‘Indifference’ Continues to Plague Well-being

Study finds employers are still struggling to get employees engaged in wellness.
By: | February 26, 2018 • 2 min read

Both employers and employees agree that health and well-being needs to be a corporate priority. But new research released last week by Willis Towers Watson suggests there’s a serious disconnect in how the two groups view the effectiveness of the programs being offered by employers today.

So how big is the divide? WTW’s 2017 Global Benefits Attitude Survey reports that a majority of employers—56 percent—believe their well-being programs have encouraged employees to live a healthier lifestyle. Only 32 percent of employees agree that is the case.

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Steve Nyce, a senior economist with WTW who is based in Washington, suggests that the study reflects a growing “indifference” among employees as far as well-being programs are concerned.

“Today,” he says, “employers offer in the neighborhood of 15 or more programs. But they continue to struggle to get people to participate … .”

Historically, employers have relied heavily on incentives to drive participation in their various programs. But the WTW research finds that such rewards haven’t been effective, except when used in specific ways, such as discrete tasks that offer an immediate payout.

Employers, Nyce says, provide employees with the opportunity to earn, on average, more than $900 if they complete all of their employer’s well-being programs. “That’s a significant amount of money,” he says. “Yet despite all of that, participation continues to be pretty low. Typical participation is somewhere around 50 percent overall.”

Even more troubling is the fact that participation rates appear to be on the decline. In the prior survey, the figure was 53 percent.

Instead, Nyce says, employers would be better served were they to take a more holistic approach and come up with a solution that addresses “the full set up of issues that employees are having,” rather than just tackling well-being one issue at a time.

“Until we can bring this all together,” he says, “employers are going to continue to have an issue with getting employees to engage.”

Nyce believes that the workplace environment, in particular, can have a profound effect on how people think and behave. “When you have onsite services like a clinic or onsite day-care [in the work environment], it drives a lot of discussion and chatter around well-being,” he says.

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Employees at companies that offer these services have much more “positive attitudes about their companies health and well-being efforts. It can have halo effect, even [for those employees] who don’t use the services.”

Roughly 58 percent of employees whose employers offer onsite or near-site well-being programs agree their employers’ overall initiatives meet their needs, compared to 25 percent whose employers do not offer these programs, according to the WTW research.

David Shadovitz is editor of HRE. He is also co-chair of the HR Tech Conference and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. He can be reached at [email protected]

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