March 2, 2024

Employers worldwide look to workers' wellness to drive company performance

DUBAI—Seventy-eight percent of the world’s employers are strongly committed to creating a workplace culture of health, to boost individual engagement and organizational performance.

Young businesswoman sitting at table with yoga and meditation.A new survey of employers worldwide illustrates their investments in wellness: 43 percent say they created a brand identity for their employee wellness programs, 52 percent offer health insurance premium reductions, and 65 percent believe wellness programs are extremely or very important to attract and retain workers.   

According to “Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies,” employers’ views of wellness have evolved over the last seven years. This latest report was conducted by Buck Consultants at Xerox, with lead sponsorship by Cigna Corp. and the Global Healthy Workplace Awards.

“When we began this survey in 2007, employers were focused on basic health promotion activities,” said Dave Ratcliffe, principal, Buck Consultants at Xerox.  “Today, our sixth survey shows an evolution in employer thinking to a much more holistic and measurable approach. Workers’ wellness is now viewed as a state of well-being across the spectrum of health, wealth, and career. Wellness is part of the employee value proposition. Social media, gamification, mobile technology, automated coaching, and personalized communication are all part of the mix.”

The commitment to employee wellness and a corporate culture of health prevails even as the challenges identified by Buck’s previous surveys persist. Participation rates indicate that employers are still struggling to find effective approaches to motivate workers. And there is a significant gap between employers’ stated desire to create a culture of health and their current progress in achieving this goal.

Survey findings show that 52 percent of employers worldwide are measuring the outcomes from their wellness programs – up from 36 percent in 2012. Yet, in the U.S., 59 percent of employers say they don’t know if their wellness programs are having an impact on health care cost trend (their top-stated objective).

“The globalization of employers’ wellness programs among multinational companies has risen significantly over the last seven years, from 34 percent in 2008 to 56 percent in 2014,” said Sheldon Kenton, senior vice president, Cigna Global Employer Sales. “This has occurred even though it is challenging for employers to create a global wellness strategy because of differing cultures, laws and practices around the world.”   

Other key findings of Buck’s global wellness study include:

  • Human Resource polices related to flexible work arrangements and paid time off ranked as the number one component of wellness programs globally, with Employee Assistance Programs ranking number two, driven by their prevalence in the U.S., Canada, Africa and Australia.
  • Globally, too much stress, too little exercise and a poor diet remain the top wellness-related areas of focus for employers. In Asia, Africa and the Middle East, worker safety is the number one concern.
  • In the U.S., employers cite health care costs as their top reason for sponsoring wellness programs. Outside the U.S., employers use wellness programs to improve employee morale and to reduce sick days and presenteeism – when employees are at work but not fully functioning. Employers are making the connection between health and productivity.
  • Employee wellness communication – with personalization of employee messages – is closely linked to health care cost trend reduction. One hundred percent of the U.S. companies reporting a lower health care cost trend of six or more percentage points send their employees targeted wellness emails. The use of wellness mailings to employees’ homes also is on the rise, recognizing the influence that household members have on each other’s health.

Buck Consultants at Xerox conducted the survey in association with Cigna, Wolf Kirsten International Health Consulting and the Global Healthy Workplace Awards.

Buck’s sixth global wellness survey analyzed responses from more than 1,000 organizations in 37 countries. Responses are provided by employers who choose to participate and are not a scientifically randomized sample.

Infographic: Buck Consultants at Xerox Survey Finds Global Emplo


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