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December 07, 2005
More Companies Developing Health and Productivity Practices

Ninety-four percent of large companies will offer an employee-assistance program in 2005 or 2006, up from 88 percent in 2003, according to a survey examining the prevalence and effectiveness of employee health and productivity practices.

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Forty-one percent of employers already incorporate health and productivity initiatives into their overall health care planning, while nearly one-third (32 percent) plan to do so within the next year, according to the survey, which was conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide and the National Business Group on Health.

A total of 275 employers participated in the survey.

"Employers recognize that a healthy and productive workforce directly impacts their bottom line," said Shelly Wolff, national director of health and productivity consulting at Watson Wyatt. "And with many different factors affecting their employees' health and productivity, employers are taking action."
Three-quarters of respondents said they will have a health-promotion program in 2005 or 2006, up from 56 percent in 2003.

In addition, more employers will offer paid-time off banks and work/life initiatives, according to the survey.

Employers that implement a greater number of health and productivity practices are more successful at achieving desired outcomes, according to the survey. For example, 57 percent of companies that have 20 or more practices report better employee understanding of health improvement compared with just 9 percent of companies with fewer than 10 practices. Similarly, twice as many employers with 20 or more practices said their strategy is effective at increasing employee satisfaction with their benefits compared with employers that have fewer than 10 practices.

Study results show a large gap in employer efforts to hold workers accountable for their health and productivity. While three out of four employers (74 percent) believe that their employees should be held accountable to a great extent for improving, managing and maintaining their health, only 4 percent think their employees are held accountable.

Currently, only half of organizations provide incentives for employees to improve or maintain their health.

The survey found that the issues that most affect employee productivity are stress (72 percent), personal/family issues (59 percent), chronic medical conditions (58 percent), unscheduled absences (57 percent), presenteeism (49 percent) and lifestyle medical conditions (49 percent).

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