What does it mean to be well -- and what does wellbeing have to do with your role as an employer? Quite a bit, actually. Wellbeing is not just the absence of illness or disease. It’s the complex combination of the many dimensions of a person’s being: Physical, mental, financial, and social, to name a few. A person’s wellbeing directly impacts how they perform at work -- and a person’s working environment directly impacts many dimensions of their wellbeing.
It’s important for employers to recognize the immense influence they have on the health and wellbeing of their employees: Failing to do so can be costly. Absenteeism, for example, costs US employers an estimated $225.8 billion per year. Even more costly is presenteeism -- a term used to describe when employees are physically present at work, but not performing at their best due to unaddressed physical, mental, or emotional needs. Presenteeism is estimated to cost nearly 10 times more than absenteeism.
Then there’s the cost of poor health that impacts both the employee and the employer. When employees suffer from major illness and have to file large claims, this raises insurance costs for their employer, which in turn can raise the cost of premiums on employees.
The good news is that taking steps to improve employee wellbeing, including offering wellbeing programs, improving company policies to support employee health, and improving company culture to reduce presenteeism, has been shown to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism and even improve employee retention.
It pays for employers to proactively work to improve the integrated wellbeing of their employees: Physically, mentally, financially, and socially. In this guide, we will offer tips, tools, and resources to help you support the integrated wellbeing of your employees.
What is integrated wellbeing?
Integrated wellbeing refers to a holistic approach to wellbeing that employers can take on behalf of their employees. Many companies (an estimated 84% of US employers) have a wellness or wellbeing program, but many of these just scratch the surface of what is needed to truly promote wellbeing.
The first answer that often comes to mind is, “Launch a wellness program!” Wellbeing programs are an investment in the health of your people, but not all investments will have the same impact or be as universally beneficial to your employees.
It’s also important to reiterate that wellbeing involves more than just physical health. As our society has matured, and topics like mental health, balancing work and parenthood, and employee burnout have been more openly discussed, the role of the employer has continued to evolve as well. It’s more important than ever for employers to recognize the need to support the whole person.
What can employers do to promote employee wellbeing?
Improving the physical, mental, financial, and social wellbeing of your employees requires more than a standalone wellness program. It requires a proactive, intentional, holistic approach to company policies, culture, and compensation that recognizes the unique challenges facing the individuals within it.
Here are some specific tips on how to improve the physical, emotional, social, and financial wellbeing of your employees.
Physical wellbeing is perhaps the easiest of these concepts to understand, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to achieve. Physical wellbeing describes the ability of a person to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows them to get the most out of their daily activities.
For a country that spends more per capita than nearly any other country on earth, the US doesn’t have much to show for it. One recent study found that only 8 percent of Americans are getting the preventative healthcare they need to maintain optimal health.
Even with health insurance, the rising costs of health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses make it more difficult for the average American to afford wellness visits, diagnostic tests, and other medical costs that could help to avoid more significant, more catastrophic health outcomes.
This lack of preventative care, coupled with rising rates of obesity and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, means that a staggering percentage of Americans find themselves in a state of poor physical health.
At the macro level, in order to improve the collective health of our country, we need to shift our perspective from insuring against sickness, to ensuring wellness.
Employers have the ability to contribute to this shift in several ways. Launching a comprehensive wellness program that incentivizes employees to make healthy lifestyle choices is one. Providing resources and evolving policies to encourage preventative care can make a big impact as well. Finally, designing benefits packages that help to make healthcare more accessible and affordable can help to improve the physical health of employees.
Emotional wellbeing is influenced by a variety of demographic, economic, and situational factors, many of which are, naturally, influenced by where a person works and how their working situation impacts other areas of their life.
The culture of your workplace can have a significant impact on your emotional health, which can then lead to more chronic mental and physical health issues. Creating a culture that encourages balance, allows people to disconnect from their work, and allows them to take care of themselves and their families outside of work can help to promote the emotional wellbeing of your employees.
Beyond this, proactively encouraging employees to take care of their mental health, and providing support to make mental health care more affordable and accessible, is another way employers can support the emotional wellbeing of their employees.
Social wellbeing refers to the health of a person’s relationships, and how those relationships impact them. Healthy relationships can boost a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health, while toxic relationships can have the opposite effect.
Although employers do not influence who their employees may choose to marry, or spend time with outside of work, they do have direct control over who they employ, and how they treat those they employ.
Although most employers have a long way to go, many have started to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, both in their hiring practices and in the benefits offered to their employees.
The inadequacy of one-size-fits-all benefits packages has become glaringly obvious, as have the inequities that often result from such an approach. While top employers seemed to step up to the challenge, others have struggled to meet the demands of the modern employee.
To support the social wellbeing of your employees, it’s important to make sure that your benefits package actively supports the diverse needs of your diverse workforce. For more guidance on this, we recommend this blog.
A person’s financial health can have a direct impact on virtually every area of life: It can impact their relationships, their physical, mental, and emotional health, their opportunities in life, and so much more.
Employers, of course, have a direct influence on the financial wellbeing of their employees. Compensating employees fairly, offering competitive benefits, and helping employees take advantage of their benefits are three foundational ways employers can support the financial wellbeing of their employees.
But even with full-time salaries and employer-sponsored health insurance, many employees struggle to afford the medical care they need. Closing the healthcare affordability gap, without going bankrupt, is the challenge facing many employers across the country.
Offering Paytient as a benefit is a low-cost, high-impact way to help your employees afford healthcare for themselves and their families. For just a few dollars per employee per month, employers can provide employees with the ability to pay for their medical, dental, vision, and even veterinary care in full, and pay it off over time, interest-free for up to a year.
There may even be a way to use the wellness credits offered by your insurer to provide Paytient for your employees.