January 29, 2018

To Boost Benefits Utilization and Improve Employee Well-Being, Learn the 3 Es:


Your benefits package looked excellent. Between the health insurance, the flexible scheduling, and your employees assistance program (EAP), you were confident that your staff would be able to manage their health.

But you still haven’t seen any major improvements in employee well-being. Absenteeism is high. Your staff is disengaged. Employees are burning out.

The problem is simple: Your employees simply don’t know about the great wellness benefits you offer. My company, Lifeworks, recently conducted a survey which found that wellness benefits are underutilized because employers fall short in communications and culture. In fact, nearly 8 out of 10 employers think their companies can improve how they communicate about their wellness initiatives.

To boost benefits utilization and improve employee well-being, you need to master the three Es:

1. Educate

Employers say the main reasons employees don’t use wellness benefits is because they’re not aware of the benefits and don’t understand how to use them.

One of the most important aspects of your role is education. You need to promote your wellness benefits and raise awareness about the benefits employees can access, how to use those benefits, and what employees will gain from using them.

Let’s say you offer financial coaching through your EAP. Employees who don’t know what these financial coaches do won’t understand how coaching can help. They realize they need to improve how they manage their personal finances, but they aren’t sure where to turn.

This is where you come in. Show employees where and how they can get help with obstacles that hurt their personal and professional lives.

Start a well-being calendar and share it publicly so employees know what events and initiatives are coming up. For example, you could create a month-long campaign centered on financial wellness. That campaign may include personal finance seminars, budgeting workshops, and retirement planning activities. Then, you can promote these events on your calendar.

To get everyone excited about employee well-being initiatives, encourage employees at all levels to become wellness ambassadors. They can actively distribute educational content and plan events together.

2. Engage

Adopting lifestyle changes is always hard, especially for those who view activities like cooking healthy meals and going to the gym as chores. This is more common than you may think. Our research found that 10 percent of employers say their employees have no interest in addressing their own well-being, which is their main reason for not using wellness benefits.

To help employees get excited, make well-being fun. Use activities and events to bring your staff together. This way, they will feel engaged and accountable to others.

One fun idea is to host a “Healthy Lunch Bingo” competition where employees are given bingo cards they can use as they select healthy food options. For their meal choices, they can refer to your company’s healthy recipe cookbook, featuring recipes sourced from your employees. Your wellness ambassadors could collect these recipes and create an eBook that is accessible to the entire company through an internal portal.

Every week, wellness ambassadors can host huddles to review bingo cards and celebrate those who win.

Another key to engagement is scheduling group activities. With the help of wellness ambassadors, organize wellness clubs like basketball groups or running clubs. Exercising with friends is always more fun and engaging.

3. Encourage

The best way to boost benefits utilization is to center your culture around employee well-being. Unfortunately, our research found that 10 percent of employers say their employees don’t feel supported to improve their own well-being.

This says a lot about your culture. If you say you value health and wellness, but you don’t ever talk about it or promote healthy activities, employees won’t feel comfortable going for walks or taking relaxation breaks that are essential to their health.

It’s time to walk the talk, and that starts with well-being goals. Every month, host company-wide meetings to evaluate employees’ well-being goals and check in with everyone.

During these meetings, assign well-being buddies to hold each other accountable for new habits, like exercising during lunch or meditating for 10 minutes each day.

You play a major role in improving employee well-being. You’re the voice behind these wellness benefits that directly impact your workforce’s health. Through education, engagement, and encouragement, you can build a culture focused on improving your employees’ quality of life, which drives excellent business results.

Chris Sullens is the business development manager at LifeWorks. Follow LifeWorks on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Chris Sullens is the business development manager at LifeWorks, a company that delivers holistic and comprehensive well — physical, emotional, financial, professional, and mental — through meaningful and purposeful technology and services. Follow LifeWorks on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.