Get Personal: How to Give Employees the Holistic Wellness Benefits They Crave

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Nearly half of all American workplaces offer some kind of health or wellness program to employees, according to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. This is encouraging news, but simply having a wellness program is not, in and of itself, enough. Organizations must ensure their wellness programs support employee well-being in all its aspects: physical, mental, financial, and spiritual.

Employees now expect wellness programs as core workplace offerings, and there is no reason not to meet this demand. The benefits of a healthy, happy workforce are clear: Employees are absent less often, more engaged, more focused, and more productive, and the bottom line gets a boost as a result.

However, research from Thomsons Online Benefits found that only 40 percent of employers prioritize employee well-being in their benefits strategies. This represents  for employers a significant missed opportunity in the employment market. To deliver a holistic wellness program that meets employees’ needs and supports your organization’s success, follow these tips:

No Employee Is the Same — Start With Personalization

When it comes to supporting employee well-being, organizations should offer a variety of benefits in each wellness area. For example, physical well-being initiatives can include subsidized running clubs or healthy lunch-and-learns, while mental health initiatives might include therapy reimbursements and extended parental leave. Financial wellness could take the form of a sufficient 401(k) match and financial education opportunities, while spiritual initiatives might focus on charitable giving and time off to volunteer.

The point is that employees’ needs vary from person to person and throughout their life stages. Employers need to ensure they are catering to all their workers by providing an array of wellness programs.

For example, when I was in my early 20s, I was fortunate enough to be offered flexible benefits. Given the choice, I decided to “flex down” my core benefits to free up more resources to invest in what was important to me at that time — e.g., socializing, traveling, sports, etc. Now that I’m married with two kids, I prioritize those core benefits like life and medical insurance while thinking about savings and retirement down the line.

It can be all too easy for employers to default to seemingly popular benefits like gym memberships, but employees are looking for more flexibility and choice. If offering such flexibility seems like it may be too complicated an undertaking for your organization, you should consider granting each employee a “wellness pot.” Then, employees can choose to spend the money in their pots on whatever activities best support their personal well-being.

Turn to Technology

Technology enables greater levels of benefits personalization for employees than ever before. For example, some employers are now using artificial intelligence (AI) to track how employees’ benefits behaviors change over time. Using the data generated from this analysis, an AI-powered benefits platform can anticipate the perfect benefits program for any individual.

Technology also makes benefits more accessible. Many employees are already using technology in their personal lives to monitor and maintain their well-being with fitness, meditation, and money-saving apps. Organizations should take advantage of this consumer phenomenon and offer employees the same kind of experience with workplace benefits technology. Doing so is likely to increase engagement with and adoption of benefits offerings.

To stay competitive, organizations must offer benefits programs that meet all individuals’ well-being needs across all the facets of their lives. Different aspects of wellness do not exist in isolation, as everything is interconnected. Strain in one area can often trickle into others, such as financial stress impacting one’s mental health.

Developing and implementing a benefits program that supports employees’ overall well-being can be made infinitely less complex with the use of technology. Employers can use wellness apps and wellness pots to personalize employee benefits, while data analytics and AI can determine the most effective approaches to benefits programs.

The right benefits technology enables HR teams to understand what benefits are most valued by each employee. HR can then adjust its offerings to better meet employees’ needs, thereby increasing loyalty and improving engagement. By prioritizing employees’ holistic health, employers create workplaces that foster positive cultures, promote health and happiness among employees, and drive success across the whole organization.

Matthew Jackson is vice president of proposition and client solutions at Thomsons Online Benefits.

By Matt Jackson