Employer provided wellness programs are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons, including reduced absenteeism, improved employee benefits, and employee retention. These programs consist of screening activities, preventative interventions, and health promotion activities, provided through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), Occupational Health Services (OHS), and On-site clinics. A recent study found that 60% of employers experienced reduced healthcare costs since introducing these programs, and 80% reported that these programs decreased absenteeism, and increased productivity.

Often these programs are often offered to employees on a voluntary basis, at no extra cost to them, making them feel more valuable to a company. An additional benefit to joining wellness programs is the 30% reduction in health plan contributions allowed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to encourage participation.

Within North America, it is been reported that there is a low adoption rate of these programs with only 7% of employees using the services offered by their employers. This low rate may be due to one or more of the following reasons:

Awareness

Employees are often unaware of these benefits offered by employers, so more effort should be made to provide employees with full details on all available services. Details relating to the range of services available, the cost of the program, contact details for service providers, and the benefits of taking advantage of these services should be outlined to encourage employees to use available services.

Confidentiality

Employees are often reluctant to share personal information with their employers and the employer’s health service provider, so confidentiality of employee information is important. Confidentiality builds trust in an organization, which is difficult to regain if lost. Reassuring employees that information is fully confidential will encourage participation. These programs are usually run by external vendors, so employers should ensure a confidentiality agreement is signed that guarantees employee information won’t be shared with any third parties.

Culture

Is there a culture of health and wellness in your organization? If your companies’ senior management and leaders aren’t actively participating in these programs, employees will be reluctant to take part. If you are offering your employees a service to deal with stress management, senior employees should participate to lead by example.

According to a recent Mercer study, 35% of employers had already implemented a wellness program, and 47% said a program is under consideration. The benefits of introducing a wellness program are substantial, as well as reducing absenteeism; a Rand Review found eight employers experienced medical cost savings between $176 and $1,539 per participant per year. This is a substantial saving, particularly if a large percentage of your employees participate in the program.