The latest trend in well-being? We're seeing dollar signs - but it's not what you think.

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL | TINA REED | The latest employee wellness trend? Financial health help.

Most companies already have smoking cessation, physical activity challenges and biometric screening on their radars when it comes to employee wellness perks. Some have even begun encouraging sleep and offering egg freezing. But what about help with money?


That is one of the increasingly popular wellness benefits employers say they are offering this year, according to the eighth annual wellness benefit survey from D.C.-based National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments.

Nearly 80 percent of employers, from the 141 large and midsized organizations that responded to the survey, said they expect to offer financial seminars or “lunch and learn” programs in 2017. Roughly 75 percent said they will offer access to tools to support key financial decisions such as mortgages, wills and income protection.

“The concept behind holistic well-being is to enable employees to meet their goals rather than tell them what they need to do,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of National Business Group on Health. “It’s hard to engage employees on addressing health needs if they are struggling with managing a budget, putting food on the table or managing debt.”

The survey highlights a growing trend I’ve been hearing about in recent years.

Forty-five percent of employees who responded to a 2016 PricewaterhouseCooper’s employee wellness survey said financial matters caused them the most stress in their lives — nearly as many as those whose top stress is their job, health or relationships combined. Nearly 30 percent of employees indicated their financial worries impacted their health, while 17 percent said it impacted their productivity at work and 8 percent said it caused them to take days off from work.

The Alexandria-based Society for Human Resource Management highlighted the same trend, asking if 2017 is the year of the employee financial wellness program. One in four organizations it surveyed in 2016 had begun offering employees online financial/investment advice, 27 percent offered one-on-one advice and 22 percent offered group or classroom financial advice.

Financial wellness is only one of a handful of trends in employee wellness. The National Business Group on Health also found companies are investing in these wellness offerings:

  • Stand up desks: More than half of responding employers said they offer a sit-to-stand ergonomic desk or treadmill workstations, up from 43 percent last year.
  • Wearable fitness trackers: 30 percent of employers will offer subsidies or discounts for wearables.
  • Healthy food options: Nearly 50 percent now have policies regarding healthy food options in their cafeteria, vending machines and catering.
  • Volunteerism: Team-building volunteer programs increased from 67 percent to 79 percent, while the percentage of employers offering a charitable match giving program increased from 65 percent to 71 percent.