Unless we’re talking number of steps in your weekly Fitbit challenge with co-workers, using numbers to measure workplace wellness success is on its way to becoming a thing of the past, finds the International Foundation’s latest Workplace Wellness Trends: 2017 Survey Results ReportEmployers are trading return on investment (ROI) measurement for the prevalence of worker health and well-being. Continued increases in productivity and decreases in absenteeism strengthen the case for workplace wellness programs.

Well-Being Takes the Lead Over ROI in Workplace Wellness Measurement

The survey found 75% of employers offer wellness initiatives primarily to improve overall worker health and well-being. Only one in four employers said the main reason for offering wellness initiatives is to control/reduce health-related costs.

Employers are realizing that wellness is not just about cutting health care costs, because wellness is not only about physical health. Embracing the broad definition of wellness has led to a tremendous impact on organizational health and worker productivity and happiness.

[Related: Employee Wellness Challenges: Keeping Them Well, Keeping You Compliant]

Among employers offering and measuring their wellness efforts, more than half have found a decrease in absenteeism, 63% are experiencing financial sustainability and growth in the organization, 66% reported increased productivity and 67% said employees are more satisfied.

According to the survey, 77% of employers offer free or discounted flu shots, so traditional wellness offerings continue to gain steam. Popular emerging wellness benefits include:

  • Chiropractic services coverage—62%
  • Community charity drives/events—59%
  • On-site events/celebrations—58%
  • Wellness competitions like walking/fitness challenges—51%
  • Healthy food choices in cafeteria or vending machines—44%
  • Standing/walking work stations—42%
  • Wearable fitness trackers—23%

Even though 92% of workplaces offering wellness programs and tracking wellness ROI report their initiatives as very or somewhat successful, barriers still exist in implementing wellness initiatives. Common barriers include:

  • Difficulty for workers to find enough time to participate—39%
  • Dispersed population—27%
  • Difficulty maintaining momentum—26%
  • Prohibitive costs—25%
  • Lack of interest by workers—24%

[Related: The Results Are In: Workplace Wellness Trends]

Employers are using wellness incentives like gift cards, gym reimbursements and contributions to health accounts (HSAs, HRAs or FSAs) to help build interest among workers, and most are considering the incentives to be successful.

Employers are also implementing targeted wellness communication campaigns to overcome common barriers, reaching out to different generations/age groups, those with health risks and those managing various life events (parenting, retirement, aging parents, etc.).

International Foundation members can access the full survey report at www.ifebp.org/workplacewellness.

Anne Killian
Communications Associate at the International Foundation

Workforce Wellness Online Learning Course


Anne Patterson

Communications Associate at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: The innovative member survey efforts and results from the research team.

Benefits-related topics that interest her most: Health care, nontraditional wellness initiatives, employee benefit communication.

Personal Insight: It’s all about balance with Anne. She loves to run and enjoys a good culinary adventure. She’ll jump at the chance to travel or to spend fun times with family and friends, but she’ll also take time to catch her breath with an occasional Netflix binge or diving into a classic novel.

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