A growing number of New Jersey companies are encouraging their employees to participate in workplace wellness programs.

Jupiterimages, ThinkStock

Workplace programs that encourage workers to quit smoking, get active, lose weight and better manage stress are on the rise as employers look for ways to cut costs associated with chronic illnesses, which are often tied to lifestyle.

"Everybody is looking to bring down the cost of health care, and oftentimes preventive programs, whether it be something like Weight Watchers or smoking cessation, you can get credits on your insurance," said Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. "The advantages of doing this are significant. We know oftentimes programs like this bring people together in the workplace in a different way, and there's types of wellness programs that add on to other types of benefit packages."

On April 16, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employers can use financial incentives up to 30 percent of the cost of premiums for single coverage, provided certain other safeguards are met.

While most companies that offer these programs encourage employees to participate, the programs are almost always voluntary in nature.

"They're meant to create good employee relationships, and not to put mandates on employees," Siekerka said.

So what kinds of programs are offered?

Siekerka said companies have many different types of exercise programs to encourage their employees to get healthier, including yoga and aerobics. Companies also might encourage workers to join a gym by giving them a credit on their health care deductible.

Many wellness programs are also stress reducers, which is another benefit of participating.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.