Employers continue to embrace wellness programs, and employees keep saying they appreciate them and will use them. But a new study suggests that many employers that could be realizing even more value from their wellness plans aren’t.

A survey of 341 employers and nearly 4,000 employees was conducted about attitudes and actions around wellness programs. The survey results supported the trend toward the offering of more wellness programs with more bells and whistles, and found a high level of employee participation in the programs.

But when employers were asked whether they were going to beef up their incentives as permitted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more than four in 10 said they had no plans to.

In addition, about half of employers who offer wellness plans don’t track productivity results or test to see if employee engagement has increased as a result of wellness program participation, the survey revealed.

Such survey results underscored that many employers still haven’t tied wellness programs in a strategic way with the health and profitability of their organizations. Pieces are being put in place, but employers have considerable room for improving the way they measure outcomes of their investment in wellness plans.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Wellness drives company culture: 87 percent of employees said wellness positively impacted work culture, an increase of 10 percent from 2013.
  • Wellness programs attract talent: 88 percent of employees said that having health and wellness programs designates an organization as an “employer of choice.”
  • Employees want to be healthy: 96 percent of employees participate to improve their own health, making improved health a bigger motivator than financial incentives
  • It’s not just about physical well-being — mental health is a priority, too: 52 percent of employers offered services for mental health and depression management in 2014, a significant 14 percent increase from last year.
  • Measurement remains a significant challenge: 30 percent of employers are dissatisfied with measurement strategies, and many organizations are not tracking key areas: 48 percent are not tracking enhanced engagement, and more than half of the organizations don’t track improved productivity (53 percent).
  • Employees want more: Employers are not meeting employee demand for access to physical activity programs, healthy food choices, and on-site gym facilities or fitness classes.

Employer and employee responses showed that employees are engaging with wellness programs more than ever (9 out of 10 take advantage of wellness offerings). Despite access to financial incentives, budget remains a challenge for many organizations. Employers that make the investment in wellness are experiencing the increased productivity it takes to move their bottom line.

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