Employee wellness or wellbeing has become a growing focal point of many organizations’ rewards programs, in an effort to help employees better maintain their physical, mental, emotional, and financial health. A new survey from Willis Towers Watson, however, suggests that most employees don’t think these programs are really encouraging them to live healthier lifestyles, with only 32 percent of employees agreeing that they were, compared to 56 percent of employers. David McCann recently covered the survey at CFO:
If you believe employers’ claims, they’re more concerned with their workers’ health than the workers are. While 87% of participating employers claimed that increasing employee engagement in health and well-being is a top priority, a substantially lower proportion (65%) of employee respondents rated managing their own health as a top priority.
Indeed, a majority (54%) of workers think their employer should financially reward them for living healthy lifestyles. And employees increasingly say they would participate in health and wellness programs only if offered incentives; 46% of them said so in 2017, compared with 35% in 2011.
Our own research at CEB, now Gartner, has also shown that employers are still working to achieve the right balance of features in their wellbeing programs and maximize their impact on employee engagement. In a peer benchmarking session at the CEB ReimagineHR summit in Washington, DC, last October, more rewards leaders said they expected wellness or wellbeing to be their number one area of change in 2018 than healthcare or retirement. Budgetary allocations for these programs are not growing, however, meaning HR leaders are being asked to do more with less.
To get the best return on their investments in wellbeing, we’ve found, employers should make these programs holistic—focusing primarily on physical health but also on emotional and financial wellness—while making them easy to use and responsive to employees’ real needs (not what the employer thinks their needs are). These are the metrics that matter when it comes to wellbeing.
Multiple studies have found that when done right, wellbeing offerings can have a positive impact on employee engagement, productivity, and retention, as well as lowering health care costs. Surveys like WTW’s, as well as the perennial media reports questioning the usefulness of these programs, suggest that many employers are not yet getting the formula right. CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can check out our wellbeing content hub for a wide range of research and tools for designing an effective program and measuring its success.