596046.TIFWellness programs are no longer a “soft” issue around the globe, as employers increasingly recognize the value of employees’ health and overall well-being to their organizations’ bottom line. According to a report from Buck Consultants, employers cite their commitment to promoting health and wellness as a business strategy and show a continued desire to expand health-promotion initiatives.

Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies” found that employers, regardless of location, identified improving worker productivity and reducing “presenteeism” as being among their top wellness-program objectives.

“With productivity having a direct tie to bottom-line revenue, organizations now consider health promotion as a core business value that positively impacts their ability to compete,” said Dave Ratcliffe, a principal at Buck Consultants. “With signs of job-market improvement emerging in the U.S., employers will be challenged to maintain productivity gains earned during the recession, as employees have increased job mobility.”

As health promotion takes its place as a top consideration among drivers of profitability and performance, an increasing number of companies recognize their role in managing employee health—87 percent in 2012 vs. 75 percent in 2010.

However, only 36 percent of respondents measure specific outcomes of their health-promotion programs, citing lack of resources (68 percent) and not knowing how to measure (34 percent) as the top reasons for not doing so. The likelihood of measurement increases with business size, although even among the largest employers (20,000-plus employees), only 47 percent report having measured specific outcomes.

Bottom-Line Impact

Emphasizing the effect on the bottom line, the survey revealed that 23 percent of U.S. employers indicated their wellness program helped reduce the cost of providing health care benefits to their workers. Of those:

Other key findings include the following:

Buck’s fifth annual global wellness survey analyzed responses from 1,300-odd organizations in 45 countries, representing more than 17 million employees.

Stephen MillerCEBSis an online editor/manager for SHRM.