For decades, employers and benefit managers have thought of wellbeing programs as one-dimensional, with the focus on physical health only, by offering benefits like on-site fitness centers, gym discounts or a health program that encourages more movement.
But now, in a highly competitive marketplace where employers are looking to attract and retain motivated and productive employees, the idea of wellbeing programs is expanding and evolving. Just focusing on physical health won’t cut it anymore. Rather, employers are now seeking out innovative workplace wellbeing programs that encompass five aspects of health: physical, mental, financial, social and community.
Overall employee wellbeing matters. A newly released study* shows that employees who are offered programs that address most (or all) of the five aspects of wellbeing are significantly more likely to say their job performance is excellent, they have a positive impression of their employer and would recommend their company as a place to work. This study supported the idea that employees are looking toward their employer to support all the dimensions of health and wellbeing.
The key findings include:
The survey results are instructive for companies seeking to better address employee wellbeing. For example, the study found that nearly one-third of employees want their companies to invest more on their financial health, 27% want more focus on mental health and 17% want greater emphasis on physical health. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
Besides helping them save for retirement and maximizing health savings accounts, employees want their companies to improve their financial health in other ways. For example, of those who do not receive support from their employer, more than one-third would like assistance in reducing the cost of healthcare or medications, and a sizeable amount want help with housing costs, transportation needs, managing student loan debt and child care. This clamoring for financial support isn’t surprising. Employers increasingly report that workers feel financially insecure. Indeed, many people are just one emergency away from a financial meltdown. According to the Federal Reserve Board, 40% of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense. Additionally, only 40% of adults think they are on track to save enough for their retirement years. Employers are responding, in part, by offering onsite or telephonic financial counselors that can help employees plan a budget, climb out of credit card debt and save for a rainy day.
With significant numbers of employees feeling squeezed financially, mental health is at risk. Roughly 8 in 10 Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently during their day, according to a Gallup poll. Of those employees who do not receive support from their company, 40% of those surveyed say they want help with burnout at work, 29% want help managing stress and 27% would like a sleep health program. The embarrassment and shame people often feel about their substance use disorders and mental health conditions presents an additional challenge. In response, employers are pushing to destigmatize depression and promote social health through stronger social connections at work.
The survey defined social health as the ability to relate to and connect with others, and having supportive, positive relationships including feelings of belonging. 36% of employers provide programs to address social health, but more can be done. Of those not supported, roughly one-quarter of employees would like to see their companies increase support for social health, such as designing jobs and the work environment to boost collaboration and improve relationships at work.
It’s not easy figuring out how best to address employees’ myriad of needs. But the message employers and benefits managers are getting from their employees is that helping workers manage and deal with all aspects of their wellbeing will be rewarded. Supporting multiple aspects of wellbeing and ensuring that the programs are what employees really want is a major step in the right direction.
Wellbeing Benefits Can No Longer Be One-Dimensional
Seth Serxner, Chief Health Officer, Optum
Originally published by EBN
*The study by Optum and the National Business Group on Health surveyed more than 2,200 employees at large companies with 3,000 or more employees. The objective was to determine how wellbeing impacts employee experience and how employers can enhance wellbeing
Related Wellbeing Reading:
12 Ways to Keep Employees Happy (Without a Raise!)
Listen Up! Flexible Schedules Improve Employee Wellbeing
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