New York – Despite spending more on employee wellness programs in 2010, only 37 percent of U.S. employers actually measure their program's effectiveness, a global survey released today indicates.
"WORKING WELL: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies," released by Buck Consultants, A Xerox Company, found that employers spent 35 percent more – about $220 – on each employee who participated in a wellness program compared to 2009.
These results were among the key findings of Buck's fourth annual global wellness survey which analyzed responses from more than 1,200 organizations in 47 countries representing more than 13 million employees.
"Organizations that measure the impact of their wellness programs are more successful at improving their employees' health and overall wellness," said Barry Hall, a Buck principal who directed the survey. "However, many simply don't know how to measure their results, or they don't have the resources to do so."
Wellness programs continued to gain momentum this year among U.S.-based organizations as a key strategy to reduce the cost of providing health care, improve worker productivity, and reduce absenteeism. Globally, improving productivity is the most important objective for wellness programs, with improving workforce morale and engagement rising from the third to the second most important objective.
Among U.S. respondents, 40 percent have measured how wellness programs affect the cost of providing health care benefits to their employees. Of those, 45 percent report success in slowing health care cost increases, with a typical reduction of two to five percentage points per year.
The U.S. results contrast with results in other regions on the health risks that drive wellness programs. Globally, reducing workplace stress is the top driver of wellness programs, particularly in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. In the United States, the lack of physical activity is the top driver, and stress ranks much lower (sixth) as a health risk targeted by these programs.
Other key findings of Buck's wellness study include:
- Globally, 66 percent of respondents have a formal wellness strategy, a significant increase from 49 percent in 2007.
- Wellness programs are most prevalent in North America, where 74 percent of responding employers offer them.
- Eleven percent of U.S. respondents spend more than $500 per employee per year on wellness rewards, with the largest rewards reported at $3,000 per employee.
- The fastest-growing components of wellness programs are technology-driven tools. In three years, employers around the world expect a six-fold increase in their use of mobile technology – such as smartphones – to support employee wellness initiatives.
Additional issues covered by Buck's global survey include program design, organizational ownership of wellness programs, and communication strategies.
Buck Consultants' survey was conducted in association with Pfizer, CIGNA, Wolf Kirsten International Health Consulting, and WorldatWork.