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 More Companies Implementing Health and Productivity Practices, Watson Wyatt and National Business Group on Health Survey Finds 
 
by Healthy News - 12/14/2005
WASHINGTON, DC, December 6, 2005 – A growing number of large employers are boosting efforts to improve their workers’ health and productivity. Furthermore, employers that are aggressively implementing health and productivity practices are seeing lower costs, reduced lost time and improved worker health. These are among the major findings of a survey released today by Watson Wyatt Worldwide and the National Business Group on Health.

The 2005/2006 Staying@Work Survey found that more than four out of 10 (41 percent) employers already incorporate health and productivity initiatives into their overall health care planning, while nearly one-third (32 percent) plan to do so within the next year. A total of 275 employers participated in the survey, which examined the prevalence and effectiveness of employee health and productivity practices.

“Employers recognize that a healthy and productive workforce directly impacts their bottom line,” said Shelly Wolff, national director of health and productivity consulting at Watson Wyatt. “And with many different factors affecting their employees’ health and productivity, employers are taking action.”

The study found that more companies are implementing a variety of practices designed to help workers remain healthy and productive.

Health and Productivity Practices Percentage Offering in 2005 or 2006 Percentage Offering in 2003
Employee Assistance Program 94% 88%
Return-to-Work Program 81% 56%
Health Promotion Program 75% 56%
Health Risk Appraisals 72% n/a
Work and Family Balance 71% 44%
Paid Time Off Banks 40% 36%
Personal Health Coach/Advocate 40% n/a

Multiple Practices Bring Success

Employers that implement a greater number of health and productivity practices are more successful at achieving desired outcomes. For example, 57 percent of companies that have 20 or more practices report better employee understanding of health improvement compared with just 9 percent of companies with fewer than 10 practices. Similarly, twice as many employers with 20 or more practices said their strategy is effective at increasing employee satisfaction with their benefits compared with employers that have fewer than 10 practices.

“This is clearly a case of more is better,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. “With many different avenues to explore, employers can invest in a broad-based approach and achieve better results.”

The study also found that employers that integrate areas such as workers’ compensation, disability, sick leave and family medical leave are more effective at achieving desired outcomes. These outcomes include reduced lost time, improved workforce health and lower costs.

Few Employers Holding Workers Accountable for Health

Study results show a large gap in employer efforts to hold workers accountable for their health and productivity. While three out of four employers (74 percent) believe that their employees should be held accountable to a great extent for improving, managing and maintaining their health, only 4 percent think their employees are held accountable.

“Overall, employers are not doing very much to encourage employee accountability,” said Darling. “The organizations that work most closely with employees to encourage healthy behaviors will ultimately be most successful at closing this gap.”

To effectively manage employee health and productivity, employers will need to overcome cited barriers such as lack of actionable metrics (46 percent) and inadequate access to data (43 percent). Organizations that measure the return on investment of their programs report lower sick leave costs than those that do not (1.7 percent of payroll versus 2.6 percent, respectively).

“Without data and metrics, organizations cannot gauge the effectiveness of their health and productivity strategies and practices,” Wolff said. “Measuring the return on investment will help keep these practices in place and enable employers to achieve the results they want.”

Additional findings:

  • Currently, only half of organizations provide incentives for employees to improve or maintain their health.

  • The issues that most affect employee productivity are stress (72 percent), personal/family issues (59 percent), chronic medical conditions (58 percent), unscheduled absences (57 percent), presenteeism (49 percent) and lifestyle medical conditions (49 percent).

  • Three-quarters of organizations (75 percent) say that administering family medical leave is a problem.

Copies of the 2005 Staying@Work Survey Report are available at www.watsonwyatt.com.

About Watson Wyatt

Watson Wyatt (NYSE: WW) is a leading global human capital and financial management consulting firm. The firm specializes in employee benefits, human capital strategies, technology solutions, and insurance and financial services. Watson Wyatt has 6,000 associates in 30 countries and is located on the Web at www.watsonwyatt.com

   
Provided by Healthy News on 12/14/2005
 
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