Health, productivity programs seeing low participation: Survey

3 biggest lifestyle risks: stress, obesity, lack of activity
||Last Updated: 10/07/2013

As companies strive to keep workers healthier and stem the tide of higher health-care costs, they will continue to embrace health and productivity programs as a solution, according to a global survey.

Employers will have to address lifestyle risk issues, improve employee engagement and articulate a strategy to establish a workplace health culture, an essential factor for success, said the 2013/2014 Staying@Work Survey by Towers Watson.

Respondents in nearly all of the countries or regions that participated in the study reported the same three lifestyle risks as the biggest workforce issues: stress, obesity and a lack of physical activity. These risk factors result in increased employee illness, higher medical costs and lost productivity due to unplanned absence and decreased efficiency at work.

To combat these issues, companies have to overcome poor employee engagement. Nearly eight in 10 (77 per cent) employers view a lack of employee engagement as the biggest obstacle to changing behaviour, found the survey. Despite offering a variety of health and productivity programs, employers report that actual program participation is low.

“Companies have long maintained that a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, and many are considering innovative tactics to improve employee health and well-being,” said Shelly Wolff, senior health-care consultant at Towers Watson.

“But along with the urgency of health-care reform and the coming excise tax, there is a realization that companies need to manage these programs more effectively and encourage employee participation and engagement. An essential part of increasing engagement and success is for companies to link a health and productivity strategy to their overall employee value proposition.”

The survey was conducted in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia by a total of 892 employers, with 114 in Canada.

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