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Study Finds Nearly 60 Percent of Employees Say Company Wellness Programs Have Improved Their Health

June 9, 2017

This year’s UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey: “Wellness Check Up” examined employees’ opinions about employer-sponsored wellness programs and the study results found that many employees with access to workplace wellness programs say the initiatives have made a positive impact on their health, even though a majority are unwilling to devote more than one hour per day to health-related activities such as consistent exercise.

Insights provided from this survey underscore the value of employer-sponsored wellness programs and the importance of making them accessible to more employees. By engaging employees in their health, workplace wellness programs may be able to encourage well-being, prevent disease before it starts and, as result, help lower medical costs.

More U.S. companies are investing in wellness programs, with 70 percent of employers offering such initiatives, up from 58 percent in 2008, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The goal of these programs is to create healthier, more productive employees and help reduce health care costs.

UnitedHealthcare’s Consumer Sentiment Survey key findings include:

  • Employees say they are interested in wellness programs. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all employees say they are interested in wellness programs, while 59 percent of people with access to such programs said the initiatives have made a positive impact on their health. A majority (85 percent) of respondents with access to a wellness program say they are “somewhat aware” or “very aware” of the details of the program.
  • Employees underestimate available wellness incentives. Nearly two thirds (64 percent) of respondents underestimate potential wellness-related financial incentives available through employer programs, which average $742 per employee per year, according to a recent study by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).
  • Some employees are willing to spend more than one hour per day on wellness. More than one third (36 percent) said they are willing to devote more than an hour per day on health-related activities, such as consistent exercise, researching healthy food or recipes or engaging in wellness coaching. However, about two thirds (63 percent) of respondents are unwilling to devote at least an hour per day to improving their health.
  • More employees own activity trackers. Twenty-five percent of employees own an activity tracker, nearly double from 13 percent in 2016, according to a previous UnitedHealthcare survey.

Upsurge in Interest in Activity Trackers
Many survey respondents expressed interest in activity trackers as a resource to help improve their health. Among employees without an activity tracker, 62 percent said they would be interested in using a wearable fitness tracker as part of a workplace wellness program. According to technology consultancy Endeavors Partners, companies nationwide are expected by 2018 to incorporate more than 13 million fitness tracking devices into their wellness programs as a way to help reduce obesity and sedentary time among employees.

Even so, 71 percent of employees underestimate the distance necessary to achieve 10,000 daily steps, which roughly equates to five miles – the target some health experts recommend to prevent a sedentary lifestyle. About one quarter (28 percent) of respondents thought 10,000 steps would equate to two miles; 26 percent estimated three miles; and 17 percent said four miles. One in five employees (21 percent) correctly estimated five miles as the necessary distance to achieve 10,000 steps.

Many Workers Underestimate Wellness Incentives, Some Unwilling to Devote Time to Health
The value of corporate wellness incentives has increased to $742 per employee per year, up from $521 in 2013, according to the NBGH study. That study found that fewer than half of eligible employees earned the full incentive, however, with workers leaving millions of dollars of unclaimed rewards.

The UnitedHealthcare survey found that 41 percent of full-time workers estimated the average financial incentive available through an employer-sponsored program to be between $0 to $300 per employee per year, while 24 percent thought it was between $301 and $600. About one in 10 (11 percent) selected the correct range of $601 and $900. Employees favored health insurance premium reductions (77 percent), grocery store vouchers or discounts (64 percent) and Health Savings Account (HSA) credits (62 percent) among the most attractive incentives.

Despite the available incentives, many employees are unwilling to invest much time each day to improve their health and well-being. For instance, 15 percent of employees said they would devote less than an hour each week to pursuing healthy activities such as consistent exercise or researching healthy foods. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) would commit to one to three hours, and about one in five (19 percent) respondents would devote nine hours or more per week to improving their health. 

For complete survey results, click here. Also, view our infographic to learn more about Employee Well-being during the month of June.

Contact your UnitedHealthcare representative with questions.

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