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Sample Research Proposal on Advantages and Disadvantages of Wellness Programs in the Workplace Employee Reaction to Wellness Incentives


            According to Dorsey et al (2003), in response to sizable health and financial stress-related costs, campanies are offering improved health and vacation benefits, as well as implementing wellness programs to avoid some of the negative consequences of stress (429). Workplace health promotion programs tend to improve health, decrease health care costs, and increase worker productivity. Corporate fitness programs offer exercises opportunities such as aerobics classes, access to gyms and weight rooms, and intramural sports. Health education programs, on the other hand, emphasize the treatment of health issues such as smoking, alcoholism, obesity, and hypertension in addition to poor fitness and nutrition. The cutting edge health initiatives, however, have moved to a vision of overall wellness. Wellness programs also known as health promotion programs and job stress interventions emphasize the importance of both mental and physical well being (Dorsey et al 2003).


Statement of the Problem

            Although many companies are adopting wellness programs into their organizations and there is a growth of evidence that these programs reduce labor costs, relatively little research has been made to analyze the reaction of the employees to these programs, particularly wellness incentives. This study aims to find out the employees' reaction to wellness incentives.


More specifically this study aims to answer the following questions:

1. Do employees with healthier lifestyles have fewer doctor visits?

2. Does the reaction of new hires differ from those of the existing employees?

3. Do healthier or higher paid workers view incentives more fairly than others?

4. What is the effect of employee perception of wellness incentive on job satisfaction and absenteeism?


Literature Review

            According to Violette (1991), a wellness program is much more then an exercise program; it is a combination of activities that focus on employee health promotion and disease prevention. Wellness program can provide a wide range of health education services customized to the needs of the firm and its workers (126). The design of a wellness program is a complex communicative process, as it involves appointing a qualified person to be in charge, establishing a multidepartmental task force to support and give feedback about the program (Dorsey et al 2003). Changing a corporate culture in ways that reduce stress and encourage health-building can be important to the long-term success of any wellness program (Heirich 1998, p. 241). Wellness incentive programs designed to reward a healthy lifestyle and reduce demand for medical benefits are often assessed on a "cost only basis". Wellness programs designed to monitor an improve employee health have been hailed as a way to reduce health care costs by changing demands for services rather than improving the medical system (Kizer, Palletier, and Fielding). With wellness now seen as contributing to the bottom line, many firms have introduced incentives such as deductions on copayments to motivate workers to become healthier (Haltom, 1995).



1. Employees who are found healthy will have positive attitudes toward the wellness incentive program.

2. New Hires who became a part of the organization after the introduction of the wellness incentive program will have positive attitude about the wellness incentive program.

3. The level of compensation is negatively related to the employees' attitudes regarding the wellness incentive program.

4. Healthier employees will have higher job satisfaction, fewer absences, and fewer doctor visits.

5. Employees who view the wellness program as an unfair policy will have less job satisfaction and poor performance (higher absences).







Research design

            The method of data collection is survey questionnaire that aims to find out the reactions of the employees regarding the program. The responses will then be matched to personnel and insurance company records so that the relationship between health, attitudes, absences, pay, and doctor visits will be evaluated accordingly.



            Random sampling will be used to identify the target group or population that will be the respondents of the research. A random sample of 100 employees will be selected based on employment record. The survey responses will be matched to employee and insurance company records on wellness scores. attendance, pay, and the number of doctor visits of the year.


Methods for Collecting Data

            Both archival objective data and survey response data will be collected. All survey items will utilize five-point Likert-type scales with labels for "strongly disagree" at 1 and "strongly agree" at 5 as anchors. Higher scores will reflect more positive attitudes. On term of employee healthiness, a wellness assessment score developed by a medical assessment team will be used. Healthiness will be determined based on



1. Blood Pressure

2. Body fat / muscle tissue ratio

3. Cholesterol level

4. Fitness level


            A survey regarding self-reported health and safety related behaviors will be collected. Figures for the number of doctor visits will be obtained from the company's health insurance provider. Data on absences and hourly pay rates for the previous year will come from personnel records. The personnel records will also be used in obtaining information about the employees who joined the company after the introduction of the program.


Data Analysis

            Means, standard deviations, and correlations for all major variables will be presented in a table. A table that will show the results from separate hierarchical regressions with the fairness variables as dependent variables. Additional hierarchal regressions will also be presented, with job satisfaction and absenteeism as the dependent variables.







            Employee groups significantly differed in their responses to incentives rewarding general fitness by offering deductions or increases in co-payments. Employees who are healthier, higher paid, and those who had joined the company after the program was introduced are more likely to think incentives were fair, distributively just, and, to a lesser extent, procedurally just. Lower level, less fit employees, and those who had been with the organization before the introduction of the wellness incentives perceived the said program as less fair. These employees also tend to have lower job satisfaction, reflecting the potential unintended downside incentives. Although the idea of incentives to contain health care costs may seem rational to employees, they may not be easy to implement. Some of the employees tend to resist such program. Employers and employees may differ in interests and responses to wellness incentives (Kossier et al 2001).


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