Survey: Workers Motivated by Wellness Program Incentives

WASHINGTON—According to OSHA, a new survey from the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America revealed that 68% of U.S. workers believe that cash, gifts, extra vacation days and other incentives can help them make healthier long-term lifestyle choices, such as eating properly, exercising and quitting smoking.

The survey, which was conducted via telephone in October 2007, revealed that two-thirds of all respondents believe wellness programs effectively promote good health, whether they ever participated in such programs. In fact, only 35% of respondents reportedly had access to workplace wellness programs, and of that number, about half are currently enrolled.

Of the survey respondents who are currently enrolled or have participated in a wellness program in the past three years, 85% say that these programs are very effective in promoting good health.

“Workplace-based wellness programs are growing in popularity with employers, largely to promote prevention and early intervention as a means to help control the cost of healthcare," said Tim Bireley, vice president, Group Medical, Guardian. "With only a third of employees reporting that wellness programs are available at their jobs, employers and the benefits industry have to do a better job of increasing awareness about these programs.”

College graduates and the wealthy were most likely to have participated in a wellness program in the past three years. Those with at least some college education are more likely to favor health insurance covering complementary alternative medicine techniques, the survey revealed.

“Employees often pay for these procedures out-of-pocket and value insurance plans that offer either full coverage, or discounts on procedures that can complement traditional medical care," said Susan O'Connor, RN, assistant vice president, Group Medical at Guardian. "Giving employees access to complementary alternative medicine services as part of a wellness plan is about providing them with more individual choice.”

A separate 2007 Guardian survey showed that larger employers are more likely to embrace wellness programs. Statistics revealed that 82% of small employers, 90% of mid-size employers and 99% of large employers see value in implementing wellness programs. Yet only 57% of the small businesses that value wellness programs have implemented some type of plan.

Bireley noted that small and mid-size business owners should learn more about the benefits of wellness initiatives because if more company employees participate in wellness programs, medical care costs would drop nationwide.

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