ne year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and it still feels surreal. We faced an unprecedented global pandemic that, hopefully, put things in perspective; one of those things being our health. It became painfully apparent that we needed to place a greater emphasis on health and that health and employment are undeniably intertwined.
COVID-19 ushered in a new way of thinking about employee health long after the pandemic is over. Employers around the nation are starting to understand that the focus on health extends beyond merely their employee’s physical wellness, but whole body wellness. However, it shouldn’t stop at simply wearing masks and using sanitizer. Here are some of the positive trends we are seeing and concrete steps we can take:
Consider implementing a work from home program where applicable. According to Global Workplace Analytics allowing employees to work from home comes with many benefits such as improved employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and increased cost savings for the employer. Two-thirds of employees want to work from home and 36% would choose it over a pay raise.
Employees feeling the pressure to be at the workplace, even while sick, has harmful effects on them and their colleagues. The inevitable possibility of spreading germs coupled with the psychological stress of having to be at work when your body and/or mind aren’t prepared to handle it does not make for a healthy employee. Every industry won’t be able to accommodate WFH for every employee, but it is something to think about.
If you don’t offer your employees a wellness program it may be time to do so. A wellness program is designed to improve employee health through preventative care. Medical screenings, health competitions, volunteer work, cash rewards, and fitness programs are initiatives that, when implemented, can drastically improve employee wellness. These programs are designed to help people develop and maintain healthy behaviors that can help them personally and have a positive impact on their work performance.
Start incorporating telehealth options into your health benefits package. Nearly half of U.S. workers make less than $15/hour and are less likely to have the time, energy, or resources to physically visit a healthcare provider. The need for social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an uptick in the use of telehealth programs and this will very likely become another new normal for us. Telehealth applications ease that burden for workers and improves their health outcomes.
Strengthen the healthcare benefits you provide to your workforce. 46% of workers surveyed listed health insurance as a major factor in choosing their jobs. 56% cited healthcare as their reason for staying with their current employer. An above average healthcare package could be the difference between you attracting and retaining “the best and the brightest” versus someone who’s just alright at their job.
Mental healthcare is just as important as physical health. The World Health Organization cites that anxiety and depression make up for a staggering $1 trillion loss in productivity every single year. Furthermore, for every $1 spent on treating common mental health concerns, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. The numbers speak for themselves. Simply put, it makes good business sense.
After the year we’ve had, mental healthcare should not only be an option, but a duty. We are moving in the right direction though. In 2020 43% of employers added new mental health benefits to their healthcare packages. Additionally, 54% of employers are lowering or waiving costs for virtual mental health services in 2021. The focus on mental health is likely to become a permanent fixture in our conversations as a society, and not just a pandemic trend. That is an excellent step in the right direction.
Social responsibility has to start in-house. How employers treat their employees is a direct reflection of how they treat the larger community. Smart and sustainable employers will care about their employee’s wellness because employees make the company.