Top Employer-Offered Wellness Benefits

    Top Employer-Offered Wellness Benefits

    By S. Caseria

    Your employer wants you at your best, and 61 percent of companies have put their money with their mouth is, according to a recent human resources survey, funding wellness programs that aim to keep employees healthy and happy.

    Here are some of the most common wellness benefits offered, according to the Society of Human Resources Management(SHRM) and other health and fitness sources, along with some tips from an expert to get the most out of them.1

    Wellness Resources and Information

    Ranging from websites to videos to e-newsletters with tips and advice to improve your health, these informational resources are offered by 72 percent of employers, according to SHRM. Some companies create their own publications in-house, focusing on employees and their successes. Others, created by third parties like The American Cancer Society, provide scientifically-vetted information on general wellness as well as ways to motivate the pursuit of better health.

    “There is a wealth of information for employees, a lot more than what people think,” said Anne Marie Ludovici-Connolly, a nationally recognized employee wellbeing expert, author and consultant for the Segal Group. In an interview, she suggested employees read the emails that come from their benefits departments, follow them on social media and, “if newsletters and publications are mailed to your home, share them with your entire family.”

    Onsite Seasonal Flu Vaccinations

    If you’re concerned about the flu, the good news is that getting vaccinated lowers the risk by 50-60 percent, according to a report by the CDC.2 Many health insurance providers don’t charge for flu vaccinations. But you would still have to take time from your schedule to visit your doctor or clinic. On-site employer flu vaccinations and clinics included in an employer benefit plan provide a convenient solution.

     “Clinics usually follow the open enrollment cycles,” said Ludovici-Connolly. “They’re very convenient so they’ll save you time and could reduce risk of the flu.”

    CPR/First Aid Training

    A full 50 percent of companies offer training that can help employees save a life, according to SHRM. It’s a skill that can pay off at work, at home or anywhere you find yourself. It’s a wellness benefit that extends beyond yourself.

    24-Hour Nurse Line

    For 44 percent of employees, a skilled nurse is never more than a phone call away under their wellness plan, offering free, confidential medical help, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.3

    Obviously, employees should call 911 or go to an emergency room for life-threatening situations. But if you’re not sure whether to see a doctor, visit an urgent care clinic or try an over the counter remedy, it’s nice to have the option of giving a nurse line a call. Many health insurance providers put a phone number on the back of ID cards.

    Annual Health Risk Assessment (HRA)

    For an accurate understanding of your health, this questionnaire collects information on demographics, lifestyle, family medical history, physiological data (like height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol) and your willingness to make changes. The assessment should be followed up with feedback, usually through a printed or online report.

    “If you’re at high risk, you may get a call directly from a health coach or nurse who can provide tailored information,” said Ludovici-Connolly.

    Completing an HRA each year gives you and your medical provider a starting point toward better health. Another plus – 31 percent of companies that offer HRAs under their wellness benefit plans also offer financial and other incentives to complete the self-assessment, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    For those concerned about confidentiality, Ludovici-Connolly noted “the work is usually performed by a third-party or your health insurance provider who has to adhere to HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which protects patient privacy.”

    Financial Rewards for Wellness Participation

    In addition to offering incentives for completing an HRA, 41 percent of employers offer financial incentives for participation and/or completion of wellness programs, according to SHRM. (Related: Ins and Outs of Employee Wellness Programs)

    These incentives can boost interest, and help employees take the first step toward better health. “People need three times more pros than cons to motivate them to action,” said Ludovici-Connolly. So even if it doesn’t seem like a large incentive dollar-wise, it’s essentially like getting paid to care more about your health.

    Smoking Cessation Programs

    More than 50 years after the U.S. Surgeon General released the first report chronicling the health risks of tobacco, people are still trying to quit smoking.

    “The average smoker who wants to quit will have to try seven times before being successful,” said Ludovici-Connolly.

    Fortunately, 41 percent of employers offer smoking cessation programs, according to the SHRM survey. The programs come in many forms, from telephone support and online programs to support groups and Nicotine Anonymous.

    “Don’t let past failure cloud your judgment, you have much better efficacy with a program compared to trying on your own,” said Ludovici-Connolly. “If your employer offers nicotine patches, which can be very costly, take advantage of them along with the program for best outcomes. Even getting all of the information on the offerings is a good first step toward quitting."

    Health and Lifestyle Coaching

    Anyone who’s ever played a team sport or worked with a trainer in a gym can appreciate the motivational value a coach brings. Health and lifestyle coaches, offered under some wellness programs, are people with special training to support employees pursuing lifestyle changes. A coach will likely not only motivate you, but provide education and help structure a plan that is likely to be followed.

    Through a series of questions, a coach can help you understand the underlying causes for your current lifestyle, health and attitudes.

    “It’s OK if you’re not ready to change all of the identified behaviors, maybe change one or two. This could help prevent a chronic condition,” said Ludovici-Connolly.

    Health Fairs

    Employer health fairs are events where your benefits team brings in health and wellness professionals: representatives from your insurance provider, nutrition experts, fitness professionals and even local businesses. One obvious benefit of health fairs is that you get to talk to providers face-to-face, giving you information and advice quickly.

    Preventive Programs for Chronic Health Issues

    The Center for Disease Control reports that about half of all the country’s adults suffer from at least one chronic illness, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis.4 But the good news is that many issues are preventable or treatable through lifestyle changes and medication.

    Through such employer offerings you’ll find suggestions to get more exercise, reduce sodium intake, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking and cut back on alcohol consumption. 

    If you’re hesitant because you and your doctor are already working together, Ludovici-Connolly suggests you reconsider.

    “This is day-to-day help that can build on a doctor’s treatment,” she said. “And there are tips and advice he or she may be too busy to discuss during your office visit.”

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    1 Society for Human Resource Management, “2016 Employee Looking Back at 20 Years of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S.” June 20, 2016.

    2 Center for Disease Control, “Vaccine Effectiveness - How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work?” August 31, 2016.

    3 Kaiser Family Foundation, “2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey,” September 22, 2015.

    4 Centers for Disease Control, “Chronic Diseases: The Leading Causes of Death and Disability in the United States,” February 23, 2016.