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Wellness Programs: More Than Employee Benefits


Deb Dupont
Assistant Vice President, Workplace Retirement Research

July 2024

In today’s changing workplace, new themes both emerge and converge, creating a modern dynamic between employers and employees. On many levels, traditional norms and understandings have disappeared as more generations than ever — with widely different expectations and needs — are part of the workforce.

Employers need to accommodate younger workers, including Millennials and Gen Zers, who may have very different expectations of work than their parents and older generations, and often place greater emphasis on quality of life and work-life balance than the actual work experience itself. At the same time, many older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are living and working longer. It’s not unusual for older workers to plan a phased approach to leaving the workforce, rather than the “all-at-once, here’s your gold watch,” experience their parents may have had. 

Throughout it all, the notion of “wellness,” is now central to the work experience. Enabling wellness, whether financial, emotional or physical, helps employers craft benefits, service and education offerings that meet the diverse needs of their workforces. Understanding that wellness will have different meanings to each makes this a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

The effort may have both “soft” and measurable benefits for employers and employees. According to preliminary results from LIMRA’s 2024 Financial Wellness Index survey of 1,672 workers, more than a third of employees agree with the statement “I often feel distracted at work because of personal financial/emotional/health worries.”

At the same time, about 7 in 10 agree that employers should offer programs to help reduce these stresses, according to the survey. And three-quarters of employees agree or strongly agree that workplace benefits are critical to their household financial security.

Clearly, supporting employee wellness from a holistic standpoint can benefit employers and employees.

Yet, to date, fewer than half of employees report they are offered formal wellness programs at work (Figure 1); less than 20 percent take advantage of those programs. More than half of those who do not have a workplace wellness program — financial, emotional or physical — offered to them say they would participate if the program were available. 

Figure 1. Availability of Wellness Programs at Work

Source: Preliminary results from LIMRA’s 2024 Financial Wellness Index Survey of 1,672 workers, conducted January – May 2024, soon to be published on

What Is Wellness, Anyway?

Wellness, whether financial, emotional or physical, is a bit of a moving concept. What it means to be “well” will vary by individual, circumstances and demographic — and a host of other factors. What constitutes a formal wellness program may be as amorphous for employers as employees.

A range of formal benefits, services and education can all contribute to an individual’s wellness.

In the 2022 LIMRA Employer Wellness Survey of 916 employers, 65 percent of employers said they were very familiar (19 percent) or somewhat familiar (46 percent) with employee wellness programs. In the same survey, they identified those aspects that would differentiate a wellness program from a basic employee benefits program:

  • A holistic approach — 58%
  • An educational component — 58%
  • The ability of guidance to help employees make decisions and take action on benefits — 54%
  • Specific benefits offered — 46%
  • The number of benefits offered — 18%

In the same survey, just 12 percent of responding employers said they currently offer a formal wellness program for their employees, and 15 percent planned to offer one within the next year. Three-quarters offered no wellness program, nor did they have plans to offer one. 

Note that the discrepancy between the number of employers offering wellness and the percent of employees reporting wellness available at their own workplace is easily attributable to the workplace demographics where firms with 500 or more employees (less than one percent of all firms) employ 48 percent of the workforce, according to LIMRA’s 2022 Institutional Retirement Reference Guide, and these larger firms are more likely to report having a financial wellness program. Sixty percent of firms with 1,000-plus employees in the 2022 survey offered wellness programs, compared to just 8 percent of those with fewer than 10 employees.

When asked what educational components these employers consider part of their wellness programs or soon-to-be-implemented wellness programs, the top five responses were:

  • Managing stress — 87%
  • Maintaining health — 80%
  • Work-life balance — 62%
  • Nutrition — 58%
  • Understanding employee benefits — 57%

Workplace Wellness:  Work to Do

Managing stress and work-life balance — clearly two top wellness program components and differentiators for employers — could be addressed by emotional and physical wellness programs … yet only 39 and 40 percent of workers, respectively, indicate these programs are available to them (Figure 1). When these programs are not offered at work, more than half of employees say they would participate if given the opportunity (Figure 2). 

Specifically, 13 percent of employees report that they are currently offered at work, and use, education about managing stress; 26 percent report that stress management education is not offered to them, but they would use it if it were. Similarly, 21 percent report receiving and using education about work-life balance, and 27 percent say they would use it if it were available to them, according to the aforementioned Financial Wellness Index survey.

Figure 2. Wellness Programs Not Offered, but Desired by Employees

Source: Preliminary results from LIMRA’s 2024 Financial Wellness Index Survey of 1,672 workers, conducted January – May 2024, soon to be published on

Workplace wellness is more than two educational topics. But those included here — “managing stress” and “work-life balance” — illustrate the perceptions and needs of both workers and employers relative to employer efforts to meet employees’ emotional, physical and financial needs. Wellness efforts consist of more than education — they need to inform a benefits strategy and a holistic approach to the workplace overall.

Also, while for survey purposes, it’s manageable to categorize wellness programs as physical, emotional and/or financial, true wellness efforts in the workplace are likely not so compartmentalized. Stress, for example, while an emotional topic, has physical implications and likely root causes in financial issues.

Gone are the days when health insurance and maybe a retirement plan constituted a competitive and robust workplace benefits package. Benefits, education, workforce management practices, including schedules, leave, paid time off, etc., value-added services and more all come into play and often under the umbrella of “wellness” programs. Today’s employers need help navigating this complex landscape. Wellness programs and approaches will be as unique as each employer’s workforce management needs … and how employees access and use those programs will be as unique as each employee’s needs.

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