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7 strategies for businesses to improve corporate health and wellness benefits provision in 2020

Our recent survey of 1,000 HR directors and 4,000 employees worldwide reveals opportunities for businesses to improve staff health, happiness, retention and productivity.

Most employers think their health and well-being benefits and support are good. Most employees don’t think employers are doing enough. These are the findings of our recent Business of health 2020 report, Tackling polarised perceptions in corporate health and wellness: there is a gulf between employer health and well-being benefits provision, and employee experiences, needs and expectations. Not only this, but its effects are impacting employee health and productivity. Our findings provide employers with an opportunity to target specific areas to improve health, morale, retention, talent acquisition and productivity to ultimately future-proof their organisations.

This article explains the report’s key findings — the challenges facing employers — and what business can do to address each. (The full report contains a much richer picture of the data, employer challenges and available solutions.)

For more insight into the importance of corporate wellness, listen to our Fit For Duty podcast episode below.

Finding #1: Health and wellness benefits are missing the mark

70% of employers believe they provide good access to health and wellness benefits and support, but only 23% of employees agree.

Solution: How employers can meet the health and wellness needs of employees

Analyse the needs of workforces through tailored, confidential means to make the right choice for that population. Whether an organisation offers a comprehensive, holistic wellness programme or something smaller, it must:

  • be positioned as an employee benefit
  • be designed to help people on their own terms
  • enable individuals to choose from a menu to personalise the experience.
Asian woman in a red chair meditating outdoors Asian woman in a red chair meditating outdoors

Finding #2: Lack of mental health support is a pressing issue

87% of workers across the globe are concerned that stress could one day impact their ability to work. However, only 25% of employees believe that their company provides good support for mental health conditions.

Solution: How to tackle mental health stigma and make provision for emotional well-being and mental wellness

Raising awareness through communication and encouraging openness and acceptance can help overcome mental health stigma in the workplace. Provision should include:

  • confidential employee support services such as:
    • mindfulness-based stress reduction services
    • one-on-one counselling either virtually or in person
  • train managers in mental health first aid
  • address the root causes of stress in the workplace such as aggressive management styles through training.

Finding #3: Company health support affects employee job choice

75% of employees stated that they would not join a company that failed to provide good support for treating physical health concerns such as back pain.

Solution: Design health and wellness benefits packages to help employers contain health-related costs

Exploit the experience of benefits providers with a history of local and international experience to help benchmark risk profiles. Use them to find a range of options to address the key cost drivers and meet employee expectations as well as local market and cross-border regulations.

Workers reviewing blueprints in manufacturing plant. Workers reviewing blueprints in manufacturing plant.

Finding #4: ‘Sick day’ stigma impacting health

72% of businesses don’t think employees at their company take enough sick days. And 18% of employers think that a culture where people do not feel they can take sick leave is the biggest cause of an unhealthy working environment.

Solution: Workplace policies need attention to keep pace with talent expectations

Employers need to build tailored health and wellness benefits programs while addressing workplace policies to create a corporate culture that addresses the holistic needs of its talent pool. Employers need to show commitment to communication and social activities that foster an open, supportive, accepting culture. Companies need to build a culture that empowers individuals to seek help and take time when needed to help prevent long-term/chronic illness.

Finding #5: Poor sleep cycle caused by and impacting work

56% of employees don’t think they get enough sleep and of this, 34% say job stress and problems at work are responsible for their sleepless nights.

Solution: Breaking the stress-poor sleep cycle

Companies need to support healthy sleep. They need to tackle the root causes of stress in the workplace, as well as making provision for services that can help people address non-work-related stressors — for example, economic and financial stresses. This needs to be delivered as part of a menu of options that are confidential, i.e.: not tied to the workplace, to remove the feeling of it being ‘the company checking up on you’. One way to do this is by positioning the service as a ‘life’ assistance program.

Mother holding baby while working Mother holding baby while working

Finding #6: Stress: the threat to employee well-being

Across all four of the markets we surveyed, 47% of global employees feel stressed because of work and 80% of workers rated their company’s support for stress as adequate or poor.

Solution: Address both the root cause and the symptoms of stress

Organisations need to be conscious of the stress triggers in the workplace, for example: aggressive management styles, an ‘always on’ culture, employees moving internationally and coping with a change in culture and workplace expectations.

Leaders and managers need help, support and training in recognising and combatting the signs of stress — not only in the staff they manage, but also in themselves. For the best results, wellness programmes should include ways for their employees to get and stay physically healthy, manage their stress levels as well as help with financial, social and emotional health.

Finding # 7: Having local insight is a must for international organisations

Workers in the UAE rate access to ongoing programs to support wellness as the poorest globally, with 20% ranking them as good. However, 76% of HR Directors in the UAE rate access to wellness programs as good, the highest number internationally.

Solution: Seek out expert advice on understanding geographical challenges and solutions

Understanding the influences of local culture, corporate culture, local health care regulations and compliance requirements, local talent expectations will all help employers build health and wellness programs and workplace policies that are appropriate.

Read the full report Business of health 2020: Tackling polarised perceptions in corporate health and wellness for a more in-depth breakdown of the key findings, the challenges and solutions, to discover insights from industry experts and to access the video insights from Aetna International’s medical, product, marketing and distribution experts.

Are you an employer with international employees? Find out more about how we can support your teams with our range of benefits, including international private medical insurance (iPMI).

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