Employers embrace wellness but employees don’t

Employers believe in wellness programs for their workers. Now, if they could only get the workers to share that belief.

That’s the major takeaway from a bswift survey of 380 corporate benefits managers who were queried about wellness programs. Bswift, a provider of software and services designed to streamline benefits, HR and payroll administration, concluded that more companies are offering wellness components to their benefits plans. But employee participation still lags.

Although “85 percent of large companies and 81 percent of smaller companies have wellness programs in place … only 44 percent of these programs have employee participation rates above 50 percent,” the survey revealed.

The best incentives to increase participation were identified as a reduction in employee premiums for those who participate and show results, or surcharges for lack of participation. The number of respondents who companies used one of these methods rose from 59 percent last year to 64 percent this time around.

Most companies stick with the basics in wellness options. Biometric testing is hot and getting hotter: 77 percent of large employers said they have biometric testing in place for employees compared to last year’s 61 percent. 

There was clear evidence that companies have confidence in wellness plans. Respondents were asked how much they spent per employee on wellness programs. Whereas in 2012 49 percent reported spending $250 per employee or more, this year the number had crept up to 54 percent.

They were also asked whether they invested in wellness incentives. While the percent of large employers just inched up, from 76 to 78 percent, the use of incentives by smaller employers shot up, from 52 to 69 percent.

Despite this show of support for wellness programs, the survey found that companies still shy away from taking action to get workers to participate. Just 15 percent of large employers reported offering incentives or disincentives for meeting or exceeding biometric thresholds.

 “In general, employers approach wellness offerings too simplistically and make the process too difficult when it comes to benefits administration,” the survey said.

“Cost-containment strategies—including wellness, defined contribution and consumerism — can be more effectively administered by leveraging automation and technology that enhance employee communication while freeing up time for HR professionals to focus on these strategic initiatives. Yet one-third of companies still do not offer online benefit enrollment, one of the most useful and commonly available technology solutions.”

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