Not only do wellness programs boost employee health, but participants in such programs also are more engaged employees, according to a recent study.
While it might not be surprising that employees who participate once per week in a wellness program took significantly less sick time than those who never do so, even workers who participated sporadically—once a year, once a month or a few times a year—had better attendance records than those with zero participation.
That may be attributable to a perception among participants that their employer cares about their well-being, coloring their attitude toward their workplace, theorizes Mindy McGrath, vice president of strategy for Maritz’s health care sector.
Employees at companies that offer wellness programs are “significantly” more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to remain with the company long term, and more likely to recommend it to a friend or family member as a place to work, according to the findings.
It’s up to employers, though, to give employees a nudge—through communications, education and leadership— to motivate them to participate in wellness programs, according to Maritz.
That theory seems to be backed up by a Canadian survey released in 2008 that found that 83 percent of primary health plan benefit members said they would more likely remain in their job if they really believed their employer was interested in maintaining their good health.
Prevention and workplace wellness practices such as vaccines, exercise programs and cutting-edge drugs were the highest ranked health priorities, according to the 11th annual sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey conducted in December 2007.
It’s critical, McGrath said in a press release, “to offer rewards at key points during the program, not just at the launch. Those rewards must stir the imagination, encourage goal setting, allow reinforcement … and create lasting goodwill and behaviors.”
The Maritz survey, conducted in February 2008 with 2,379 full-time workers, found that:
- When offered a reward or incentive for achieving specific health goals, 23 percent participated in a wellness program once a week.
- When no incentive is offered, participation drops from 23 percent to 16 percent.
- Nonparticipation declines slightly from 36 percent to 21 percent when an incentive is offered.
Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.