Making Room for Wellness

By Deborah L. Vence

Many workers are reporting that their companies don’t offer wellness benefits, according to a recent poll.

The poll, commissioned by Workplace Options, a company that provides integrated employee well-being services, revealed that 55 percent of working Americans say their employers do not offer support, assistance or benefits designed to help them improve physical health or wellness.

The results varied by gender, with 61 percent of women reporting no access to employer-sponsored wellness support, compared with just 48 percent of men who said the same.

The poll’s findings are in contrast to a 2015 report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that found that 70 percent of U.S. employers were offering a general wellness program—with an additional 8 percent planning to introduce wellness benefits in 2016.

“If more than 70 percent of companies are offering wellness programs, but less than half of employees report having access to them, then something obviously isn’t adding up,” stated Dean Debnam, chief executive officer at Workplace Options, in a press release. “Employers might have programs or support structures in place designed to keep employees healthy and well, but if employees don’t know about them or have no idea how to access them, then they are basically useless.”

The majority of employees (61 percent) stated that they believed their employer cared about the health and wellness of employees. Men and women saw eye-to-eye on this topic, with 59 percent of women and 63 percent of men in agreement.

“The disconnect between what employers say they are offering and what employees believe they have access to is not the result of animosity or strife; it’s a simple perception problem,” Debnam said. “If the programs available are things that employees either don’t want or don’t use, they might as well not even exist.”

Respondents also were asked which area of physical health and well-being were most important to them, personally. The following were the top three categories:

  • Nutrition/Healthy Eating (34 percent)
  • Weight Loss/Fitness (33 percent)
  • Emotional/Mental Well-Being (20 percent)

“Employees were very clear that these three categories were far and away the most important to them in terms of personal wellness,” Debnam said. “If employers want their wellness offerings to be successful, they should make sure they are making some kind of support or assistance in all three of these areas available.”

Additional results from the poll showed the following:

  • 89 percent of employees reported that maintaining physical health is something that is personally important.
  • 74 percent of employees said they at least sometimes took time to exercise (walk, jog, stretch, work out, etc.) during the workday.
  • 56 percent of employees said that they at least sometimes took time to focus on their mental health during the workday.

“The takeaway point for employers is that perception does not always equal reality,” Debnam said. “Effective employees are the most valuable resource any organization can have. If an organization is offering support programs that are unknown, unused or ineffective, then they aren’t going to produce results.”

The national poll was commissioned by Workplace Options and conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Reprinted from PREMIUM INCENTIVE PRODUCTS magazine

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