While employers are looking to improve their healthcare offerings in order to attract and retain top talent, another type of employee benefit is steadily gaining popularity among workers. A recent poll of U.S. workers revealed that a majority (73%) of employees take health and wellness program offerings into consideration when making the decision whether or not to accept a job offer from a company. Surprisingly, men were more likely than women to consider health and wellness offerings in their employment selection, with 79% of men versus 65% of women using them as a deciding factor. According to the same poll, 20% of companies don’t offer any health and wellness programs at all, leaving them at a disadvantage when it comes to both hiring and retention.
What constitutes a health and wellness program anyway? Health and wellness programs can be any type of program or initiative that helps employees keep up with their health, or even improve their health. These programs can range from very specific – such as helping employees overcome a bad habit – to incentive programs that provide rewards for a wide range of healthy behaviors and improvements.
Among the workers in the survey mentioned above, 26% favored programs with incentives that rewarded healthy behavior, while 22% preferred programs that offered them access to fitness facilities. Other in-demand program offerings mentioned were healthy food choices provided by the employer, onsite fitness classes such as yoga or aerobics, ergonomic equipment offerings, stress management options and onsite health screenings or clinics. These offerings and activities have become so popular that National Business Group on Health (NBGH) expects large employers to spend an average of $3.6 million on health and wellness programs in 2019 – or a yearly average of $762 per employee.
There are no rules specifying exactly what constitutes a health and wellness program or how much an employer needs to spend on it. Small and mid-size employers may not have the resources to fund the same programs that large employers do, but they can still create attractive programs that improve employees’ lives. For example, paying each employee a stipend to join a gym might cost a little too much, but paying a local yoga instructor to come into the office once a month and hold a class could be much more affordable.
Another concern smaller employers have is spending money on a program and not having a majority of employees participate. Research shows that incentive-based programs draw more participation than any other. Incentives can be monetary, like gift cards, movie/concert tickets or cash, or can even be in the form of some extra paid time off, like a free half-day or vacation day. The best way to be sure you are creating something your employees want, however, is to ask them outright or have them participate in the discussion so that you know you’re adding something truly beneficial to your benefit offerings.
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