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%, 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% over the same time period, with 71% of employers reporting successful engagement by their employees.
“Employers’ interest in well-designed, comprehensive health and wellness programs that use the latest digital tech has dramatically increased over the last decade,” said Seth Serxner, chief health officer at Optum. “We’ve also seen an evolution in the reasons for offering health and well-being programs with employers saying these initiatives are just as important in attracting and retaining employees as addressing health care costs.”
This is demonstrated in the latest survey findings, with more than twice as many employers responding that workplace well-being programs are more important to their employee benefits mix than they were a decade ago (33% in 2009 to 77% in 2018). 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%), other factors are now viewed as equally important by employers:
- 79% say they now offer wellness programs to improve absenteeism/presenteeism;
- 78% use the programs to attract and retain talent; and
- 76% say they use wellness programs to improve and maintain employee morale.
This year, the Optum study also asked employers about additional topics related to health and wellness programs that may indicate areas of emerging interest:
- Mental and behavioral health is top-of-mind for many. Eighty-four percent of employers are concerned about substance use disorder. Nearly 90% 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.
- In addition to behavioral health, 84% 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 was one of the fastest-growing health programs adopted by employers, with the proportion of employers reporting its usage increasing 171% since 2014.
The 10th annual Optum Wellness in the Workplace study is based on results from 544 companies with 100 to 10,000+ employees. All respondents currently offer two types of health and wellness programs, and are involved in making decisions regarding health benefits and instituting employee wellness programs. The web-based surveys were conducted December 2018 to January 2019. The results also include some trend data dating back 10 years (n=435 firms with a minimum of 3,000 employees).