Employers Broadening Well-Being Programs to Encompass Many Aspects of Life

Among those that are now considering physical, social, financial, community and mental health, employee productivity is higher.

Employers are broadening their well-being programs to encompass many aspects of life, according to a new white paper from Optum and the National Business Group on Health, titled, “Workplace Well-Being and the Employee Experience.”

They are now considering physical, social, financial, community and mental health, all in an effort to help their workers become more productive at work. The groups define physical health as the ability to manage health conditions, and social health as having feelings of social belonging.

They define financial health as a person’s ability to manage their current and future economic life, and community health as having a connection with the area in which they live. Finally, mental health, in their estimation, is the presence of positive emotions and moods.

Optum and the National Business Group on Health surveyed 2,000 employees on what well-being benefits they were offered by their employer and how these benefits affected them.

The employee insights showed a “profound interplay among the dimensions of financial, physical and mental health, as well as community and social health,” the white paper says. “Equally as important, they also provide a roadmap for employers, suggesting practical, new opportunities to improve the employee experience.”

Some of the key insights were that approaching well-being from multiple angles improves employee productivity, loyalty and well-being. The health care offered should be of a high quality and in a convenient location. Employees’ desire is first and foremost for their employer to help them with their financial health, followed closely by their mental health. Finally, employers should consider investing in the health of the communities surrounding their workplace locations as this has a positive impact on employees- well-being.

The survey found that 38% of employees who are not offered any king of well-being program say their overall well-being is either excellent or good. For those who are offered between one and three well-being programs, this jumps to 43%, and for those offered either four or five well-being programs, the percentage rises to 58%.

“In a world of well-being, more is better: the greater the number of dimensions addressed, the higher the levels of reported overall well-being,” the white paper says. “Indeed, the survey shows the sweet spot is employer investment in four to five dimensions. Nearly nine out of 10 employees who report their employer supports four to five dimensions say their job performance is excellent. Employees report lower levels of well-being as the number of dimensions addressed declines.”

Among those who are offered either four or five well-being programs, 77% have either an excellent or very good impression of their employer. Conversely, this is true for only 50% of those who are offered fewer, or no, well-being programs. They also are more likely to say their job performance in the past two years has been excellent (88% versus 81%) and that their overall well-being is excellent or very good (58% versus 42%).

Asked what kinds of well-being programs their employer offers, 74% say physical health, followed by mental health (71%), financial health (61%), social health (36%) and community health (34%).

Asked what kinds of well-being programs they would like to see their employer offer, the responses were: financial health (32%), mental health (27%), physical health (17%), social health (6%) and community health (5%).

By financial health, the groups say, employers should address a person’s entire financial issues, not just retirement. Asked what kinds of financial topics their employers are addressing, employees said retirement (69%), maximizing health savings accounts (HSAs) (29%), lowering health care costs (21%), finding resources for child care needs (21%), budgeting (17%), addressing transportation costs and needs (15%), accessing earned wages before payday (13%), managing student loan debt (12%) and addressing housing costs (9%). Asked what financial issues they would like their employer to address, employees said health care and prescription costs (34%) and housing (26%).

The survey found that employees between the ages of 55 and 64 care the most about physical health, while younger employees are more focused on mental and social health.

Asked what kinds of mental health issues their employer is addressing, participants said: substance abuse (41%), access to quality mental health care (40%), managing stress (40%), mental health stigma awareness (24%), mindfulness (21%), resiliency (20%), burn-out at work (19%), caregiving (17%) and sleep (15%).

As for what kinds of community issues their employer addresses, 56% said charitable giving campaigns, volunteer opportunities (43%), initiatives to improve either the health or the safety of the community (25%), monetary support for community initiatives (24%) and paid time off for volunteering (24%).

Employees said that their employers’ support for social health is low, with only 35% saying their employers support collaboration, improving workplace relationships (35%), socialization (34%) and helping them improve relationships at home or outside of work (20%).

In conclusion, the paper says, employers have many “opportunities to increase employee well-being and experience at work.”

The findings in the paper are based on a survey of 2,210 employees between the ages of 18 and 64 conducted in 2018.