According to two recent surveys, more and more employers are implementing wellness programs. Human Resource Executive reports that surveys by both Aon Consulting and Watson Wyatt Worldwide / NBGH demonstrate that employers are ratcheting up initiatives designed to improve worker health.
The Aon survey, which polled more than 1100 employers of various sizes, found a dramatic threefold jump in employer initiatives. The Watson Wyatt survey, which focused on large employers, showed a 28% jump in the use of health appraisals since 2006. The increases were attributed to escalating medical costs and a global labor shortage that is forcing more reliance on an older population. Employers are seeking to reduce costs and to find ways to keep their workers healthy and active.
Despite these promising reports, other recent research indicates that small and mid-sized employers are significantly lagging behind larger companies in offering wellness initiatives. Joanne Wojcik reports on a survey conducted by Principal Financial Group in Workforce which showed that, when offered, wellness programs are very popular and have a high participation rate. But while 26% of employers with 501 to 1,000 employees offered wellness educational tools and discounts, only 12% of employers with fewer than 500 employees offered wellness programs.
If you are in a small organization that is not yet offering wellness benefits for your employees, what are you waiting for? Wellness programs can help to reduce the high cost of health care for you and your employees and can enhance your worker health, well-being and productivity. There are many inexpensive initiatives you can undertake to enhance worker health. Start with investigating the free or low cost alternatives available to you. Some top-shelf EAP programs offer wellness benefits as part of their package. Your health insurer may also have free or low cost options such as health screenings that could be incorporated in an annual health fair. Large national health organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society offer free literature, programs, and resources. Other alternatives include implementing programs that will help employees change behaviors, such as launching walking or biking clubs, replacing junk food with healthier alternatives in the cafeteria vending machines, and offering employee incentives or discounts for participating in exercise or weight loss programs.

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