Wellness programs are about more than gym stipends and free massages.

Today, workplace health and wellness refers to a company’s ability to improve employee physical, mental, and financial health. These programs go beyond traditional medical, dental, and vision benefits by filling coverage gaps and addressing specific needs like adoption assistance and financial planning programs.

Employers budgeted record amounts for wellness in 2020, especially for mental health. John Fawkes, a wellness program consultant, has seen a significant shift in how his clients’ expectations have evolved, especially this year. They’re adopting a broader, more holistic definition of workplace health and wellness.

“If anything, this past year has proven how important employee mental health is. In some instances, it rivals physical health,” Fawkes said. “They’re all intertwined. We know employees struggling with depression, anxiety, financial stress are more likely to suffer from a range of health issues.”

What benefits should you offer?

In addition to conventional wellness programs like gym stipends and discounts, companies are increasingly turning to holistic benefits like nutritional counseling and fertility benefits. The latter has grown popular in recent years, with nearly a third of employers offering some kind of fertility benefit today. In 2016, just 24% of the companies provided them.

While there are hundreds of potential offerings to choose from, some include:

  • Autism coverage
  • Cancer care and counseling
  • Childcare cost-sharing programs
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Fertility benefits, including reimbursement and support through IVF, genetic testing, and egg freezing
  • Financial planning resources
  • Gym reimbursements and discounts
  • Maternity and return-to-work benefits
  • Meditation and mindfulness programs
  • Paid parental leave
  • Smoking cessation assistance
  • Surrogacy assistance
  • Telehealth
  • Transgender specialized health support
  • Yoga classes

Whatever you choose to offer, workplace health and wellness programs need to reflect your company’s culture and employees’ needs. HR experts recommend taking workplace demographics, generational diversity, and even geography into account when tailoring your wellness program.

“For starters, different people have varying support needs. For instance, a single parent with a toddler faces different hardships than dual-parent households with high school-age children. Others who live alone might need a different sort of support,” said Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager at ResumeLab.

In advance of open enrollment each year, Wieczorek recommends surveying employees on which benefits they’d value the most. Because respondents won’t always know what’s available, ask open-ended questions like, “Aside from the cost of living, what is your greatest financial hardship?” Answers to broad questions like these can give you telling insights.

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Why is workplace health and wellness worth it?

Taking care of employees isn’t being generous—it’s a 21st century expectation. But while health and wellness benefits are increasingly affordable, you might still be asked to show ROI by a skeptical C-suite. Thankfully, there’s ample evidence to make your case.

Most HR leaders cite retention as the most significant reason to invest in wellness. Given the cost of losing an employee can reach as much as twice their salary, that’s no surprise. You’ll want to ensure they’re happy, engaged, and feel supported.

“These benefits, whether personal or for employees’ families, are more important now than ever,” said Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resource Officer at Resume.io. “Employers who look after their employees' health keep them focused, happy, and productive. The ROI for employers comes in the form of increased job satisfaction.”

The data bears this out: When employees feel taken care of, they’re more productive and engaged. In one study, 85% of employers reported that wellness offerings had a measurable impact on their engagement survey results. According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), engagement and productivity rank as HR professionals’ top reasons for offering wellness benefits. They also cited lower healthcare costs and absenteeism.

Whatever your motivating factor, remember that word spreads fast. How you treat employees affects your employer brand and the talent you can recruit, and most job seekers consider wellness offerings when deciding on whether to accept an offer. Given how tech giants like Facebook, Spotify, and Pinterest have made headlines for their generous benefits, taking a more holistic view of health and wellness is critical to staying competitive. 

Spotlight on support for working parents

The last year has been extraordinarily difficult for working parents. Amid health and economic uncertainty, they’ve had to navigate childcare, homeschooling, and other challenges—often without much help. A Maven survey revealed that nearly 60% of working parents don’t feel supported by their employers as they navigate childcare.

“Your working parents face some of the most acute emotional and financial burdens,” Bax said. HR teams looking to prioritize health and wellness should start by addressing the needs of fathers and mothers. “Women, and especially new mothers, have always suffered both professionally and emotionally from the competing demands of family and work life,” he said.

Maven is the leading women’s and family healthcare company. We partner with employers and health plans to improve maternal outcomes, lower costs, and attract and retain more parents. Learn how we can help your company here.

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