A majority of business leaders (87%) perceive the benefits of worksite wellness, according to the results of a research project released on Thursday.

And 74% of the executives surveyed said they would look to community-based collaborations of business leaders to learn about issues related to worksite wellness initiatives and to share information if these networks were in place.

The project, called The States of Wellness, included a nationwide online survey of human resource executives as well as separate polls in six states.

“This is a significant finding,” said Tom Mason, president of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, which oversaw the project. “Employers are realizing that wellness initiatives represent a solid business strategy with myriad benefits. It wasn’t that long ago when a business might dismiss wellness as having an unproven ROI or being beyond its administrative capacity.”

Almost 70% believe that larger investments in wellness help curb healthcare costs. Employers overwhelmingly agree that worksite wellness initiatives help workers develop healthier lifestyles (96%), increase productivity (84%), lower healthcare costs (84%), and reduce absenteeism (78%).

Although “costs” continue to top their concerns regarding the health of employees (84%), employers perceive other important values of worksite wellness:

  • decreased productivity (73%)
  • absenteeism (70%)
  • reduction of workers’ compensation or disability claims (58%).

Employers top three choices in health challenges facing employees were:

  • obesity (52%)
  • stress/mental health (51%)
  • lack of exercise/fitness (51%).

Other findings include:

Many employers are already committed to workplace wellness initiatives.

  • Led by government (83%) and publicly owned for-profit companies (75%), more than half of American employers (55%) say they have already initiated worksite wellness initiatives.
  • Their primary objective is to improve the overall health of employees (92%) and reduce employee healthcare costs (85%).

Employers want to demonstrate a return on their investment in wellness.

  • While 84% of employers place high value on measuring ROI related to wellness, only 42% of those with wellness initiatives in place actually do it.

Some employers are wary of worksite wellness activities.

  • Those who have not begun worksite wellness programs are most worried about cost (65%), low potential participation (59%), and lack of time necessary to implement a wellness initiative (54%).