By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
More than 80 percent of employers are planning to increase their health and wellness budget this year, more than double compared to 2009 (34 percent), according to recent research from Optum. According to the 10th annual Optum Wellness in the Workplace study of 544 employers, while the percentage of employers saying they offer wellness programs to reduce long-term health care costs has stayed relatively steady over the last 10 years (around 80 percent), well-being programs are seen as vital to attracting and retaining talent (78 percent) and boosting employee morale (76 percent).
Digital technology. The study also found that employers are increasingly embracing digital technology to engage workers in health and well-being programs. Since 2016, the proportion of employers using health-related mobile apps rose by 46 percent, with now close to three-quarters of respondents reporting that the apps helped increase employee participation. Also, the number of employers reporting that their employee wellness programs include the use of fitness or activity devices increased by nearly 40 percent over the same time period, with 71 percent of employers reporting successful engagement by their employees.
Other findings. The survey also found the following:
- Mental and behavioral health. Eighty-four percent of employers are concerned about substance use disorder. Nearly 90 percent of employers say they are planning to address stigma surrounding mental health; a similar number are concerned about the level of access to behavioral health services.
- Women’s health. Eighty-four percent of employers plan to increase investments in women’s health services. The largest increases from 2016 to 2018 include programs addressing fertility, up 35 percentage points, and neonatal and first year of life, both up 27 percentage points.
- Telemedicine. Telemedicine was one of the fastest-growing health programs adopted by employers, with the proportion of employers reporting its usage increasing 171 percent since 2014.
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