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Business success directly correlates to the health and well-being of the people who work there.

Improving employee well-being through benefits

Employee well-being is a top priority on the corporate agenda as companies and their boards connect and correlate it with success.

All too often, socioeconomic factors determine whether an employee is entitled to benefits, insurance and health coverage. This means that disadvantaged groups often miss out — despite needing the most help. In light of this, employers must urgently address outdated and inadequate healthcare benefits and implement plans designed to support all of their workers.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has given HR and benefits professionals the opportunity to reinvent health and well-being plans – turning caring into a competitive advantage.

By creating a robust strategy, HR professionals can promote better employee health while also improving business outcomes such as productivity, engagement, retention and trust.

This can be done by focusing on the four pillars of employee well-being:

  • Mental
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Financial

Mental: Mitigating the employee mental health crisis

Good workplace mental health has always been a critical part of overall well-being, but businesses are now becoming more aware of the role they can play in helping employees achieve it. Tackling mental health issues in the workplace has also taken on greater urgency as more people than ever suffer from conditions such as stress- and trauma-related disorders, anxiety and depression.

The good news is that opportunities to fill the gaps in medical plans and provide mental healthcare to the workforce are plentiful. Employers can do the right thing and meet growing societal obligations while also protecting the health of their businesses.

This can also provide the business with a competitive advantage. Our Health on Demand research shows that workers increasingly turn to their employers as trusted providers of health support. Indeed, mental health provision is a core differentiator, which can boost talent acquisition and retention. (This research shows that 42% of employees with access to mental health benefits are less likely to leave the company compared to 27% of those without access).

Equally, people whose employers provide a wide range of health and well-being benefits are more loyal, more engaged and less likely to leave a company.

Three steps to take now

  1. Understand the mental health needs of your workforce
    An annual health risk assessment should include a mental health section that explores levels of anxiety, depression and burnout as well as self-care habits.
  2. Monitor the landscape for new, high-quality mental health solutions
    Address the full range of services, from prevention to treatment regimens. Look at ways to fund access to basic needs, such as including therapy under medical insurance. 
  3. Develop a mental health strategy for your workforce
    This should not only look at supporting those who are out sick, but also enhance overall well-being and include mental health education.

Physical: Addressing the gap in healthcare affordability

Traditionally, employers have provided more comprehensive benefits for higher earners and management. However, this approach alienates lower-earning employees and discriminates against certain groups. This can lead to unfulfilled care expectations and cause staff to become disillusioned and demotivated. The traditional approach can also produce high turnover among under-served groups and even damage the reputation for employers who are seen to fail in this area.

To respond to this challenge, businesses must “flip the pyramid” on how they approach the provision of healthcare benefits. To do this, firms should provide equitable levels of support for employees at every level of their organisation, focusing on previously unmet needs.

The process must start with addressing affordability. At Mercer Marsh Benefits we are seeing many firms devising strategies to tackle cost issues. These strategies include providing affordable insurance for entry-level and junior employees.

Access to healthcare is equally critical. Fortunately, a paradigm shift in employer behaviour can be seen, with many firms now focused on ensuring that quality healthcare and infrastructure are available to all employees regardless of job, role or function.

Four steps to take now

  1. Review your benefit programmes
    Eliminate outdated, inappropriate and inadequate plans.
  2. Have conversations about environmental, social and governance 
    As part of your ongoing vendor management activities, these discussions with insurers should inform you about what they are doing in this field.
  3. Determine to what extent your benefits should align to your DEI goals
    Refine your benefit strategy accordingly.
  4. Continue to advocate for better collection and sharing of data
    Allow for anonymised and aggregated identification of workforce health trends. This data should include coding for social factors that influence health and well-being.
Our study looks at the views of over 17,000 employees across the world, helping you to understand the lives and priorities of your workforce; how to energise, reassure and care for them in the most relevant ways, inspiring your organisation to thrive.

Using analytics to create a culture of health and well-being

Providing early and frequent well-being support is not only the right thing to do, it also leads to a more engaged workforce. Our global Health on Demand 2021 research shows that employees who feel well supported and have access to wide range of benefits are more productive, better engaged, and less likely to leave their jobs.

Using analytics, HR leaders can go far beyond tracking the success of one benefit or the preferences of one region. They can create and track benefits personas, enabling them to gain a richer understanding of benefits use across their organisation and target communications. This is particularly useful in global organisations, where one, unified system can be used to understand how needs differ across, or transcend, geographies and departments. 

HR teams equipped with analytics capabilities are able to see in near real-time how the fallout from the pandemic impacted their benefits offering and could identify any gaps or successes that appeared. By tracking reimbursements, for example, employers could see people swapping out gym memberships for virtual classes and deduce that employees were finding other ways to remain fit and healthy while working from home. 

This understanding might lead them to further supplement their wellbeing programs, with virtual nutrition workshops or cooking classes, for example. Analytics can then help monitor scheme take-up, helping HR leaders assess whether new benefits deliver a good return on investment. 

Learnings from the Mercer Marsh Benefits webinar

Forward-looking and innovative firms continue to evolve and foster new ideas on how to create a culture of health that promotes the well-being of all employees. Speaking at a Mercer Marsh Benefits webinar, Bernie Knobbe, SVP, Global Benefits & Well-being, Human Resources at AECOM shared some of the creative initiatives the firm has launched to create what he calls a “culture of caring”.

Key initiatives included:

  1. “Well-binars”: The firm held webinars on well-being for all employees globally.

  2. Safeguard week: The firm’s safety week was rebranded as Safeguard Week to better reflect its core values. It included animated videos and a virtual exhibition hall to engage employees and promote the well-being programme.

  3. #WellbeingMoments: This initiative encouraged people to think of well-being moments each day and share them with colleagues. Team leaders share their personal well-being moments at the beginning of employee meetings and leadership Town Halls.

  4. Let’s Talk Campaign: This started as a one-month campaign to promote emotional, social and intellectual well-being but has been ongoing ever since. Managers are encouraged to ask employees questions such as: “How are you doing?” and “Is there anything I can do to support you?” The campaign emphasises one-to-one meetings and making sure people are comfortable discussing these issues.

  5. Better use of the EAP: AECOM created a template message to ensure that at the end of employee communications there was a reminder that the global EAP was there to support people 24/7 worldwide. This also included links to the global well-being site and the AECOM benefits sites.

  6. Super Six Challenge: For six months, AECOM is running a competition where once a month, a person is selected based on the number of likes that they received about their own well-being story. In addition to receiving various rewards, the winner’s photo is made into a superhero animated character and featured on internal websites.

  7. Repositioning Well-being Ambassadors: AECOM has well-being ambassadors in local offices, but with people working remotely, they weren’t as effective. The company expanded the ambassador toolkit to include more resources that could be offered virtually, to meet employees where they are, in office or remote.

  8. “Nominate your manager” programme: This programme allows employees to nominate managers for well-being certificates once a month for promoting a culture of well-being among their teams.
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