Wellness Initiatives Cut Health Care Costs: SHRM Poll

By Bill Leonard Dec 13, 2012
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While a majority of human resource professionals say that wellness programs can help to reduce an employer’s health care costs, only 55 percent of respondents to a recent poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that their companies offered an onsite workplace wellness program to their employees.

The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota commissioned the SHRM Workplace Wellness Initiatives Survey, which was released on Dec. 6, 2012. The Minnesota alliance collaborated in releasing the survey data and conducted 23 focus groups to supplement the survey data.

The survey results were compiled from the responses of 405 randomly selected SHRM members. Nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents reported that the top health-related issue for their organizations is the cost of providing health care benefits. Other top health issues were decreased productivity, absenteeism, and workers’ compensation or disability claims.

Among the respondents whose organizations offer health care benefits to employees, 19 percent of the respondents reported that their companies spend 25 to 49 percent of their operating budgets on employee health insurance. Seventy-six of the respondents said their businesses spend less than 25 percent.

Eighty-four percent of the respondents saw a clear connection to wellness initiatives and reducing overall health care costs, and 96 percent reported that wellness programs can help workers develop healthier lifestyles.

More than two-thirds of those without programs said that their employers were interested in developing a wellness program within the next three years. Among the respondents whose employers’ had wellness initiatives in place, approximately three-quarters reported that less than 10 percent of their organizations’ annual operating budgets was spent on wellness programs.

Respondents said their top concerns for employee health conditions were obesity, stress and mental health, lack of exercise, chronic diseases and high blood pressure. Additionally, just over half of the respondents gave their organizations’ employees a grade B or good rating for their health condition, and 38 percent gave their employees a grade C or fair rating.

Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM.

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