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From Wellness to Well-Being: Employers Blend Benefits for Better Results

Successful wellness strategies have evolved beyond health posters in the company break room or a gym membership discount. More employers are expanding their wellness initiatives to foster employees’ overall “well-being” — not just their health — in an effort to tamp down costs and boost productivity.

One such group of employers recently was honored by Principal Financial Group, which highlighted the nation’s top 10 employers for employee financial security.

Principal noted that top firms tended to blend financial security and health in their benefits mix, according to a report by the Des Moines (Iowa) Register.

“Winning companies recognize the immense impact wellness can have not only on health, but on retirement security — healthier employees spend less on medical care, leaving more to save,” said Principal’s Luke Vandermillen.

In addition to generous employer contributions to 401(k)s and wellness incentives, these companies took special care to tailor their communication and education efforts for individual employees, the report said.

Regardless of how they integrate their benefits, employers need to make a real commitment to their programs if they want to achieve lasting results, and sometimes that means devoting staff to run the show, a new study from OptumHealth suggests.

The study, reported by Spencer’s Benefits Reports and CCH, found that companies that had a dedicated employee to administer their wellness programs were more likely to see value and positive results from the initiatives. Businesses that hire an employee whose sole job is wellness achieve higher rates of participation (54 percent) compared with those that do not have a dedicated worker to oversee initiatives (45 percent), according to the OptumHealth study.

Extra staff and robust offerings can carry some short-term costs, but the rewards of integrated “well-being” benefits can be well worth the effort. Just look at Principal’s top 10 winners: Those employers have an average voluntary turnover rate of 9.8 percent, compared with the national average of 24 percent, according to Principal.