Should Employers Consider Benefits Tailored to the Whole Employee?

An increased reliance on occupational health means renewed interest in unique benefits.

Understanding the whole of an employee can better help to ensure their safety—both physically and mentally. In a world where employees and workers are consumed with a global pandemic, burnout, increased mental health symptoms and stressors at work, it is worth it for employers to look into more wholistic benefits to offer to employees.

OH&S reached out to Bill Gianoukos, CEO and Co-Founder of Goodpath to discuss occupational health and wellness programs and how these can benefits employees in the long run. Read his answer to our questions below.

What are some unique things an employer can offer that gets them to feel incentivized to take care of themselves?

Many employers mention how burned out physically, emotionally, and mentally their employees are due to the pandemic. It is essential for employers to invest more in innovative programs, give employees more access to care, encourage, and even incentivizes them to use these resources.

Employers started expanding their health and wellness offerings beyond stand-alone mental health or single-therapy programs into more integrative care programs in 2020. A Goodpath Employer Health Index study found that over 80 percent of employers want to offer more integrative care that focuses on complete treatment solutions as opposed to conventional options.

Integrative care makes it easier to care for themselves and improves outcomes. Instead of having to stitch multiple solutions together from various providers or get stuck with just one treatment option, integrative care combines the best of conventional and complementary care to treat the whole person, not just symptoms. At Goodpath, we deploy this across the four pillars of care: exercise, nutrition, mind-body, and supplements & medicine.

Why should employers lean into offering holistic benefits?

Work from home has taken a severe toll on employees’ mental and physical health. It has the opposite effect of work-life balance for many. Instead, it is causing employees to be more stressed, sleepless, and experience severe burnout, which can be challenging to manage without access to the appropriate resources. The majority of employees have also been working longer hours throughout the pandemic, taking away from the free time they could have used for exercising, spending time with family and friends, or simply relaxing.

Because of this, employees need different types of support from their employers. Before the pandemic, many corporate benefits included discounted gym memberships, free lunch at the office, or in-person events. Now that most employees are home—and often unable to achieve a healthy work-life balance—they need resources and tools to help them maintain a better balance that supports their mental health and enables them to create better habits.

When companies adapt to the remote work model and provide innovative resources that employees can use while at home—including access to personalized health programs tailored to their unique needs—companies can show their employees that they appreciate them and, in turn, support their productivity and job satisfaction.

One other simple yet important example we’ve seen a lot with our members who transitioned to remote work is the new onset neck and back pain due to poor ergonomics of work-from-home set-ups. Our coaching team provides consults to help people optimize their new working environment to prevent further injury with excellent results.

What is the responsibility of the employee when seeking workplace resources?

Employees should always speak up for themselves in the workplace when it comes to advocating for certain benefits packages. The pandemic has made workplace health and wellness benefits a need, rather than a want. As such, employees should feel empowered to do their research and collaborate with their HR teams in pinpointing particularly attractive benefits packages. As 2021 continues, we will see more innovative employers shift to integrative care. It is one of the best medical approaches to treating common conditions. Employees love that it addresses their whole person and that it uses a multimodal approach as opposed to navigating complex or slow single-point solutions. 

How can employers make available resources known in an inviting way? What are the best ways to stay in communication with employees about health benefits?

The two natural times when employers and employees connect on benefits (onboarding and yearly renewal) are not enough when we are still living through a pandemic. A number of the innovative companies deploy approaches year-round, like monthly webinars, bi-weekly email updates, lunch and learns, and zoom Q&As.

Something else we have noticed with employers recently though is that even the best benefits teams can’t know everything—and focused benefits teams stay ahead of trends. For example with a current client, sleep support did not often come up in employee surveys as something employees wanted. However, once Goodpath was rolled out as a benefit, the benefits managers were surprised to see how many employees wanted sleep support, in addition to the integrative MSK programs. It was by thinking more broadly about how stress is affecting employees and innovative ways to solve it that this employer found a strong way to address employees’ benefits needs.

How might the new administration have an impact on occupational health and safety guidelines moving forward?

With a new administration, comes new occupational health and safety guidelines. The Biden administration will likely change some protocol from the prior administration, offering some more clear rules and regulations for businesses. For example, The Department of Labor is expected to issue guidance about a worker’s right to refuse unsafe work and remain eligible for unemployment benefits within the next week or two.

Regardless of national mandates or requirements, employers should invest in health and wellness programs for their employees. In fact, a recent Deloitte report showed that companies with high health and wellness scores had a 75 percent greater stock appreciation over six years than the overall S&P. In less than five years, I predict an integrative approach to health will become the new normal to health and wellness benefits programs.

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