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Health and wellness benefits are exploding; are you keeping up?

A WorldatWork survey shows companies offered a wide variety of health and wellness benefits at an expanded rate last year. Is your company keeping pace?

At a time when employee retention can be challenging, a new WorldatWork survey, conducted by Korn Ferry Hay Group, showed employers dramatically increased health and wellness benefits in 2017. In fact, of the 22 benefits offered in a more widespread way than in 2016, 21 of them were health and wellness-related.

Telemedicine took the lead. In 2016, 49% of companies offered it, but the number jumped to 73% last year. Wellness gamification -- everything from contests to avatars and lotteries --also jumped from 37% in 2016 to 45% in 2017.

It's not that surprising that employers are doubling down on offering health and wellness benefits, said John Sumser, principal analyst at HRExaminer. "First of all, benefits are always what I would refer to as 'hygiene-oriented factors' that don't improve morale, but if an employer screws them up, it can hurt morale," Sumser said. In today's tight job market, "I think it's normal for companies to be rolling out more health and wellness benefits."

Less normal was the fact that 28% of companies now offer some kind of incentives around wearable technology. Wearables are already popular with consumers looking for help and encouragement with fitness and lifestyle issues. According to the WorldatWork survey, 20% of companies offered wearables to support fitness as a stand-alone benefit last year, and 7% of companies included wearables in their existing health plans.

health and wellness benefits infographic

But, to Sumser, wearables as a corporate-sponsored health and wellness benefit could raise some red flags with employees concerned about privacy. "Wearables can be a kind of surveillance," he said. "As a benefit, it could really scare the hell out of people. If I'm wearing that watch, the company knows I'm going outside to have a cigarette or I'm not exercising. There's a dark side to them and a concern that I'm not sure HR departments really want to trigger."

This was last published in July 2018

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How could your organization implement a wearables effort that doesn't seem invasive?
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It would be great if companies would focus on offering programs that actually improve health, and have been independently verified.  Let's not worry about how to introduce a non-invasive wearables program.  Let's worry about introducing a program that has positive results!  -- Linda Riddell 
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I agree Linda! Any concrete suggestions or companies you know of doing this? -- thanks, Valerie Silverthorne
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Companies that have gone through a third party independent validation of their results can be found at https://www.validationinstitute.com/validated-organizations/ .  Purchasers should ask for this or other validation, and not just believe what the vendors are telling them.  It takes a specialized skill set to measure and describe results of health programs, not just a marketing background.
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