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New Survey Reveals Positive Link between Healthy Employees and Companies with Strong Cultures of Health
Report from Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company Shows Companies That Support Healthy Lifestyles Have a Happier and More Productive Workforce

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill., Feb. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As employers explore new ways to create and maintain a healthy and productive workforce, a new survey from Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company suggests that employees who perceive their organizations as having a strong culture of health are happier, less stressed and more likely to take control of their well-being than employees in other organizations.

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For the third straight year, Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company surveyed more than 2,700 employees and their dependents covered by large employer-sponsored health plans to determine their perspectives, behaviors and attitudes towards health and wellness. This year's report also analyzed the responses of employees who work at organizations with strong cultures of health—or organizations that prioritize and encourage healthy behaviors in the workplace—and compared them to employees' responses in organizations that do not.

Based on the Consumer Health Mindset analysis, employees who work in strong cultures of health were more likely to say they have control over their health than those who work at companies where it is less of a priority (75 percent versus 63 percent). In addition, they were less likely to report that stress has a negative impact on their work (25 percent versus 49 percent). The report also showed a link between strong health cultures and general happiness. Sixty-six percent of employees in strong health cultures say they are extremely or very happy with their lives compared to just 32 percent of those in weak health cultures.

"Many employees recognize the advantages of a healthy lifestyle, but may not have the time or motivation to take action," said Joann Hall Swenson, health engagement leader at Aon Hewitt. "Our survey shows that organizations that foster a strong culture of health, through leading by example and encouraging healthy activities, will cultivate a workforce that demonstrates better health behaviors and is more actively engaged."

According to the report, employees in strong cultures of health are more likely to take positive steps to improve their health. Seventy-two percent had an annual physical in the past year and 62 percent exercised at least three days a week, compared to just 64 percent and 49 percent, respectively, of employees at organizations with weak cultures of health. Seventy-seven percent participated in wellness programs, compared to just 46 percent of those employed at companies where health is perceived to be a low priority.

"It is exciting to see that employees are getting the message that their employer cares about their health and well-being and wants them to be happy and productive" said Helen Darling, President and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "Over the last several years, employers have implemented a wide range of health promotion programs that foster strong cultures of health because they understand that healthy employees are engaged, happy and productive."

Workplace Wellness and Cultures of Health

Employee Action

Companies with Strong
Cultures of Health

Companies with Weak
Cultures of Health

Feel they have control over their health

75%

63%

Report stress has a negative impact on work

25%

49%

Report general happiness

66%

32%

Had an annual physical in last year

72%

64%

Exercise at least three days a week

62%

49%

Participated in a wellness program

77%

46%

"By taking advantage of employer health programs and resources, employees not only feel they gain more control over their own health, but also create a stronger relationship with their organization," said Christine Baskin, senior vice president at The Futures Company.

Creating and Sustaining a Strong Culture of Health
The Consumer Health Mindset finds there are many factors that go into creating and sustaining a strong culture of health. When analyzing the survey results, four factors appear most influential and should be strongly considered by employers looking to improve their health culture:  

  • Make health improvement a priority within the organization. Employers should demonstrate to consumers that they support workplace initiatives that improve employee health, not only those that might save money. According to the report, 94 percent of employees in organizations with strong cultures of health say health and wellness programs are a good business investment, while only 60 percent of those in weak cultures agree.
  • Actively encourage healthy activities during the workday. To start, organizations should think through a day in the life of their employees and identify and remove barriers to good health choices and habits. For example, they may allow employees to attend wellness programs during work hours, incorporate walking and standing meetings or provide access to foods that are healthy and drive creative energy to support employee focus and performance. In addition, manager support makes a significant difference. Sixty-six percent of employees at organizations with strong cultures of health report that their direct managers support their efforts to achieve their health goals, compared with 11 percent of employees at organizations with weak cultures of health.
  • Lead by example. The report shows the number one characteristic influencing perceptions of a weak culture of health were leaders who do not actively encourage employee health or serve as role models. To ensure employees are feeling supported in their health efforts, employers should find and celebrate employee role models and invite them to tell their stories and visibly help others. For example, companies may look for senior executives who are willing to be transparent about a health struggle or achievement or who would agree to be photographed or videotaped working out or making healthy choices in the cafeteria.
  • Recognize progress and results. According to the report, recognition had the fourth highest influence in driving perceptions of a strong health culture and, conversely, the lack of recognition had the second highest impact in driving perceptions of weak culture of health. Organizations should celebrate employees who have made significant health strides and think about creating health competitions with meaningful rewards to generate excitement and participation.

Other actions Aon Hewitt experts suggest taking to improve health engagement and results include:

  • Design programs that are meaningful and relevant to the workforce.  According to Aon Hewitt, most organizations can find success with programs that consumers believe are worth the effort, move them toward better health and are easy to do, such as nutrition or health eating programs. Employers may also want to consider implementing short-term programs that work once or twice—such as a 12-week weight loss challenge or a summer fitness program—instead of focusing on programs that have been around forever yet may not yield positive results.
  • Avoid a one size fits all approach – Employers should consider conducting an attitudinal segmentation analysis of their employee population to understand what motivates them to action, and then tailoring their incentives and program offerings to maximize relevancy to their target populations. Swenson suggests exploring ways to use mobile-friendly websites, apps and targeted texting to help motivate and engage employees in healthy campaigns. These include piloting social channels like blogs geared to people with certain health conditions, location-based tools like Foursquare and media-sharing sites like Pinterest. Employers should also consider short-form video sharing services like Vine, particularly for younger consumers.

"It's important for organizations to pay special attention to the various age or generational segments of their employee population, particularly workers under age 35 who often are assumed to be healthier due to their age," said Ray Baumruk, employee research leader at Aon Hewitt. "While these employees may be the best educated and most tech-savvy generation, they also may be the most at-risk generation for future health issues."

For more information on the Consumer Health Mindset survey, visit www.aon.com/consumerhealthmindset.

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About Aon Hewitt
Aon Hewitt empowers organizations and individuals to secure a better future through innovative talent, retirement and health solutions. We advise, design and execute a wide range of solutions that enable clients to cultivate talent to drive organizational and personal performance and growth, navigate retirement risk while providing new levels of financial security, and redefine health solutions for greater choice, affordability and wellness.  Aon Hewitt is the global leader in human resource solutions, with over 30,000 professionals in 90 countries serving more than 20,000 clients worldwide.  For more information on Aon Hewitt, please visit www.aonhewitt.com.

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE:AON) is the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services. Through its more than 65,000 colleagues worldwide, Aon unites to empower results for clients in over 120 countries via innovative and effective risk and people solutions and through industry-leading global resources and technical expertise. Aon has been named repeatedly as the world's best broker, best insurance intermediary, reinsurance intermediary, captives manager and best employee benefits consulting firm by multiple industry sources. Visit www.aon.com for more information on Aon and www.aon.com/manchesterunited to learn about Aon's global partnership and shirt sponsorship with Manchester United.

Media Contacts:
Amy Kaleniecki, 847-771-4225, amy.kaleniecki@aonhewitt.com
Ed Emerman, 609-275-5162, eemerman@eaglepr.com
Emily Parenti, 919-932 8626, emily.parenti@thefuturescompany.com

SOURCE Aon plc



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