A growing number of companies think it is very important that their employees be healthy and plan to do something about this.
A new study from Towers Watson found that three out of four companies said workforce health and promoting health and well-being will be more of a priority this year and next. In addition, 87 percent said it will be a higher priority over the next two to four years.
Of course, actions speak louder than words. This said, some47 percent of those who responded to the survey of 149 multinational corporations said they plan to implement a global workforce health strategy over the next two years.
Currently, less than one-third (32 percent) of multinationals have a global workforce health strategy in place.
"Given the variety of health systems and market practices around the world, and the significant differences in costs for employers to sponsor health plans, the need for a global workforce health strategy has never been greater," said Francis Coleman, a senior international consultant with Towers Watson. "Multinationals with a clear strategy can better coordinate local health activities to improve their overall workforce health and increase the efficiency of their total spending on health care."
Companies offered a variety of reasons for wanting to implement these health conscious programs, depending upon the region they are from.
In general 54 percent of all respondents said it was to demonstrate their continued interest in employee well-being, resiliency and stress management, while 52 percent said it was to help control rising health costs.
However, 69 percent of multinationals headquartered in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region ranked employee well-being and stress management in the top three.
On the other hand, 62 percent of Asia-based respondents ranked providing competitive rewards among the top three objectives.
Among North American companies-primarily US-base -59 percent cited controlling costs in the top three.
"Corporations in the Americas...are much more focused on medical cost containment, while European corporations are concerned with disability, lost productivity and absenteeism," said Coleman.
In general, 75 percent of multinationals currently offer a wellness program, which can include preventive care, health screenings or education.
Towers Watson notes these programs have been growing in popularity over the past few years except among Asia-headquartered multinationals where only 62 percent of employers offer a wellness program.
If for no other reason, there are practical financial reasons for companies to offer wellness programs. Obviously, healthier employees invariably access the health care system less often and spend less on procedures than less health employees.
This translates into lower health care premiums for companies, and lower overall health care costs for the large number of companies that self-insure.