Study: Non-traditional Wellness Initiatives Increasing and Providing Positive ROI

Employers invest in wellness initiatives – both traditional and non-traditional – to increase employee engagement and reduce healthcare costs. A recent International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans (IFEBP) survey identifies the rise in non-traditional wellness benefits and examines the return on investment involved in providing them.

A February 17 article by Dan Cook in BenefitsPro.com reports on the survey and its findings.

Wellness program design continues to evolve, often striking out in new directions as employers gain more experience with what works and what doesn’t, from a variety of standpoints.

The IFEBP survey, Workplace Wellness Trends, identifies what it terms “less traditional variations on the theme.” According to the report, more traditional wellness initiatives like health risk noticed a growing emphasis on more non-traditional initiatives like mental health coverage, vacation time and tuition reimbursement.

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.

Here’s the list of the top non-traditional wellness initiatives the survey identified:

Vacation time/time off use is encouraged (66 percent)
Mental health coverage (63 percent)
Tuition reimbursement (63 percent)
Community charity drives (57 percent)
On-site events/celebrations (50 percent)
And the comparable list of the top traditional wellness initiatives include:

Flu shot program (71 percent)
Smoking-cessation program (54 percent)
Health risk assessments (51 percent)
Health screenings (50 percent)
Wellness competitions/fitness challenges (42 percent)
When asked why their organizations offer wellness initiatives, 59 percent said “primarily to invest in/increase worker health and engagement.” The remaining 41 percent said “primarily aim to control/reduce health-related costs.” The report said 26 percent are analyzing their programs for ROI. That’s a far higher percentage than for gauging ROI on other initiatives and benefits, which was reported to be about 4 percent.

Those tracking ROI are finding positive results, the study said. Among organizations analyzing and aware of their wellness ROI, 93 percent are achieving positive ROI –the average ROI per $1 spent is $3,” according to the survey.

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Other data from the study showed that among organizations tracking more specific wellness efforts:
54 percent said wellness efforts have improved engagement;
45 percent said wellness efforts reduced absenteeism;
38 percent said wellness efforts have positively affected their organization’s overall bottom lined
Julie Stich, IFEBP director of research, is quoted in Cook’s article, pointing out that employers are taking a greater interest in the social and mental well-being of their employees. “Both traditional and nontraditional wellness benefits are creating the return on investment employers are looking for in their workplace wellness programs,” she added.

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