Survey finds 46% of employers currently offer financial incentives for healthy behavior, number expected to grow to 70% by 2009
With continuing pressure to control health care costs, more companies plan to offer financial incentives to reward workers who adopt healthy lifestyles, according to a new survey.
According to the research, nearly half (46 %) of employers surveyed currently offer financial incentives to encourage workers to monitor and improve their health or plan to offer incentives next year.
By 2009, that number is expected to surpass 70 %, according to the 2007/2008 Staying@Work survey.
The survey also found that companies with effective health and productivity programs demonstrate superior performance. They achieve 20 % more revenue per employee, have 16.1 % higher market value and deliver 57 % higher shareholder returns (from 2004 to 2006). Additionally, companies with highly effective health and productivity programs have cost increases that are five times lower for sick leave; four and one-half times lower for long-term disability; four times lower for short-term disability; and three and one-half times lower for general health coverage.
“The survey results confirm that successful employers are more likely to provide tools to support health improvement, promote emotional health, educate employees on safety at work, use positive economic incentives, and involve senior management in promoting health and productivity. It's a very inspiring message.
Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health
Shelly Wolff, national practice leader for health and productivity at Watson Wyatt, said: “With few options left, companies are putting significant emphasis on improving the health and productivity of their workforce. Global competition and pressure for greater efficiency are causing employers to seek new ways to help manage benefit costs and increase worker output. Increasingly, companies are looking at the health of their workers as the new growth engine to stave off health care inflation and keep employees on the job and productive.”
The survey found that more companies are planning to connect employee health to company goals. Almost one-third of employers (29 %) currently link health and productivity programs to their broader initiatives, or plan to in 2008. Another 26 % plan to do so in 2009. Employers are also implementing various programs to engage employees in managing their own health.
Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, commented: “The survey results confirm that successful employers are more likely to provide tools to support health improvement, promote emotional health, educate employees on safety at work, use positive economic incentives, and involve senior management in promoting health and productivity. It's a very inspiring message.”
A total of 355 large employers participated in the survey by Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Health.
Other findings from the survey include:
Employers spend a median 21.2 % of payroll on direct and indirect costs of programs for wellness, sick leave and disability, slightly less than the 22 % they spent in 2005.
Preventable factors lead the list of health-related items affecting business performance, followed by adverse physical conditions, such as back pain. The leading health issues are lifestyle risks (42 %), physical conditions (34 %), chronic conditions (31 %), unscheduled absences (30 %) and mental health conditions (23 %).
The two most commonly cited barriers to effectively managing health and productivity are lack of data (45 %) and organizational structure (41 %).