When It Comes to Wellness Programs, Employees Care About Cash, Freedom

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Raleigh, NC, June 17, 2013 – If companies want their employees to trim their waistlines, they might need to pay up. According to a new poll commissioned by Workplace Options, a global employee effectiveness company and work-life services provider, 58 percent of American workers would commit to losing weight, quitting smoking or attending fitness classes if they were offered a monetary incentive by their employer.

Poll results indicated that 51 percent of respondents would take advantage of one-on-one weight loss coaching and 48 percent would use a stress management coaching program. Still, just 42 percent of those surveyed said their employers have such programs.

“This poll shows that even though employees want access to wellness programs and will participate for an incentive, they don’t want these programs to be required in exchange for a lower insurance premium,” said Dean Debnam, chief executive officer of Workplace Options.

In fact, while 60 percent of respondents indicated it is appropriate for employers to offer incentives, half do not think it is appropriate for employers to require participation in order to receive reduced health insurance premiums.

The poll results come in light of the Obama administration’s final rule on wellness incentives. The rule states that employers can use wellness incentives to reward or penalize employees up to 30 percent (50 percent for tobacco users) of the value of their insurance premiums. An “outcome-based wellness program” could reward employees who reach an ideal weight or body mass index or do not use tobacco, for example.

“Employers need to communicate to their employees that they aren’t being penalized for not participating in wellness programs, but being rewarded for participating,” said Debnam. “Beyond that, the benefits of getting and staying healthy mean more than paying a lower monthly premium.”

For employees, the benefits of improving one’s health are clear. Most recently, researchers at University College London found that healthy living cuts heart risk in half, regardless of job stress.

And while employers may need to incentivize wellness programs to encourage participation, companies will still see bottom line benefits to establishing them. A 2010 Harvard study found that medical costs fall about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. Absenteeism costs fall $2.73 for every dollar spent.

The national survey was conducted by the North Carolina firm of Public Policy Polling, May 30 to June 2. The survey polled 449 working Americans and has a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent. Full survey results can be viewed here.

To learn more about the employee solutions provided by Workplace Options, please visit www.workplaceoptions.com. Also, follow us on Twitter at @workplaceoption and visit Workplace Options’ YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/yourworkplaceoptions.