As health technology and behavior change science have advanced, achieving a culture of health at work is more possible than ever.

The marketplace is offering organizations an extensive menu of health-enabling strategies and services. Standing desks, wearable tech and sophisticated healthy reward platforms are just a few examples.

But, with so many options available, what should organizations truly focus on to successfully build their ideal culture? To find out, Optum® partnered with the National Business Group on Health® to uncover actionable insights from the Optum Wellness in the Workplace Study.


Our analysis first looked at employers who responded they had firmly established a culture of health (6–7 rating on a 7-point scale).


  • n = 137 Firmly established culture of health
  • n = 44 Not established culture of health ownership

We compared their answers with responses from employers who felt they had no culture of health. The latter group gave a 1–3 rating on a 7-point scale.  

Using a novel methodology, we took the analysis a step further. We wanted to really understand the factors that drive employer perceptions of achieving a culture of health. We conducted a regression analysis, also known as a key driver analysis.

This technique identifies the factors that impact a certain variable and the degree to which they impact it.

  • We converted the results to a 0–100 scale, adding up to 100 across all drivers.
  • These scores show relative impact of factors compared to each other.

For example, a value of 20 percent can be interpreted as twice as impactful as a value of 10 percent.

For the purposes of our research, we define culture of health as:

A work environment where employees have resources, tools and a support system available that empowers and motivates them to take responsibility for their own health.

The surprising results

No single key driver emerged. Rather, several relatively equal strategies surfaced that employers might want to prioritize when creating a culture of health. 



Here are eight actionable ways to think about the key driver analysis results.


1. Never underestimate the power of communication.

When it comes to promoting the health and wellness programs available, employers with an established culture of health are more likely to communicate effectively. 


Percentage of employers who agree with the statement:
My company effectively communicates about our health and wellness offering to employees.


2. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember, wellness is something you do for your employees. Compared to their counterparts without a culture of health, established organizations focus more on employee morale.


Percentage of employers who reported that
offering programs to maintain or improve employee morale is important


3. Patience and persistence pay off.

Establishing a culture of health doesn’t happen overnight. On average, organizations with a culture of health have been offering health and wellness programs for at least six years. Those without an established culture have been offering programs for 4.8 years.


4. Realize ROI's evolution. 

Another marked difference between companies with a firmly established culture of health and those without: Companies with a culture of health are able to effectively track return on investment (ROI) for their health and wellness programs. 


Percentage of employers who agree with the statement:
My company is able to effectively track ROI for our health and wellness management programs.


5. Senior management is “all in.”

Buy-in to health and wellness programs begins at the top. Respondents at organizations with an established culture of health are much more likely to feel they have the support of senior management. 


Percentage of employers who agree with the statement:
Senior management values and supports our company’s health and wellness management programs. 


6. Planning makes perfect.

Building a culture of health isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. It takes a strategic, formal employee wellness plan that’s implemented year-round.

Percentage of employers with a formal employee wellness plan in place


7. Think beyond the benefits strategy.

Companies with an established culture of health view their health and wellness programs as more than just a “nice to have” component of their benefits strategy. They see them as a business imperative.

Percentage of employers reporting that health and wellness programs
are more important to their business strategy versus their benefits mix


8. Be dedicated to the cause.

Only one-third of companies without established cultures of health employ a full-time staff member dedicated to health and wellness programs. On the flip side, more than 90 percent of established companies do. Program-dedicated staff matters!  



Establishing a culture of health requires prioritization of several key enablers. Implementing these insights can help your organization see more productive, loyal and satisfied employees.



^ in a graphic indicates a statistically significant difference between groups.