Employees Speak Out on Workplace Wellness Programs

Poll's key findings include: Less costly programs are the most popular with employees; employers slow to adopt the most popular programs and financial incentives motivate behavior changes

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With the economy the way it is, employers might be tempted to cut back on wellness programs

Chapel Hill, NC (Vocus) October 21, 2008

In today's stressful economic environment, starting a workplace wellness program may be the furthest thing from employers' minds, but creating a healthier workforce is more important than ever to contain rising health care costs and reduce the health impact employees are facing in these uncertain times.

According to a statewide poll commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), employers are still slow to adopt jobsite wellness programs even though they help improve employees' health, increase loyalty, and the most popular ones aren't costly to implement.

"With the economy the way it is, employers might be tempted to cut back on wellness programs," said Bob Greczyn, president and CEO of BCBSNC. "But now's not the time to cut back, because we'll all be paying the price in the long run."

In June, more than 500 employees from around the state were surveyed about workplace wellness programs and the results were compiled into the Healthy on the Job report which was presented today in Raleigh at the 2008 State of Preventive Health Summit.

The results showed the most popular workplace wellness programs with employees are:

  • Paid time off for doctor's visits or health care needs: 78 percent
  • Purchasing healthy café or vending options: 67 percent
  • Participating in physical activity during work hours: 67 percent
  • Completing a health risk assessment (HRA): 66 percent

However, the survey showed that most employers aren't offering these popular programs. Only 35 percent of employers offer physical activity during the workday, 29 percent offer healthy café or vending options and 31 percent offer health risk assessments. Just 61 percent of employers are offering paid time off for doctor's visits according to the survey.

Financial incentives are effective in changing worker behavior, according to the survey. Discounts on health insurance premiums have the highest motivational impact on being physically active, losing weight and receiving preventive care. It ranks second among smokers for motivating them to quit smoking. Proof that employers recognize incentives as good motivators: Nearly half of employers offering health risk assessments offer rewards for completing them.

Workplace wellness programs also contribute to employee loyalty. Employees who participated in
at least one wellness program more often say they like working for their employer and are more likely to recommend their company to others. What's more, employees who took paid time off for doctor's visits and engaged in physical activity at their worksite had higher loyalty scores than those who didn't participate or whose employers didn't offer it.

"Too many of our employees are making bad choices about physical activity and nutrition - add stress on top of that and the impact of our health is going to hit the bottom line," said Greczyn. "Lifestyle and behavior changes are harder to come by. It's going to take a concerted effort on the part of employers to set the standard so that employees can become healthier on the job."

Three North Carolina employers have done their part to set the standard. These organizations are highlighted in the Healthy on the Job report for their best practices:

  • Durham County has created a culture of wellness through providing an on-site clinic for its employees and giving employees an extra half-hour at lunch to exercise.
  • Progress Energy established its wellness program, Healthy Progress in 2007, by establishing a core wellness team and identifying wellness coordinators and champions.
  • Inmar in Winston-Salem has built meaningful financial incentives for its employees to participate in a chronic disease management program, tobacco cessation classes and track their physical activity.
TRC Market Research surveyed 509 employees across the state that have BCBSNC insurance through their employer. The survey was conducted in June of 2008. Survey results were compiled and released in the Healthy on the Job report, which can be accessed at http://www.workplacewellnessnc.com.

About BCBSNC:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.7 million members, including approximately 900,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 75 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at http://www.bcbsnc.com.

Contact: Valerie Egel or Lew Borman
BCBSNC Media Line: 919-765-3005
Online Newsroom: http://www.bcbsnc.com/inside/newsroom.cfm

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