Category: Facts and Research

As the war for talent persists, many employers are resorting to more attractive benefit packages. The Society of Human Resource Management’s 2017 Employee Benefits Survey set out to determine the size of this increase.  Overall, improvements in health and wellness offerings were a popular strategy among organizations. Specifically, 22% of organizations surveyed expanded their healthcare offerings and 24% gave their wellness programs a boost.

Most Common Benefits
Popular strategies to help with recruiting are “expanding training programs to help improve skills of new hires, using/enhancing an employee referral program, offering more flexible work arrangements, providing monetary incentives to candidates (e.g., signing bonus) and offering new job perks. Of these strategies, HR professionals indicated that offering more flexible work arrangements was the most effective.” Two out of five organizations cited flexible arrangements as one of the most effective recruiting strategies.

Telecommuting is a common form of flexible work offers. In the survey, 62% of organizations allowed some type of telecommuting, while 57% offered flextime (allowing employees to choose their work hours within limits set by the organization). Thirty-five percent of organizations offer telecommuting on a part-time basis and 23% on a full-time basis. A four-day work week of 32 hours is a new benefit, offered at 13% of the organizations surveyed.

top flexible working benefits
Wellness Programs Get A Boost
Twenty-four percent of organizations increased wellness benefits offerings in the past year. Wellness education was most common with 71% of organizations providing wellness resources and information and 62% providing wellness tips or information at least quarterly. About three out of five organizations (59%) offered a general wellness program. Overall, 77% of organizations indicated their wellness program was somewhat or very effective in reducing health care costs, and 88% rated their wellness initiatives as somewhat or very effective in improving employees’ health.

Standing out was the increase in the popularity of standing desks. This benefit grew three-fold from 13% in 2013 to 44% in 2017.  This is despite research suggesting that standing desks do little to improve employee health but does help increase productivity.

Addressing Healthcare Costs
Two-thirds of organizations surveyed said they were very concerned about controlling health care costs while another 31% were somewhat concerned. This is not surprising since these costs continue to rise in the past year, with an 11% increase on average. One strategy that some organizations are using to mitigate healthcare costs is to implement restrictions on coverage for spouses and domestic partners. One of the more common cost-curbing strategies employers used was adding a surcharge or denying coverage if the employee’s spouse was offered coverage by another employer.

Health savings accounts (HSAs) are also an attractive option with 55% of organizations offering them in 2017 and 36% providing an employer contribution to the HSA. On the other hand, flexible spending accounts have seen a slight dip over the past years. In 2013, 72% of organizations were offering a flexible spending account compared to 65% this year.

how to make strategic benefits decisions

Category: Facts and Research

It is often believed that employees do not participate in wellness programs because they are unaware that the program even exists, which is why communication is perceived as a critical component for wellness success.  However, a recent survey from UnitedHealthcare suggests that program awareness is no longer the problem.  According to the survey, 85% of respondents with access to a wellness program are “somewhat aware” or “very aware” of the offerings. Despite high awareness, two-thirds of these employees still underestimate the potential incentives available, and as a result, employees are not fully engaging in their program.
employee holistic wellness programs

The survey also found that 41% of full-time workers estimated the average financial incentive available through an employer-sponsored program to be up to $300 per employee per year, while 24% thought it was between $301 and $600. With an average $742 per employee per year in incentives, employees are significantly underestimating the wellness benefits employers are providing. This includes popular incentives such as health insurance premium reductions (77%), grocery store vouchers or discounts (64%), and health savings account credits (62%).

There are several factors likely impacting employee engagement in wellness programs. The original culprit – communication – is still on the table. Although awareness of wellness programs is high, it is clear that employees are not fully aware of the details, such as incentives.  Since incentives impact participation, improving communication on the details of a wellness program will help drive engagement.

Another factor is time. While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, 15% of survey respondents said that they would devote less than an hour each week for health-related activities (including exercising or researching healthy foods). One-fourth of respondents were a bit more committed, devoting one to three hours for these activities. Only 19% of respondents would devote nine hours or more to improving their health. If employers want to drive engagement in wellness programs, they need to be committed to breaking down barriers to engagement. First, employers can increase the amount of time employees are willing to devote to health-related activities by reducing the time pressures of non-health-related activities.  Flexible work schedules help accommodate for planning.  Also, education on the importance of dedicating time to one’s health provides perspective and value to the program.  Lastly, employers can invest in their physical workspaces to promote healthy living.

employee wellness interest survey template


Category: Facts and Research

Charles Schwab recently released a comprehensive report on the workplace financial wellness industry. There, you can find definitions, current state, and the popular design of wellness programs. However, if you are short on time, this infographic will provide a brief summary of the report.

charles schwab financial wellness survey
Financial wellness programs are just beginning to become staples of employee health programs.  For organizations looking to incorporate financial wellness into their benefits offering for the first time, there are a number of budget friendly options to choose from.  For those employers with a 401 (k) plan, the plan administrator should have free financial wellness resources for their clients to use.  There are also a number of advocacy groups and wellness vendors, including Wellable, that offer a free financial wellness seminar/webinar.

Category: Facts and Research

Finance Finesse recently released a report called Optimizing Financial Wellness Programs for a Diverse Workforce. The results are concerning, as minority employees are overwhelmingly struggling with financial wellness. This is bad news for a number of reasons because the same organization released the 2016 ROI Special Report where it noted that employees with the lowest levels of financial wellness cost employers between $94 and $198 a year. At this price, companies of all sizes should appreciate the savings from getting these financially struggling employees back on track.

financial wellness finance finesse wellable

Financial Priorities
Specifically, 54% and 49% of African Americans and Hispanic/Latino workers, respectively, are in the Suffering or Struggling categories. Compare this number with only 23% of Asian Americans and 26% of Caucasians workers. Similarly, 25% of Hispanic employees and 31% of African-American employees reported that they have high or overwhelming levels of financial stress. Paying off debt is one of the largest priorities for these two groups, making it hard to save for anything else. As a result, 63% of Hispanic employees and 74% of African-American employees don’t have funds available to pay for emergency events.

Lack Of Financial Wellness Education
Even though income inequality is still prevalent and needs to be addressed, a lot of this insecurity also boils down to financial wellness education (or lack thereof). For example, 48% of African-Americans and 36% of Hispanic employees said that they don’t have a handle on their cash flow. If this is caused by employees living above their means or dealing with competing priorities, meeting with a financial advisor or taking a financial wellness class is a good first start to help them get back into control of their financial situation.

Everybody Needs Help
While it is important for employers to recognize the need for financial literacy among minority employees and offer help, other groups should not be left out. In fact, almost all employees can use some financial wellness education. Only 18% of African American, 20% of Hispanics, 30% of Asians, and 30% of Caucasians said they were on target to replace 80% of their income at retirement. Along the same line, “financial security” is a status that very few have achieved – only 2% for African Americans, 3% for Hispanic/Latinos, 6% for Asian Americans, and 7% for Caucasians.

Financial wellness programs are just beginning to become staples of employee health programs.  For organizations looking to incorporate financial wellness into their benefits offering for the first time, there are a number of budget friendly options to choose from.  For those employers with a 401 (k) plan, the plan administrator should have free financial wellness resources for their clients to use.  There are also a number of advocacy groups and wellness vendors, including Wellable, that offer a free financial wellness seminar/webinar.

Category: Wellable News

Wellable wearable employee wellness

Wellable recently did an expert interview with HubEngage where Nick Patel, Founder and President of Wellable, talked about innovative ways to improve employee wellness. The article touches upon a wide variety of topics that are essential to a good wellness program, namely technology, rewards and incentive, engagement, and more!

To give you a sneak peak, here is Nick’s prediction for the future of digital employee wellness:

Even though employee wellness programs still have a lot of room to grow, we see them slowly becoming a must-have. This is similar to how 401Ks used to be nice-to-haves, but now they are a must-have to attract and retain talent.

As wearables become more mainstream, wellness programs will shift their focus from ‘improving adoption’ to ‘impacting the margin’. Right now, 20% of Americans under age of 65 own fitness trackers, as well as 17% of their older counterparts. In the coming years, the “quantified self” movement will drive this number up to a much higher percentage. In five to ten years when most people already use wearables or wellness apps, wellness programs should no longer focus on getting more people onto the bandwagon. Instead, they should focus on encouraging people to use whatever technology they already own, and then use that data to push them forward just a little bit further or to integrate more of the feedback loops into their everyday lives.

On the wearable side, we see continuous improvement in analytics and usability as well as non-wellness functionalities. For example, Fitbit will focus both on improving the validity of their tracking data and adding functions like payments, voice assistance, etc. to their devices. This will increase a device’s attractiveness and stickiness for a user – attractive because the data will produce more meaningful results, and sticky because more and more of their daily activities will rely on having their devices on their wrists.

Head over to HubEngage’s blog for the full scoop! 

Category: Corporate Wellness

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, employee experience is becoming more important. According to “The Employee Experience Advantage” by Jacob Morgan, there are three primary environmental factors matter most to employees: cultural, technological, and physical. This week in employee wellness experience we will look at Uber’s latest move to combat turnover and a toxic culture, Apple Watch’s latest developments, and the secret to sustained fitness motivation.

Uber Hires Harvard Business School Professor For A Cultural Revamp
Facing a stream of allegations and bad press for its toxic culture, Uber is taking necessary steps toward redemption. In its latest press release, Uber announced the arrival of Professor Frances Frei, an expert in organizational change, from Harvard Business School. Professor Frei has an extensive background in organizational management and has published many studies as well as books on the topic. Hopefully, her presence will halt the outpour stream of execs leaving the company.

Apple Watch Gets An Update – Activity App To Deliver Intelligent Coachingapple watch new update wellable employee wellness
Apple announced many updates coming to the Apple Watch at their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last Monday, including updated fitness tracking capabilities. With the new watchOS coming this Fall, the Activity app will be delivering intelligent coaching and personalized encouragement so that users can close Activity Rings more often and get longer streaks. Monthly challenges are also coming, signaling Apple’s entrance into the social fitness sphere.

The Workout app will also be smarter, now including “auto-sets for pool swim workouts and new motion and heart rate algorithms for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts.” This functionality is more useful for seasoned athletes but hopefully will trickle down to mainstream users.

Relaxed Attitude Makes It Easier To Exercise
A new study focusing on women exercising tendencies found that bringing a relaxed mindset to the workout leads to more sustainable motivation. The lesson for employee wellness program administrators? To start out, focus less on the intensity and more on happiness and enjoyment. You can always build it up, and scaring people away with intensive on-site classes and big goals gets the program nowhere.


Category: Facts and Research

Fourteen percent of the U.S population is now enrolled in a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) and another 14% is enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Because of the low-premium and high-deductible nature of these options, members are more likely to show cost-conscious behaviors than those of traditional plans, according to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
CDHP Higher Employee Wellness Program Awareness WellableSome of the cost-saving behaviors are greater interest in employee wellness programs and an increase in awareness in the plan offerings. Specifically, “45% of CDHP enrollees reported that their employer offered a health risk assessment, compared with only 34% of traditional-plan enrollees.” Similarly, 53% of CDHP enrollees reported being aware of health-promotion programs at their organization, compared to 41% for their traditional-plan counterparts. Overall, the awareness of and participation in health and wellness program are much higher among CDHP enrollees than members of traditional health plans

Another trend kindled by the popularity of high-deductible healthcare is the growing interest in health savings accounts (HSAs). On this front, employers are taking an active role in helping their employees, reportedly contributing more in both frequency and dollar amount to HSAs than in the past. “78% of CDHP enrollees reported that their employer contributed the account in 2016, up from 67% in 2014.”

Organizations can use this information to hone their approach to delivering more effective and engaging wellness programs. For example, employers can help employees offset the higher deductibles by offering HSA contributions for engaging in wellness activities. One Wellable partner, HSA Health Plan, is seeing success with this model of incentivizing healthy behavior through HSA contributions. Through Wellable’s customizable and configurable platform, HSA Health Plan members can earn $20 a month deposited into their HSA by taking at least 8,000 steps in 20 or more days in the month.

Category: Facts and Research

App Annie, an app analytics and data platform, reported that users are now accessing more than 30 apps monthly. While the number sounds impressive, it is only 1/2 to 1/3 of the number of apps actually installed on people’s smartphones. The rest belongs to the wasteland where they barely get opened.

app annie analytic app usage wellable
The set of daily used apps is even smaller; App Annie reported that users launch an average of nine apps per day. U.S. users are savvier, opening more than ten apps on a daily basis. This number includes both native apps (Messages, Phone, Mail, etc.) and non-native apps (ones that can be downloaded from the Appstore). According to Tech Crunch’s estimation, if you remove the native apps from the calculation, users are only interacting with around five apps daily.

This information is important for companies looking for wellness vendors. There are big vendors on the market offering proprietary apps to track participants’ activities (such as fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, etc.). However, these apps must directly compete for users’ attention with widely successful consumer options such as MyFitnessPal (165 million users), Fitbit (23 million active users), or Strava (1 million active users). Being “one-of-five” is a high aspiration, and proprietary apps have an uphill battle to fight.

A better solution is allowing wellness program participants to use their apps and technology of their choice, whether it is a physical activity tracker or just a phone app. Because of the quantified-self movement, people are likely already using consumer apps for their personal tracking and probably prefer to use those solutions to participate in wellness programs. Forcing a new technology (such as proprietary apps) on them will put them through an unnecessary learning curve.

While the flexibility will facilitate participation and engagement, it complicates program administration because there is so much data coming from many different sources. To solve this problem, coordinators may work with an app-agnostic platform that can aggregate data from participants’ apps and display the information on a single dashboard. This simplifies the administering process, while users still get the best experience.

Some may argue that many proprietary apps integrate with the other technologies, but knowing that only five apps are used daily, employers must understand that it is unlikely that an enterprise wellness app will ever be an effective engagement tool.  Since this is the case, employers should not prioritize a wellness vendors mobile app in the decision-making process.  Rather, employers should focus on the integrations (are they direct connections, etc.), analytics, and other program elements.

Category: Facts and Research

The National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, showed that “for the first time, more than half of Americans reported that they got the recommended amount of leisurely physical activity.” This means than 50% of Americans now follow the advice: 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. This sounds like great news on the surface; however, a closer look shows that things aren’t quite as rosy.

us adults who get recommended physical activity wellable

While Americans are becoming more active, metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes, etc.) haven’t shown signs of improvement. For years, the number of obese and diabetic adults has remained stagnant at 30% and 10% of the population, respectively. Since these diseases are often tied to inactivity, shouldn’t a rise in physical activity bring the numbers down?

Quartz theorized that the benefits of exercise take a few years to materialize. Also, physical activity is only one piece of the pie, albeit a big one. Many other components of lifestyle, such as nutrition and stress management, play prominent roles in improving health and well-being. To illustrate the ties between exercising and other facets of health, take this example: we know that working out makes people hungry because of an increase in ghrelin – an appetite-related hormone – and individuals are more likely to overestimate how many calories they’ve burnt through physical activity. As a result, if a person decides to run an extra mile each day, they are also more likely to indulge in high-caloric and unhealthy foods. It is therefore evident that focusing just on fitness is not enough to manage one’s health and waistline.

Employee wellness program coordinators can apply this knowledge to their own programs for better results. When evaluating vendors, placing an emphasis on platforms that focus on more than just physical activity is key. Whether deciding to work with multiple vendors or going with a multi-functional platform, an organization’s program will be much more effective if it embraces a more holistic approach.

Category: Corporate Wellness

A study from the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that lawyers are much more likely to have problems with substance abuse and experience symptoms of depressions than the rest of the population. Specifically, 21% of the lawyers surveyed were heavy drinkers and 28% experienced symptoms of depression (compared to 8% or less of the general population). Researchers also found that “lawyers are less likely to seek help than others, out of confidentiality concerns and a fear of telling others they have a problem.”

It’s a double whammy for these individuals; their occupation exposes them to stressors from client demands and long hours. Meanwhile, many feel like they cannot get help. This seed of stigma is planted early in their career. As an article in the Wall Street Journal stated, “many state licensing boards ask detailed questions about an applicant’s history of mental illness and treatment, though without disclosing how the information will be use.” Law students, fearful for their employment potentials, avoid seeing a doctor or getting diagnosed with mental health diseases.

How are law firms reacting to this knowledge? The old mentality was to sweep it under the rug. Because of the cut-throat environment, showing any signs of weakness was not an option (or so they thought). However, as the effects of mental health issues grow along with staff productivity, law firms are forced to re-think their strategy to remain competitive. To stay on top of their game, they need employees to be healthy – physically and mentally. This is why many law firms are starting to invest in mental health support resources.

Hogan Lovells, an international law firm, offers on-site psychologist services for their London, New York, and D.C. offices, and has been seeing “rousing success.” Norton Rose Fulbright also works hard to eliminate the stigma around mental health issues by training 20 U.S. employees to be “mental-health first-aid responders.” The goal of these employees is to “spot warning signs of addiction or mental-health concerns and offer assistance.”

While it is encouraging to hear two large law firms addressing this issue, many others are still too concerned that their competitors will say that they have “crazy lawyers.” Known for their smarts and reasoning ability, law firms need to open their eyes to see the destruction depression brings to their people and their practice. For an industry that has the 11th highest suicide rate in the U.S., there is no time to waste.