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Fitness Center Discount Is Most-Wanted Wellness Benefit

Subsidized membership at a local fitness center was the top wellness benefit that employees said their employers could offer, according to the Principal Financial Well-Being Index for the fourth quarter of 2011.

Americans work harder, are more productive and miss fewer days of work as a result of wellness benefit programs, according to the quarterly survey of American workers at growing businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees. Forty-one percent of workers agreed that having a wellness program encourages them to work harder and perform better at work.

Mismatch: Worker Desires vs. Employer Offerings

When it comes to the wellness benefits workers desire and wellness benefits offered by employers, the two groups diverge. The top four wellness benefits workers would most like to see their employer offer were:

  • Fitness center discounts (25 percent).
  • On-site preventive screenings (22 percent).
  • Access to wellness experts such as nutritionists (21 percent).
  • On-site fitness facilities (19 percent).

However, the top four wellness benefits offered by employers were:

  • Online wellness information (19 percent).
  • Educational tools or resources (18 percent).
  • Fitness center discounts (17 percent).
  • Printed wellness information (17 percent).

Interestingly, access to wellness experts was available to only 11 percent of those surveyed.

“As Americans become more involved in their own health, they want new ways to improve their health while at work, as evidenced by their increasing demand for health coaches and preventive screenings,” said Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Co., a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group, which sponsors the quarterly survey.

Increased Productivity and Engagement

According to the research—conducted in October 2011 among 1,121 employees and 533 retirees—52 percent of workers (up from 37 percent a year earlier) said they had more energy to be more productive at work by participating in a wellness program. Another 35 percent (up from 28 percent a year earlier) said that they had missed fewer days of work by participating in a wellness program.

“Americans’ increasing sense of personal responsibility for their physical well-being leads to workers showing up to work and staying productive while there,” said Dukes. Employers who embrace a culture of wellness in their workplaces can benefit in return with not only costs-savings but healthier and more engaged employees.”

Additional Highlights

Among other findings, 45 percent of surveyed workers chose better overall physical health as the top benefit of participating in a wellness program. Other top mentions included receiving a meaningful incentive from their employer for participation (30 percent) and reduced personal health care costs, greater chance of living a longer, healthier life and reduced stress (29 percent each). Fifty-five percent of workers rated wellness activities offered by an employer as very successful or somewhat successful in improving health and reducing health risks.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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