Here’s To Your Health: The 4 Factors That Boost Worker Wellbeing
For many, the holidays provide the opportunity to reenergize and connect with loved ones. However, the festive season can be a battle on four fronts: physical (“I ate way too much”), financial (“How are we going to pay for it all?”), emotional (“This time of year is so hard”) and social (“I miss my family and friends”).
These four factors are also important in keeping employees in good health throughout the year and in helping companies build a comprehensive health program.
Stephanie Pronk, senior vice president and leader, U.S. Health Transformation Team at Aon, notes that, in organizations, “what we’re seeing now is a shift to overall wellbeing – to look at health holistically. Because there isn’t a simple answer or one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness, a holistic view can produce better outcomes across a variety of issues: physical, financial, emotional and social.”
Approaches to wellbeing have traditionally been focused on employees’ physical health. As the costs of treating chronic conditions associated with unhealthy lifestyles continue to rise, today’s businesses are beginning to view wellbeing through a more holistic lens.
Kim Kivimaki, director, Colleague Wellbeing at Aon, explains, “Wellbeing is more than just a focus on physical health. It’s an understanding that financial, emotional and social wellbeing are just as important.”
Indeed, happy and healthy employees are more likely to stay at their company – and if they are satisfied, it’s likely that customers will be as well. Organizations that seek to realize the benefits of a “well” workforce (and to protect their bottom line) should consider the four factors of an employee’s wellbeing: physical, financial, emotional and social.
Physical Wellbeing: Maintaining Personal Health
Poor diets and lack of sleep and exercise all affect employees’ physical wellbeing and can impact companies’ balance sheets – both when providing coverage plans and when dealing with lost productivity from sick days. According to Aon’s 2019 Global Medical Trend Rates Report, employer medical costs are set to increase nearly 8 percent in 2019, outpacing general inflation of nearly 3 percent in the year ahead. And the Centers for Disease Control estimates productivity losses from unhealthy workers at more than $153 billion each year.
To bolster employees’ physical wellbeing, companies can provide fitness incentives (such as cycle-to-work programs) or focus health plans on providing high-quality treatment when needed, facilitating the management of chronic health conditions and reducing the risk of accidents and illness while encouraging healthy behavior.
Financial Wellbeing: Addressing Sources Of Money Stress
From housing debt to education spending, financial challenges can cause stress for many people. And this financial stress can impact health, happiness and performance.
Aside from the emotional toll, financial burdens can lead to inadequate retirement planning and lead people to stay employed long past their peak productivity. Only one-third of U.S. workers have saved enough to retire comfortably by age 67. Among those who believe financial concerns negatively affect their lives, 31 percent also believe these concerns “prevent them from doing their best work.”
To help alleviate financial-related stress, companies can create financial planning and educational programs to help employees with budgeting for today – as well as saving for the future.
Emotional Wellbeing: Understanding “Silent” Challenges
Emotional balance can be just as important as physical wellbeing when maintaining healthy and engaged workforces. In fact, studies have found that well-adjusted individuals are 20 percent more likely to be part of thriving teams. However, depression, one of the world’s more common medical conditions, affects more than 300 million people; related costs add to $210 billion annually in the U.S. alone.
Research shows that social and emotional fulfillment can influence productivity. In fact, a recent study found that happiness led to a 20 percent increase in productivity.
Companies can support this element of health by evaluating their work environments and identifying and addressing issues that could negatively affect employees’ emotional health. Establishing an emotional health strategy could include raising awareness, reducing stigma and creating emotional support programs.
Social Wellbeing: Prioritizing Connectivity
Interpersonal relationships can also impact overall wellbeing, with recent studies linking loneliness to a lower quality of physical and emotional health. In fact, among those who have experienced incivility at work, 80 percent reported a loss in productivity, and 25 percent then took out their frustration on customers.
Connecting with other people – and the work a company does – can have a positive effect on an employee’s productivity and drive. Keeping employees connected, in person and via technology, can help foster relationships, as can a culture that helps achieve social wellbeing.
As population health continues to decline and medical costs continue to rise throughout the globe, organizations are looking broadly at how to build programs that address various risk factors. “Many of the global risk factors often lead to chronic conditions with long medical cost tails that make them expensive to treat and result in long-term medical cost increases,” said Tim Nimmer, chief health care actuary at Aon. “Employers can play a key role by motivating individuals and their families to take a more active role in managing their health, including participating in health and wellbeing activities and better managing chronic conditions.” Motivating individuals and their families to take an active role in managing health, he continues, is critical to not only containing costs but also improving health outcomes overall.