Health programs aren’t just about illnesses and injuries any more, as large employers increasingly turn their attention to employees’ financial, behavioral and social health.
That’s according to a study from health services company Optum, which says that large employers are expanding the reach of workplace health programs and including other aspects of wellness. The eighth annual study finds that while physical health is still a major focus of employee wellness programs, it’s by no means the only one, as other aspects of employee well-being are increasingly on large employers’ radar screens.
In fact, 51 percent of such programs now address financial health, up from 38 percent in 2015. In addition, 47 percent address employees’ social health — up from just 37 percent in 2015 — using strategies such as team-based activities in an effort to boost connectedness and a sense of belonging. Behavioral health is now fair game, too, with 68 percent of programs taking on that aspect of employee well-being, up from 65 percent in 2015.
“Employers are taking a more well-rounded approach to workplace wellness by focusing on their employees’ behavioral and financial health, in addition to their physical health,” says Seth Serxner, chief health officer at Optum. “For example, we see increased interest among companies in developing new programs around mindfulness, positivity and creativity, which can reduce stress, improve eating and sleeping habits, and stimulate innovative thinking.”
It’s not just “softer” aspects of an employee’s life getting attention, though. Large employers are also expanding emerging health management programs, with a third offering telemedicine services (up from 22 percent in 2015), and 31 percent provide access to an on-site health specialist (up 5 percent from 2015). Sleep health programs (offered by 18 percent, up from 7 percent in 2015) and musculoskeletal programs targeting muscles, bones and joints (offered by 14 percent, up from 7 percent in 2015) have also seen significant increases.
Investments in health and wellness program budgets and staff are also on the increase, with 72 percent of large employers saying they now employ a dedicated wellness professional (up from 59 percent in 2015) and 32 percent increasing their wellness program budgets (up from 28 percent in 2015).
Then there are employee incentives, offered by 95 percent of employers, with contributions to health accounts the most popular type of incentive. In addition, 74 percent offer incentives to employees’ family members, up from 57 percent in 2015; 50 percent make “reward” contributions to HSAs and other health accounts, up from 38 percent in 2015.
Some do take other approaches, however, with 48 percent providing premium discounts, up from 37 percent in 2015, and 22 percent providing extra vacation days, up from 9 percent in 2015.