Incentivizing Employee Wellness Programs that Support Physical Activity and Sustainable Behavior Change
Preventive interventions are more effective in fighting obesity when supported and implemented where people spend significant portions of their time . Thus, ACE seeks public policies that incentivize investment in wellness interventions through the workplace. Those interventions must be rooted in science-based physical activity and sound nutrition, and prepare employees to establish lifelong healthy behavioral patterns.
Most American adults spend 40-plus hours per week at work, so the work environment is a fertile ground for wellness interventions . And there is an upside for employers to invest. Healthier employees have lower absenteeism, enhanced levels of engagement, higher productivity and greater levels of job satisfaction, while less healthy employees raise employer healthcare and insurance costs . New provisions in the Affordable Care Act allow employers greater latitude to incentivize employees to work toward achieving a more optimal health status . The result is a growing list of reasons for employers to invest in workplace wellness, and increased motivation for employees to participate .
But the weakness in many employee wellness programs is their failure to offer the type and variety of programming and support that actually enables employees to attain and maintain a favorable health status . Too often, employees face pressure to reach targets but lack the necessary tools and education to do so.
To deliver a meaningful return on investment, employee wellness programs must not merely incentivize employees but also support and guide them. They must include comprehensive behavior-change counseling and coaching, facilitated by professionals who are well trained in weight management, physical activity and overall behavior modification . And such programs must be offered in a way that is highly sensitive to employee privacy .
Despite an increase in interest in and awareness of professionally facilitated group physical activity in the parks and other green spaces of our nation’s neighborhoods, few municipal governments have systems in place to sanction such activity. Even fewer promote and encourage the use of local public spaces for professionally facilitated programs
to encourage community members to become more physically active.
Public Policy Priorities
ACE urges governments to advance public policies that incentivize the deployment of employee-wellness programs that are comprehensive, supported by well-qualified professionals, rooted in behavior-change science, and sensitive to privacy concerns. Specifically, ACE calls for public policies that:
- Utilize tax incentives to encourage employers to implement employee wellness programs that include sustainable behavior-change counseling and science-based physical activity, and that are inclusive and tailored to meet the needs of employees and their families.
- Encourage local governments to partner with area employers to develop shared- use agreements for municipal and/or county fitness facilities and public spaces to make fitness and wellness program participation accessible and convenient to employees.
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