While many employers acknowledge that healthy workers are more productive workers, and contribute to lower healthcare costs, a new poll shows that most working Americans do not have employer-provided wellness benefits.
In the poll, commissioned by Workplace Options, a leading global provider of integrated employee well-being services, 55 percent of working Americans report having no access to benefits designed to help improve physical health or wellness through their employer. The results varied substantially by gender, with 61 percent of women reporting no access to employer-sponsored wellness support compared to just 48 percent of men who said the same
These findings are in stark contrast to a 2015 report from the Society for Human Resource Management, which found that 70 percent of U.S. employers were offering a general wellness program – with an additional eight 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,” said Dean Debnam, chief executive officer at Workplace Options. “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 – did say 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 were asked what area of physical health and well-being were most important to them personally. The top three categories were nutrition and healthy eating, weight loss and fitness and emotional and mental well-being.
“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.”
More Wellness Poll Results
Other interesting results of the national poll include:
- Overwhelmingly (89 percent), 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, workout, etc.) during the workday.
- 56 percent of employees said they at least sometimes took time to focus on their mental health during the work day.
“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.”