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Companies tend to rank the health of their employees ahead of controlling premium costs when asked why they offer wellness programs as part of their benefits packages.

This is what a survey of 443 human resources professionals revealed. The survey was executed by the HR nonprofit association WorldatWork and funded in part by Healthmine.

Of the organizations in the sample group, 96 percent reported supporting well-being programs for employees, and three-quarters said they intend to enrich those programs over the next two years.

And most would keep up with their well-being/wellness programs even if they shifted employees to some other type of health coverage, the study reported.

 “If employer-sponsored health care was eliminated, 95 percent of responding organizations say they would keep workplace safety programs, 92 percent would continue to encourage time away from work and flexible schedules, and 90 percent would preserve their employee assistance programs. The programs with higher drop rates include: resiliency training (29 percent), disease management (29 percent), mental/behavioral health coverage (27 percent), and wellness coaching (26 percent),” the study found.

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When asked why they offer such programs, responses came in the following order of prioritization:

  • Improve employee health (85 percent)
  • Perceived value to employees (79 percent)
  • Decrease medical premiums (77 percent)
  • Improve productivity (73 percent)
  • Increase engagement (72 percent)
  • Reduce absenteeism (64 percent)

The five most common well-being benefits were, by category:

Health related

  • Immunizations (73 percent)
  • Physical fitness (70 percent)
  • Mental/behavioral coverage (69 percent)
  • Diet and nutrition (62 percent)
  • Smoking cessation (60 percent)

Work-life balance

  • Encourage use of vacation time (66 percent)
  • Flexible schedules (65 percent)
  • Community involvement (56 percent)
  • Child-care assistance (29 percent)
  • Elder-care assistance (23 percent)

Skill-building education

  • Wellness coaching (41 percent)
  • Stress management (38 percent)
  • Time management (32 percent)
  • Health workplace relationships (24 percent)
  • Behavioral modification (18 percent)

Other popular features included workplace safety coaching, financial education and counseling, EAP resource and referral and, for more than a quarter of respondents, yoga at work.

“Successful organizations are discovering that an innovative approach to well-being goes beyond the employee’s physical health,” said Rose Stanley, WorldatWork senior practice leader. Stanley added, “Today, we’re seeing more companies create flexible work schedules, introduce financial literacy tools, offer unique child-care and elder-care assistance programs and promote stress and time management skills. All of these integrated approaches encourage a more successful and productive workforce.”