Anyone who has worked in a high-end company knows that stress is part of the daily routine. As a means to combat stress, most companies offer wellness programs such as health coaches, flu shots, and sports fests to keep employees healthy and interested.

However, according to a recent survey, employers are considering cutting back on wellness programs. Conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the study found that most companies have started to reduce employee health benefits – like flu shots, nurse hotlines and discounted insurance premiums – within the past year.

As companies begin to scrutinize their returns on investments, they may be taking a step back to reassess their cost allocations, reports Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM.

In the survey, only 37 percent of employers offered health coaching – a drop from nearly 50 percent last year. Also, seasonal flu vaccines were offered only by 54 percent of companies down from 61 percent last year.

According to the SHRM, assessing financial returns of health benefits is difficult to do because wellness programs vary between companies, and different factors may affect overall employee health and healthcare spending.

In another recent study by the SHRM, they found that, for two decades, not much change has happened regarding the types of health benefits offered.

According to Esen, “there have not been many significant changes regarding coverage of core employee benefits. Benefits such as health care, retirement planning, and employee assistance programs are offered to employees at the same level as in 1996."

In the Asia-Pacific region, a recent survey by the Asia Pacific Benefit Trends in 2015 showed 41 percent of employers spend more than 20 percent of payroll on benefits with some variability. On the other hand, over 20 percent of employers do not know how much they spend on benefits.

While several employers, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, have difficulty seeing the value of their investments in company benefits, Chris Mayes, Director of Benefits Optimization Consulting, believes that the solution lies in better communication.

He supplies, “from our experience working with clients we find that those businesses who regularly engage their employees in their benefits either through seeking employee feedback or communicating regularly tend to see better value.”

Indeed, it is through communication that companies are better able to tailor their benefits programme to the needs of their employees. SHRM reports that some companies have started investing in telecommuting, fitness centres and memberships, and nap rooms, among others.

They conclude that this “could be an indication that organizations are being more strategic in selecting effective wellness programs for their employees.” MIMS