Wellness Motivators for Workers: Better Health, Lower Costs

Employees, employers reap the benefits of a healthier workforce

By Stephen Miller Feb 23, 2011

Achieving better overall health is the top reason why many American workers (43 percent) report that they participate or would participate in a wellness benefit program, according to the latest Principal Financial Well-Being Index. Other desired outcomes include reduced personal health care costs (33 percent) and a greater chance of living longer and healthier lives (31 percent).

The quarterly index, which surveys American workers at growing U.S. businesses with 10 to 1,000 workers, is released by the Principal Financial Group, a financial services provider. These findings analyze data from the fourth-quarter 2010 survey of 1,159 U.S. employees and 528 retirees.

The survey found that when offered by employers:

Blood sugar screenings were used by 84 percent of employees—an 18 percentage point increase over the previous year.

Personalized action plans for high-risk conditions were used by 68 percent of employees—a 21 percentage point increase.

Weight management programs were used by 53 percent of employees—a 25 percentage point increase.

“This dramatic increase in workers taking advantage of these wellness benefits is indicative of Americans’ greater sense of personal responsibility toward their own health,” said Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Co., a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group. “With health care costs on the rise and increasing public awareness of illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, Americans are ready to take action.”

Employers See Productivity Gains

While employee participation in wellness programs might be driven by a sense of personal responsibility, employers benefit from the programs as well. Workers said that, as a direct result of their employer's wellness programs, they:

Felt motivated to work harder and perform better (43 percent of employees).

Missed fewer days of work (28 percent).

Experienced improved energy and productivity at work (38 percent).

Providing further support for the correlation between personal health and happiness in the workplace, nearly half (48 percent) of workers agreed that wellness benefits encourage them to stay in their current employment situation.

“Employers who invest in their workers’ wellness will see returns beyond a physically healthier employee,” said Amy Friedrich, vice president of specialty benefits for The Principal Financial Group. “By offering workers the means and the educational tools to take control of their wellness, employers promote a healthier, more productive work environment.”

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


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