Forget what you already think you know about wellness: That it’s all about physical health, that it’s all about return on investment and that programs are static.

Wellness is shifting dramatically in the workplace, two wellness experts said this week during a session at the WorldatWork Total Rewards conference in San Diego.

“Wellness is no longer about just getting in shape or going for screenings,” said Lauren Benz, clinical account manager at MVP Health Care. “It’s really evolved into a comprehensive spiritual package. Wellness is no longer a choice of behaviors; it’s looking at your whole health.”

“We consistently ask employees what’s bothering them and try to address those concerns,” said Daniel Harding, director of total rewards and employee relations at MVP Health Care. “And it will be different from what it was two years ago. What keeps your employees up at night? If you can get to the bottom of this, engagement and value becomes a business.”

Financial wellness, for example, continues to grow in importance for employees.

“Money stresses everyone out,” Benz said. “And [with financial wellness] it feels like you’re tackling something. It’s a small program that can have a really large impact.”

Other growing areas of interest for employees include sleep, tuition care and elder care, Harding said.

The two also said that it’s time for employers to embrace the changing face of workplace well-being because it ultimately leads not only to a healthier workforce, but to a more productive one.

“As the employer, it’s your chance to enhance in different spheres of their life — emotional, mental, physical and spiritual,” Benz said.

“We’re moving from return on investment to value on investment, and as a company what you’re producing,” Benz said. “At the end of the day, good health is good business. We’re now in a huge global market, so for you to remain competitive you need to have a healthy workforce because a healthy workforce will outperform an unhealthy workforce time and time again.”

MVP Heath Care, whose own wellness program is called “Journey to well-being,” saw the positive effects of beginning a comprehensive wellness program — including financial counseling — firsthand: Of its 1,500 employees, 500 people signed up the first day. The average debt reduction was $9,000, people say they feel like they got a raise, 97% say they would recommend the program to a co-worker.

“It turned into watercooler talk,” Harding said. “It wasn’t intentional but it was helpful.”

What’s important, they said, is that wellness focuses on multiple areas — and that they are all important to employees.

Some other best-practice tips for building and executing a tailored well-being strategy:

Educate employees. Have a wellness website for employees, Benz said. Include a calendar of events, tips, articles on wellness and what they need to know about your company’s wellness program. “That way, they can get a full picture without us bombarding them,” she said.

Get leadership support. Make sure executives get involved in wellness. “Once you get senior leaders involved, it will do wonders for your participation,” Benz said. “It will reinforce [to employees] that it’s OK to spend the time on it.”

Talk to employees. “We try to do constant pulses of what is concerning our employees, getting away from the one-time survey,” Harding said.

Use your resources. When developing a wellness program, consider what other resources you already have, including your health plan, EAP and 401(k). “These are free resources you can incorporate because you already paid for them,” Harding said.

Use incentives. Yes, small incentives to encourage the right behavior can be beneficial, Harding said. Those can include gift cards or dress-down days —“whatever encourages your employee.”

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit News becomes archived within a week of it being published

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access