Employees take advantage of, respond to wellness programs

March 1, 2006

DES MOINES, IOWA -- Employees are not only asking for wellness benefits, but are responding to them through their participation at work in health screenings, according to industry experts.

DES MOINES, IOWA-Employees are not only asking for wellness benefits, but are responding to them through their participation at work in health screenings, according to industry experts.

Results from the latest Principal Financial Well-Being Index show employees participate at work in blood pressure checks (81%), cholesterol screenings (73%) and online health screenings (72%). In addition, more than three-fourths (82%) of those who are offered health education tools use them, while nearly two-thirds (68%) whose employers offer wellness seminars attend.

"Consistently, employees surveyed have rated health insurances as the most important workplace benefit, and at the same time say it is a benefit they would like to see their company improve," says Jerry Ripperger, director of consumer health for the Principal Financial Group.

What might be more encouraging to employers, Ripperger says, is that 74% of workers surveyed agree wellness benefits encourage them to work harder and even perform better while 48% said wellness offerings would encourage them to stay in their current position.

"Employers are starting to see the value in wellness programs and the impact on curbing rising healthcare costs," Ripperger says. "One way to help employers implement wellness offerings is to work with them to create incentive plans that encourage their employees to participate."

Case in point: Glatfelter Insurance Group in York, Pa., has 447 employees and a wellness program that includes a personal trainer, a fitness facility, health screenings and more. Annual healthcare costs per associate are 14% below the national average, and the absentee rate is 27% lower than the national average, Ripperger points out.