Nontraditional Wellness Initiatives Are Emerging, Survey Finds


Celebrating a birthday, rolling up the sleeves for a community volunteer project and taking that extra day of vacation are probably not the first activities that come to mind concerning workplace wellness. However, less traditional benefits are quickly taking the stage as top wellness initiatives, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans’ recent survey Workplace Wellness Trends.

More traditional wellness initiatives like health risk assessments and flu shots remain popular among workplaces, but the International Foundation noticed a growing emphasis on more non-traditional initiatives like mental health coverage, vacation time and tuition reimbursement.

According to the survey, top non-traditional wellness initiatives include:

• vacation time/time off use is encouraged (66 percent),
• mental health coverage (63 percent);
• tuition reimbursement (63 percent)
• community charity drives (57 percent), and
• on-site events/celebrations (50 percent).

Some of the more unusual offerings emerging are discounted or free wearable tracking devices, themed dress-up days, game leagues, financial education and workplace design changes like collaborative work spaces, standing/treadmill desks and walking loops.

Top traditional wellness initiatives include:

• flu shot program (71 percent),
• smoking-cessation program (54 percent),
• health risk assessments (51 percent),
• health screenings (50 percent), and
• wellness competitions/fitness challenges (42 percent).

Organizations are offering wellness initiatives for different reasons — 59 percent offer wellness primarily to invest in/increase worker health and engagement, while 41 percent primarily aim to control/reduce health-related costs. As organizations embrace both traditional and nontraditional wellness initiatives, it is clear that their efforts are creating results.

“Employers are taking a greater interest in the social and mental well-being of their employees,” said Julie Stich, CEBS, Director of Research. “Both traditional and nontraditional wellness benefits are creating the return on investment employers are looking for in their workplace wellness programs.”

Of the responding organizations with wellness initiatives, about one in four (26 percent) is analyzing the return on investment of their wellness program. Proof of wellness results is in uniquely high demand – just four percent of organizations that calculate wellness ROI also analyze the ROI of other initiatives/benefits.

Among organizations analyzing and aware of their wellness ROI, 93 percent are achieving positive ROI –the average ROI per $1 spent is $3. Among organizations tracking more specific wellness efforts, 54% said wellness efforts have improved engagement, 45% said wellness efforts reduced absenteeism, and 38% said wellness efforts have positively affected their organization’s overall bottom line.

“Positive changes exist with the expansion of workplace wellness initiatives but what’s even more exciting is the future emphasis of wellness-related offerings,” said Michael Wilson, CEO of the International Foundation. “Many organizations are moving beyond just physical health and are looking at the whole picture of employee well-being.”


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