Industry Voice: Making customised wellness plans in a post-coronavirus world

The technology to improve employees’ wellbeing is already here. But it is now in employers’ hands to make sure it is used to create successful corporate wellness programmes

clock • 4 min read

A workforce that is happy, purposeful and creative? A reduction in stress, anxiety and emotional exhaustion? Or less presenteeism and absenteeism, and more productivity? Whatever employee wellbeing means to you, Covid-19 has certainly pushed the issue to the top of the corporate agenda.

With physical distancing, remote working and uncertainty about the future bringing many challenges, it also gives businesses the opportunity - and a tangible reason - to take a fresh look at what they can do to help employees look after their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Before coronavirus was part of our vernacular, Aetna carried out a global survey that revealed 70% of employers believed they provided good access to programmes that support health and well-being, but only 23% of employees thought the same.

The gap underlines how critical it is firms understand what their employees need from a wellbeing solution, as well as ensure they educate, drive awareness and provide accessibility to their wellness programmes.

Encouragingly, a vital shift is being reflected in the types of conversations we are now having with clients around their health insurance expenditure. Rather than a tick box exercise, mindsets are changing and utilisation is becoming the focal point. Businesses are asking, are resources actually meeting need and are staff making the most of the investment? 

Shaping the technology

One route that makes sense, particularly in the current climate, is leveraging digital tools such as virtual primary healthcare and wellbeing apps that boost resilience or aid sleep. These trusted resources are easily scalable, offer choice and flexibility, and can successfully bridge a spectrum of need.  But there is a paradox. Technology can help effectively manage our work, lives and health, but the pressure of an ‘always-on' culture can sometimes become overwhelming as worklife boundaries become blurred. 

This is one of three main findings that came out of our second recent global survey on the digital health dilemma, undertaken to gain a deeper insight into how corporate wellness programmes can be most successful. Three-quarters of respondents saw the need to curb out-of-hours use of work-related technology, but still had trouble setting their devices aside.

We have learned that you need to erect guardrails to help individuals unplug outside office hours, be it by limiting workrelated communications to work hours, or just encouraging the rest and recovery that is crucial to a balanced company culture.

A second finding was the appetite for increased access to digital health and wellbeing support, with employees strongly agreeing that technology at work has the potential to improve holistic health.

However, rather than simply making Fitbits available, this is a chance to engage with employees and listen carefully to concerns and potential solutions from their perspective. Evaluating your population to identify health risks and high health claims using anonymised data can also help customise wellness strategies that meet your organisation's unique needs. On the same note, the third finding refers to using anonymised data. Employees are happy for this to be used to improve their company's culture and employee benefas long as it really is anonymous.

This highlights the importance of carefully communicating a commitment to upholding data privacy and ensuring employees retain control over their data.

Shaping the wellness culture

Looking to the future, these results hint at areas where the best employee benefit programmes will place greater emphasis, including increased measurement as companies scrutinise what they are doing well and what just is not working. Knowing what ‘good' adoption and engagement levels look like will also be key, as it is essential to remember one solution rarely suits all.

So this is an opportunity for employers to reshape their wellness strategies and corporate culture, by diminishing the negative influences of technology on employees, leveraging the positives and concentrating on good communication, data use, measurement, utilisation and engagement. These strategies all help empower employees to take preventative, personal action to remain in optimum physical and mental health.

Above all, the most successful corporate wellness programmes will be designed with straightforward objectives - to meet people wherever they are on their health journey, navigate them to the right support and ultimately help move them to wherever they want to be. 

David Healy is CEO - EMEA at  Aetna International

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