Workplace wellness initiatives improve job morale, satisfaction and performance

It emerged this week that workplace wellness programs may not be as effective as previously thought in creating a healthier workforce and, of particular relevance for US firms, reducing health-care costs, but another US study paints a more positive picture. While concurring that determining the bottom-line impact of wellness programs continues to be a challenge for employers, this latest study does find a strong link between the wellness and vitality of an organisation and the health and wellness of its employees, which impacts directly on employees’ increased job morale, satisfaction, commitment and performance. The survey of approximately 1,300 businesses and 10,000 employees conducted by Virgin HealthMiles, Inc.  found that workers also place a premium on the culture of wellness with 87 per cent claiming that health and wellness initiatives play a role in determining their employer of choice.

Of the 1,300 businesses surveyed, 80 per cent offer health and wellness benefits. Among that group, 47 per cent have extended those health and wellness benefits to spouses of employees as broadening programs beyond the four walls of the corporation is becoming a fast-growing trend of the wellness culture. Employees are responding positively to this new trend with 77 per cent claiming that health and wellness programs positively impact the culture at work.

“Creating a culture-first mentality is a critical step for employers when it comes to building a highly engaged workforce,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles. “The trends outlined within this survey mirror what we’re seeing in the market: employees become much more motivated and productive when they know that their employer cares about their total quality of life, which goes beyond traditional wellness and includes physical, emotional, financial and social health.”

The key survey findings revealed that health and wellness programs are not only important to prospective employees but that 80 per cent of existing employees saw them as evidence their employer cares about their well being.

Health and wellness programs have a positive impact on an organization’s culture, with 70 per cent of employees saying that wellness programs positively influence the culture at work. Survey respondents shared that their health and wellness habits are not just motivated by colleagues (58 per cent) but also spouses/partners (53 per cent), friends (41 per cent) and children (32 per cent).

Incentives also play a big role in the motivation of employees to participate in wellness programs, with 61 per cent of employees saying it is a key reason they participate and 78 per cent claiming they are interested in participating in incentive-based programs while at work. The commonly-offered positive programs by employers today are: physical activity programs (58 per cent), smoking cessation (50 per cent) weight management (49 per cent) and health risk assessments (47 per cent). However, the programs that employees are most interested in varied a bit from what most employers are offering.

The more negative issues are that of communication and measuring a wellness program’s impact. Only 51 per cent of employees surveyed said they have a good understanding of how to participate in health and wellness programs being offered by their employers. With 82 per cent of organizations relying primarily on email as the main source of communication for these programs, there is a trend of companies moving to a more direct communication model of manager to employee, with 26 per cent of organizations reporting they are now using this method.

While employees are confident in reporting how health and wellness programs have benefited them, employers still struggle with finding a tangible way to directly correlate these programs to bottom-line benefits – yet 67 per cent are exploring the possible connections.

The employer portion was conducted by Workforce Management Magazine from April 29 – May 3, 2013 and the employee portion was conducted by Virgin HealthMiles from May 6 – May 10, 2013. Click here to download a summary of the survey findings.