any of the wellness programs offered by their employers.

As wellness programs become more popular, employers are offering a variety of ways to encourage employees to participate. The survey shows the top three ways employees are encouraged by their employers to participate in wellness programs:

  • Encouragement by management (20%)
  • Lower health insurance costs to those who participate (20%)
  • Allotted time for participation during the workday (20%, up from 9%)

A little more than one-third (36%) say their employers do not offer any encouragement to participate in wellness benefits, a significant divergence from the previous three years, when about half of participants said their employer did nothing to encourage wellness program participation.

Participants also cited an increase in the following employer incentives:

  • 17%, up from 9% the previous year, said their employer offers contributions into a health savings account or health reimbursement account.
  • 16%, up from 12% the previous year, said their employer provides other financial incentives such as gift certificates or discounts for those who participate.
  • 10%, up from 6% the previous year, reported that their employer rewards additional paid time off from work to participants.

“It”s in every employer’s interest to have healthier, happier, more productive employees,” Dukes said. “Employers have to do more than offer wellness programs; in order to see the benefits, they have to incent participation.”

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