Monday, June 12, 2017

Businesses and employees should work together to implement workplace wellness programs

By Paul Marden, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey and Ann Marie O’Brien, R.N., National Director of Health Strategies, UnitedHealthcare

It’s that time of year when the sunshine seems to give all of us that extra motivation to eat healthier and exercise more. And employers want to support these healthy habits.

Wellness programs aren’t a new idea, but they are an important business decision that affects a company’s most important asset – its employees. June marks Employee Wellbeing Month, which makes it a perfect time to focus on workplace wellness programs.

In UnitedHealthcare’s “Wellness Check Up” survey that recorded employees’ opinions about workplace wellness programs, we found that 70 percent of businesses offer programs to help employees improve their health. In addition, nearly 60 percent of those that participate say these initiatives have made a positive impact on their health.

If this is the case, why aren’t more employees taking full advantage of these programs? Could it be because more than half of employees (63 percent) are unwilling to devote at least an hour per day to health-related activities? Or, because nearly two thirds of survey respondents did not know they could earn an average of $742 a year through financial incentives?

Based on these insights, Ann Marie O’Brien, UnitedHealthcare’s Wellness Director for New Jersey, shares tips on ways businesses and employees can work together to implement a wellness program.  

According to Gallup research, 40 percent of employees are unaware their employers offer wellness programs, yet our survey showed that 73 percent of employees are interested in these programs. For this reason, employers must inform their employees about these benefits and employees should make sure to ask what incentives or savings they can take advantage of through the program. In addition, businesses should offer incentives that are meaningful, whether financial incentives, premium reductions or even charitable donations. 

Talk about goals and motivation
According to Optum and the National Business Group on Health’s Value of Investment Study, 91 percent of employers offer health and wellness programs for reasons beyond saving money. Employers want to help their staff reduce their health risks, improve productivity, job satisfaction and morale, as well as attract and retain talented employees. If employees are comfortable talking about what they are looking to get out of the program, businesses could implement a program based on their wants and needs. For instance, 62 percent of survey respondents said they would be interested in using an activity tracker as part of their workplace wellness program. If you agree, let your employer know!

Measurements matter
Evaluating performance and measuring outcomes is a business best practice to calculate success. The same is true when it comes to wellness programs. Businesses should evaluate their program annually to assess strengths and weaknesses as well as employee engagement and progress. However, employees must participate and record their experiences for businesses to know if they need to make changes to the program. Employers and employees need to work together to improve existing programs.

If you’re looking for options, UnitedHealthcare offers a variety of programs, all of which you can find on our website at