Employer insurance rates are skyrocketing, medical clinics are overrun and understaffed, employee groups are feeling increasingly isolated, we have a national mental health crisis, and there is a general lack of engagement in health initiatives.
The Human Resources world is complicated and convoluted. Wellness Coordinators, People Managers, and Benefits Managers are being bombarded daily by companies in the corporate wellness or health and safety space offering a “magic pill” that will solve all these problems…and more.
There is no magic pill. But, there is a lot of noise out there.
The goal of this article is to help you cut through all the sales and marketing messages to find what will actually work for you. There are two driving factors that make a magic pill virtually impossible for corporate wellness. The first is that every single business is different. Different contexts, different cultures, different values, different leadership, etc. The second is that each of these unique businesses are filled with equally unique employees with varied interests, values, health goals, and motivators. These challenges become substantially harder in high-turnover, talent scarce industries like logistics, transportation, professional services, and hospitality. Top employers must find innovative solutions that employees will see as corporate investments into their health and well-being, giving them a leg up on their competition in the talent war.
Based on ongoing, extensive conversations with some of the nation’s leading employers and observing shifts in industry best practices, we have compiled the 5 most innovative and effective trends in corporate wellness.
Trend One: Distributed, On-Demand Wellness
As the dust continues to settle on the pandemic, today’s workforce has largely taken on a hybrid model when it comes to where people spend their working hours. A vast number of companies now employ a distributed workforce who are split between the home, the office, the local coffee shop, or somewhere halfway across the country from headquarters. Employers are having to shift in-person management and oversight, to a trust-driven, self-accountability model in order to maintain productivity. People have been empowered to choose and show where they do their best work. This is now a primary benefit that potential employees are looking for in today’s job market. The same logic can and should apply to other benefits as well. Most current wellness programs incentivize employee participation by nominal gift cards or extra paid time off (PTO). The savvy employer puts the power of choice back in the hands of the consumer, the employee. There are many industry-leading tools that allow employers to set employee wellness budgets that the employee can spend across a wide variety of proven wellness providers. These include everything from healthy, fresh food delivery programs, to meditation apps, to mental health consultations, to virtual fitness programs. Wellness looks, feels, and tastes different to everyone. Allowing people to choose the best methods of self-care is a trend you should definitely be looking into further.
Trend Two: Wearables Integration and Activity Tracking Apps
The next time you find yourself in a room of 50 or more people, take a look around at all the wrists in the room. While you will still find a smattering of higher-end fashion statements like Rolex or Cartier, most modern arms will be equipped with blood pressure monitors, ECGs, sleep trackers, run trackers, and meal trackers, all wrapped up in a single device, the smartwatch. Leading smartwatch manufacturers have produced popular, widely used smartphone apps to correspond to these devices, creating a branded ecosystem of personal health and fitness tracking. Thoughtful corporate wellness programs take advantage of the devices that their people have already invested in personally. Best-in-class workplace wellness apps have already done the heavy lifting of integrating with most of the leading smartwatches and fitness apps on the market. Leveraging all the work these fitness brands have put into promoting their wearables and fitness apps is a must in any corporate wellness program. One great benefit of these devices is that all the various health indicators that can now be tracked, can also be rewarded by employers. Incentivization and motivation are key elements in the success or failure of a corporate wellness initiative and must not be overlooked or undervalued.
Trend Three: Chronic Disease and High-Risk Management
Within the corporate wellness industry, preventative wellness has long been the focus of the sales pitch. While preventative measures are a positive and effective means of improving overall population health, it is certainly not the sole means. In fact, preventative wellness unintentionally excludes a very important segment of every individual workforce in America, those who already deal with ongoing, chronic diseases, or who live and work with high-risk health realities. If you examine your company’s health plan utilization/claims report, you will likely notice a smaller percentage of the workforce population accounting for a majority of the company’s overall claims. The best investment for team members in this category, might not be a company-wide virtual marathon challenge tracked by a smartwatch and the company’s wellness tracking app. It is most likely a personalized plan with outcomes-based incentivization and rewards. The focus is still preventative but based on proper management of existing conditions. These conditions are historically very costly to employers in the form of annual health insurance premium increases.
Trend Four: Supplemental Telemedicine Strategy
Year over year premium increases for corporate health insurance plans can range from around 8-20% having huge implications for annual budgets and bottom lines. Utilization is the driving factor when these increases are calculated. The number of claims, and more importantly, the total dollar amount paid out by the insurance company will always affect next year’s premium. The decrease in the number of people establishing a relationship with a primary care physician, and the prevalence and convenience of urgent care clinics have resulted in elevated claims costs for otherwise minor, non-acute healthcare issues that could have been handled in a more efficient manner. For instance, it is Friday night, and your toddler is screaming because their ear hurts. They’ve had four ear infections in the last two years, and you know you simply need an antibiotic. Your doctor’s office is closed, so you head up to the local urgent care, pay your $30 copay, get the prescription from the grocery store pharmacy and head home. The problem is that your insurance is then billed $600 dollars for the urgent care visit. That same situation could be easily handled over a telemedicine visit with 24/7/365 doctor availability, all from the comfort of your own home with no cost billed or reported to your insurance. The efficiencies of telemedicine have driven simple primary care costs down to around $20/month from some of the leading telemedicine providers. Offering this as a supplemental offering to your traditional plan is a no-brainer when it slashes unnecessary utilization.
Trend Five: Benefits-based Wellness Incentivization
Over the years, employers have successfully used small rewards like gift cards, paid time off, and small cash bonuses to incentivize participation in wellness initiatives. These are good, in that they catalyze participation while keeping the “true reward,” the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The challenge is that these nominal tokens don’t always convey the true value a company places on the individual employee’s health and overall quality of life. Smart employers are telling employees, “I want to invest in you because you invest in yourself.” Your employees are a huge investment, and those who are taking the steps to be healthier, happier, more productive, more encouraging, more motivating, etc. should be compensated based on that increased level of value. Health insurance premium reductions, health savings account contributions, monthly bonuses, and unlimited PTO are all examples of valuable benefits to an employee that can be tied to wellness participation or even outcomes-based wellness programs. If you are an employer that wants your staff to take wellness seriously, your compensation structure should reflect that from the day they are offered the job.