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Wellness Programs Growing Worldwide, Survey Shows

October 14, 2008
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Workplace wellness programs are growing rapidly outside of the U.S., with 40 percent of employers in Europe, Asia and Africa now offering them, a global survey has found.

The fastest-growing components of wellness programs include technology-driven tools such as Web portals, online healthy-lifestyle programs and personal health records, according to "Working Well: A Global Survey of Wealth Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies," conducted by New York-based Buck Consultants.

Other rapidly growing program elements include on-site workplace activities such as employee health fairs, healthier vending-machine food choices and workplace health competitions. Employee screenings, including health risk assessments and biometric screenings, are also growing in popularity, the survey found.

The top wellness program elements varied by region, with employee assistance programs the most prevalent in the U.S. and Canada; discounts on fitness club memberships a leading component in Europe; and biometric health screening the top element in Asia and Africa.

The fastest-growing wellness program elements by region were: vending machines emphasizing healthy food options in the U.S.; employee health fairs in Canada online healthy-lifestyle programs in Europe; personal health records in Asia; and support of work/life balance in Africa.

Business objectives for wellness programs also vary by international location. In the U.S., for example, reduction of health care costs continues to be the No. 1 goal. Canadian employers cite improving productivity as their primary objective, and in Europe the chief goal is improving workforce morale. Employers in Asia and Africa cite reducing employee absence as their main objective for wellness programs.

Incentive rewards to encourage employee participation in wellness initiatives has increased 45 percent since Buck’s previous survey, in 2007.U.S. employers spend an average of $145 per employee per year, up from $100 last year. Twelve percent of U.S. respondents to the survey spend more than $500 per employee per year. Although such incentives are more prevalent in the U.S. they are increasingly being offered by employers in all parts of the world, the survey found.

A total of 628 employers responded to the survey, which included respondents from 25 countries. The survey questionnaire was offered online and via paper in four languages.

The survey is available for $150 from Buck's Global Survey Resources, 500 Plaza Drive, SecaucuNew Jersey" 07096-1533 800-887-0509. It can also be ordered online at www.bucksurveys.com.

Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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