The nation’s employers, trying to boost participation in corporate wellness programs to improve the health of their workers, this year have increased spending by 17 percent on everything from biometric screening and yoga classes to incentives to walk more.
The National Business Group on Health, a larger employer coalition, and Fidelity Investments, the money manager, said employers on average are spending $693 per employee this year on “wellness-based incentives,” according to a survey the two conducted of more than 120 of their employer clients. The $693 average is a 17 percent increase from the $594 average spending on wellness programs in 2014.
Employers use a variety of methods to boost corporate wellness from cash incentives like gift cards and lower health care premiums to free biometric screenings for chronic diseases. Exercise classes like yoga or perks tied to tallying points for walking or for taking a certain number of steps daily are also common.
“The expanding use of wellness-based incentives demonstrates that employers are committed to health improvement programs and understand how they can contribute to a healthy workforce and reinforce corporate culture,” Robert Kennedy, health and welfare practice leader with Fidelity’s Benefits Consulting business.
The largest employers in the survey with more than 20,000 employees this year are spending $878, a 22 percent increase from $717 in 2014. Meanwhile, companies with between 5,000 and 20,000 are spending $661, a 34 percent increase from $430 in 2014.
Despite the increase in spending, almost half of workers, or 47 percent, didn’t take full advantage of wellness programs in 2014, the survey said.
“As employers continue to look at ways to improve employee health and increase productivity, we expect to see employers continue to expand and evolve their wellness offerings, and find new and innovative ways to encourage employee participation levels and measure the success of their programs,” Brian Marcotte, CEO of National Business Group on Health, which includes American Express (AXP), Boeing (BA), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Pfizer (PFE) among its membership.