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Winning with well-being

Your company won’t thrive unless your employees do.

Today, we demand a lot from employees, from innovation to engagement to teamwork. But for workers to meet those demands, business leaders must create a culture of well-being. 

“A healthier worker brings a better self to work every day,” says Robin Bouvier, vice president of health and benefits practice at Aon.

With unemployment at historically low levels and turnover skyrocketing—41 million people voluntarily quit their jobs in 2018, and by 2020, that number is expected to jump to 47 million, according to the Society for Human Resource Management—the well-being of employees is critical for companies.

To achieve these bottom-line benefits, you need an employee well-being strategy that helps your workforce thrive. To build this, rethink how you approach employee well-being, understand what your employees want and offer coverage that puts them in control.

To develop a strategy around employee well-being, it’s important to first understand what it is—and what it is not.

In the past, companies viewed employee well-being as just physical health, but David Schweppe, national vice president of customer analytics and reporting at Kaiser Permanente, points out that it’s much more than that. Though physical health is important, there are emotional, financial and social dimensions as well. Employee well-being is not just a set of wellness programs, but a comprehensive approach where employees’ overall quality of life is prioritized and supported by a company’s culture.

“It’s interesting that we moved from the term wellness to well-being,” notes Schweppe. “Wellness is centered around physical or mental health, so it was very much defined around the person as an individual, not around the person as part of a collective.”

The Gallup Organization, based on extensive research, has defined the five elements crucial to well-being. According to Jim Harter, chief scientist of workplace management and well-being for Gallup’s workplace management practice, the five elements are:

“All five elements of well-being are interrelated,” says Harter, “so working on them simultaneously will get the best benefits. Employee engagement drives well-being, and well-being drives engagement. If you have career well-being and high engagement, you’re more likely to connect with co-workers and form strong social bonds at work, so there’s a kind of social contagion where it rubs off on other people. So engage them, have the right kinds of conversations with each employee and map your offerings to the five elements. Employees with higher well-being produce substantially higher business results.” 

To achieve these high business results, employee well-being should be treated as a business imperative rather than a benefit or perk. 

“Thinking about this as part of a business strategy is the only way this is going to get executed properly,” says Tom Carter, national vice president, Workforce Health Consulting Group at Kaiser Permanente. “This is not an HR benefit play, this is a business strategy. You have to engineer well-being back into the work environment.”

“A business has many parts, but it’s people who make it work,” adds Kim Horn, regional president of Kaiser Permanente. “A business will go as far as its people will take it. The more healthy and engaged your people are, the farther your business will go.”

The process of creating an employee well-being strategy also has to, by definition, include an evaluation of what employees need and want. “If you ask your employees, they will tell you,” says Amy Arnold, East Coast director, workforce health at Kaiser Permanente. “You don’t have to tackle it all at one time, just focus on the basics first.” 

So, what do employees want? When asked what’s most important in their life today, people are most likely to say emotional and mental well-being (80%) followed by physical and financial well-being (both at 79%). Work-related issues are among the top stressors for employees, who cite triggers such as heavy workload or company restructuring, which can lead to anxiety, depression and heart disease. 

This is why investing in employee resilience programs to help them reduce stress benefits employees and employers alike. In one study, 94% of employees said that having access to resilience training improved their loyalty and commitment to their current employer, which in turn leads to less turnover.

Employees also appreciate companies that respond to their needs. According to research from Alight Solutions, 78% say well-being programs make them feel better about working for their employer, 75% say they help them be as productive as possible, and 70% say well-being programs are one of the reasons they stay at their job (up from 50% in 2014).

The final element of your well-being strategy is your health coverage options. With the right coverage, you can better manage your healthcare dollars while also empowering your employees to take a more active role in their own well-being.

Look for plans that combine care and coverage. In integrated healthcare delivery, employees can see their doctor, fill their prescriptions and get a lab test all in one facility. This not only saves them time, but also reduces stress since employees are no longer shouldering as much of a burden when it comes to coordinating their own healthcare.

Arnold points out the advantages of such a system that she has personally experienced. “This morning I went in for physical therapy, and my medical record popped up. The therapist noted that I was late on the tetanus shot and sent me over to get it right away.” 

When looking at your health coverage options, also prioritize plans that provide flexibility and give employees care options that fit their needs and lifestyles. Plans with telehealth options, for example, allow employees to keep up with much-needed care through telephone and video visits (when medically appropriate, of course). According to Accenture, the technology has the potential to save U.S. companies approximately $10 billion a year, and 93% of consumers who’ve used telehealth say it lowered their healthcare costs. 

“It’s really about meeting people where they are. They want to interact online, and they want to see their physician face to face,” Horn says. “At Kaiser Permanente, we designed our health system around our members. We strive to make healthcare less complicated. For nearly 75 years, we have provided high-quality healthcare that enables people and businesses to thrive.”

Originally published on