OptumHealth study suggests workplace plays positive role
to help employees achieve personal health goals
Pursuing a healthier lifestyle has become a top priority for a
growing number of people, but even with a firm resolve to lose weight,
exercise more or quit smoking, day-to-day distractions and competing
commitments can make it a struggle to accomplish this goal. Add in the
pressurized demands of the workplace, and it can seem even more
But the worksite can also be a huge plus, according to a new study
from OptumHealth “The Positive Role of the Workplace in Helping
Americans Live Healthier Lives.” Of the employees who participated
in workplace health program and were able to lose weight or quit
smoking, more than half said that a workplace program was very helpful.
OptumHealth commissioned GFK/Roper to conduct a study to:
- Better understand employee views on the impact of wellness programs
on their own health and productivity;
- Understand on the job challenges to maintaining a healthy lifestyle;
- Assess what company programs are seen as most beneficial.
“Our purpose for this study was to examine the impact that
employees feel employer sponsored wellness programs have on helping them
achieve their goals” said Laura Karkula, VP of product development
for OptumHealth Care Solutions.
Many participants in workplace wellness programs are making
significant headway in improving their health and well being. Of the
total respondents, there were 302 people who weighed 200 pounds or more
before losing weight and lost at least 20 pounds and kept the weight off
for at least a year. Also included were 330 people who smoked 10
cigarettes or more per day before quitting and have been smoke-free for
at least a year.
The results indicate that workplace wellness programs are broadly
supported and highly valued by employees at companies that make them
available. Benefits cited include being more productive on the job and
feeling better able to control unhealthy behaviors while at work. For
employers, these efforts can result in greater retention of top talent
and positively influence how employers are perceived by employees. And a
company that promotes a wellness culture can find that such a culture
can help reduce medical costs over time.
Employed respondents heavily support the idea that it is vital for
companies to spur workers to adopt healthier lifestyles. Nearly nine in
ten (87%) believe such encouragement is an appropriate role for
employers. And 84% endorse the view that the presence of workplace
health and wellness programs is a sign that a company cares about its
The number of companies that have implemented some kind of workplace
wellness program is on the rise. About one-quarter of employed survey
respondents say that their employer is promoting employee health more
than they were in the past, while nearly two-thirds say the emphasis is
the same as in years past.
Of the employees surveyed, nearly half (48%) say their companies
place some emphasis on worker health issues and 12% feel there’s
considerable focus on this point.
Trying to live healthier can be challenging because of the constant
pressure to succeed and perform at work. Only 36% of employed
respondents say they have a lot of control over their health priorities
while at work.
Almost half of employed respondents say that having “too little
time” is one of the biggest obstacles to maintaining a healthier
regimen at work. Over one-third point to too much stress at work and one
in five say their job is too demanding to allow them to focus on
healthful choices. When it comes to eating, 33% say there are too many
unhealthy foods around for them to live a healthy lifestyle in the
The idea of rewarding employees to encourage them to take part in
company wellness programs by reducing their health insurance premiums
was viewed positively. Fully half of the respondents said that this was
very likely to get them involved. And another 36% said it would be
somewhat likely to have an impact.
The atmosphere at a company and the degree to which it promotes a
culture of wellness in the workplace is just as important to workers as
the health-related programs that might be available to them. For
example, 92% of employees in organizations that promote employee health
feel they have at least some control in maintaining a healthy lifestyle
while at work.
“Clearly, employees of companies that emphasize employee health
recognize that these programs can have a positive impact on their
health,” according to Annie Weber, senior vice president and
general manager at GFK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate
Communications. “Additionally, we see evidence in this research
that creating a wellness-friendly environment can enhance
employee’s feelings about employers. And many employees themselves
feel these programs can lead to better retention and improved
EBN readers can review the study’s full results in a recording of
a recent Webinar that OptumHealth produced on this topic called
“The Positive Role of Wellness Programs in the Workplace.”
To access the Webinar, please visit http://cdn.optumhealth.com/oh/recordings/081910_wpw/.
For more information, please contact OptumHealth at firstname.lastname@example.org
The OptumHealth survey was conducted online from March 24 to April
7, 2010. Completed surveys were obtained from 1,444 adults, residing in
the United States. This includes a base sample of 1,003 respondents from
the general population of online Americans and includes oversamples of
302 people who weighed 200 pounds or more before losing weight, lost at
least 20 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year; and 330
people who smoked 10 cigarettes or more before quitting and have been
smoke free for at least a year.