Companies are beginning to take a bigger interest in improving the health of their employees, but they still have lots of room for improvement. New research has found that 94 percent of companies say they will have a written health and productivity plan in the next three years.
That comes as a big change from today, where only 30 percent of companies have effectively communicated a health care strategy to their employees.
Businesses have good reason for taking those steps to improve communication since work can lead to a number of physical and mental challenges, including stress, obesity and lack of physical activity. Those issues can be result in illness and higher medical costs, resulting in lost productivity and efficiency for companies.
One of the biggest obstacles to improving the success of health and productivity programs is a lack of employee engagement. Seventy-seven percent of employers see a dearth of employee engagement as the biggest obstacle to keeping employees healthy.
"Companies have long maintained that a healthier work force is a more productive work force, and many are considering innovative tactics to improve employee health and well-being," said Shelly Wolff, senior health care consultant at Towers Watson, which conducted the research. "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."
Companies are also looking to develop a culture where employees take ownership over their health to deal with the challenge of keeping workers healthy. To accomplish this, companies are taking a number of steps. Nearly 40 percent of companies say they will increase premiums and deductibles for employees who do not finish health care programs. That number will jump to 61 percent in the next year, the researchers found.
Employees may also see a number of penalties as well. The number of companies that will implement penalties or rewards based on tobacco use will grow from 54 percent to 71 percent in the next two years. More companies are also expected to institute rewards or penalties for employees who reach heath-related targets, including BMI, blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
"More than ever, employers view health as a total business issue that links to worker performance," said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. "Highly effective organizations do a number of things differently, and their results are far better than those of their peers. They take a holistic view of health and productivity programs and benefits to foster a culture of health in their workplaces and promote healthy lifestyles, and that approach will serve them well in the years to come."
The research was based on the responses of 892 employers in the United States, Canada, China, Singapore and India.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.