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'Wellness' Expands to Embrace Financial Planning, Volunteering Opportunities

14 Apr 2017 8:20 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

Employers are offering larger incentives to participate in health-promoting programs

A growing percentage of companies are expanding their employee well-being programs beyond health and wellness to include employee financial security and community volunteering opportunities, new research shows.

Eighty-four percent of surveyed employers now offer their workers financial security programs, such as access to debt management tools or student loan counseling, up from 76 percent last year, according to the 8th annual survey on corporate health and well-being from Fidelity Investments, a benefits provider, and the nonprofit National Business Group on Health, an employers' association.

The survey, fielded during November and December 2016, includes responses from 141 large and midsize organizations throughout the U.S. Respondents were asked about their benefit programs for 2017.

"The concept behind holistic well-being is to enable employees to meet their goals rather than tell them what they need to do," said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "Financial well-being is an important well-being pillar, as it's hard to engage employees on addressing health needs if they are struggling with putting food on the table or managing debt."

Wellness Program Incentives

Ninety-five percent of surveyed employers are offering physical wellness programs this year, and 87 percent are providing emotional health benefits, such as mental health counseling through an employee assistance program.

Employee incentives continue to be a critical part of health-promoting programs. The survey found that:

  • 74 percent of respondents include employee incentives within their wellness initiatives.
  • The average employee incentive amount was $742 this year, up from $651 in 2016 and $521 in 2013.
  • Employers are increasing incentives for spouses and domestic partners to participate in wellness offerings, with the average annual spouse/domestic partner incentive at $694, up 47 percent over the 2016 average of $471.

"As these programs evolve, employers are embracing a broader definition of well-being to increase participation and engagement among their workforce," said Adam Stavisky, senior vice president at Fidelity Benefits Consulting. "Today's programs take more of a 'health meets wealth' approach and reflect a blend of financial, physical and social/emotional programs to provide maximum support for members."

Among the most popular financial security programs are:

  • Seminars and "lunch-and-learn" programs (offered by 82 percent of employers).
  • Access to tools to support key financial decisions such as those regarding mortgages, wills and income protection (74 percent).
  • Tools and resources to support emergency savings, debt management and budgeting (71 percent).
  • Student loan counseling or repayment assistance (25 percent).
  • The most popular physical well-being programs continue to be:
  • Smoking cessation (91 percent).
  • Physical activities/challenges (86 percent).
  • Weight management (79 percent).

Ergonomic Desks and Healthier Food Options

Fifty-five percent of companies surveyed offer a "sit-or-stand" ergonomic desk or treadmill workstation option, up from 43 percent last year.

Employers are recognizing the impact of fitness wearables on employee health—30 percent will offer subsidies or discounts on these devices in 2017.

Companies are also focusing on healthy onsite food options for their workforce—48 percent have policies regarding healthy food options in their cafeteria, vending machines and catering services, and 28 percent of organizations offer discounts or price differentials on healthy food options in the cafeteria.

Giving and Volunteering Opportunities

The percentage of employers that provide opportunities for employees to volunteer for community projects increased from 67 percent to 79 percent this year, while the percentage of employers offering a matching program to support employees' charitable giving increased from 65 percent to 71 percent.

Employers are adding cause-based collection drives, with the percentage of companies offering these programs increasing to 88 percent from 77 percent last year.

"Over the years, employers across the country have bolstered benefits that contribute to employee well-being. … One of these benefits particularly touches the heart and soul of employees: volunteering," Henry G. ("Hank") Jackson, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, recently wrote.

"This benefit is important to many workers, particularly Millennials, who view participating in community service as part of being a whole person," he noted.

By Stephen Miller, CEBS
Apr 14, 2017

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Source: The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)


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