Art by Giulia Sagramola
care costs continue to rise and financial insecurity becomes a leading stressor
for thousands of Americans, employers are adopting a more holistic approach to
developing wellness programs. According to a recent survey by provider Virgin
Pulse, 76% of employers now offer wellness programs that address physical,
mental and financial health.
financial piece is a relatively new component of total wellness programs, it
was long overdue. Travis Freeman, Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and
president of Four Seasons Financial Education, revealed some
yet-to-be-published survey findings on how financial stress affects health.
found that 66% of employees who had high levels of financial stress reported
feeling depressed, compared with only 17% of those with low levels. Among the
group with greater financial stress, 72% reported anxiety, 46% reported
sleeplessness, and 25% reported memory loss.
employee financial wellness survey done by PricewaterhouseCoopers concurs with
these results, finding that 52% of employees reported financial insecurity.
Twenty-eight percent said it was affecting their health, and another 28% said it
was a distraction at work.
there is room for improvement in addressing employees’ financial
wellness—which, if successfully undertaken, can have a positive impact on
employee well-being, as well as the employer’s health care costs and return on
a recent study by the RAND Corp., the real savings come from disease-management
programs, or programs that help at-risk employees avoid chronic illnesses and
employees who are chronically ill stabilize their condition.
studying 10 years of data from a Fortune 100 employer, RAND found that disease
management, as opposed to lifestyle management, accounted for 86% of hard
savings in health care costs—generating $136 per member per month and a 30%
reduction in hospital visits. The firm concluded that lifestyle programs such
as those focusing on weight management and nutrition ultimately failed to drive
significant behavioral change.
CEO of Virgin Pulse, argues that employers may be able to improve these
programs’ effectiveness by leveraging technology. His firm offers clients an
interactive and customizable platform along with an app that employees can use
to pursue specific lifestyle goals such as being more active or getting more
sleep. They can also track their progress digitally. Further, the platform
promotes emotional well-being through community action—something Boyce predicts
will become even more important in the years to come.
“The key is
finding consumer-facing products that change behavior and that people actually
like and use,” says Boyce.