While some companies are beginning the close their corporate gym doors to cut costs, other companies are probably re-evaluating their benefits.
In an interesting article on Wharton's website, management professors Iwan Barankay and Peter Cappelli say companies need to meet the needs of the most vulnerable employees. And that's not necessarily achieved by offering them access to gyms or offering cash incentives to participate in health programs.
"Helping those employees find a primary care doctor or transportation to routine appointments, for example, would improve their health outcomes better than cash incentives," they say in the article.
They take a practical approach to improving the health of employees and suggest that companies need to talk directly to employees to find out what barriers they are encountering when trying to access healthcare. They note that people have very complicated lives and simple tasks such as picking up prescriptions could be difficult.
A new strategy is necessary, they write, since the majority of companies -- 80% according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, have what are considered traditional wellness programs that offer screenings. And most companies have incentives for positive health behaviors.
But those efforts aren't working in terms of improving health outcomes.
Barankay explains that one of the main reasons these programs aren't getting the job done is due to behavioral economics. "Research in that field has determined that when goals are abstract and distant, such as lowering cholesterol, people respond better when they get an immediate reward for staying the course," he says in the article. "While incentives do work in some cases, randomized trials found no difference in health outcomes, cost savings, or absenteeism for workers in wellness programs."
Note: The article includes a podcast.