How to help support your employees’ physical health

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COVID-19 has put a spotlight on workforce well-being, and more and more companies are adapting their policies and benefits with this in mind. In 2021, improving the health and wellness of employees was the fourth ranked priority for employer’s benefits objectives.1 Guardian’s report Mind, Body, and Wallet: Workforce well-being in the pandemic era looks at the state of workforce well-being today and explores how workers and companies have been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to promoting physical health, more than 3 out of 5 companies (63 percent) agree that they are addressing employees’ physical well-being — including fitness, weight, and diet — extremely well. However, fewer than 2 out of 5 employees (39%) agree that their organization’s benefits address their physical health well.

Companies have an opportunity to help support the physical well-being of their employees by offering benefits that promote wellness, incentivizing healthy habits, and through clear communications that promote access to these benefits and programs. Here’s how.

Make physical health a part of your workplace culture

Employee programs that incentivize healthy habits can be a popular way to promote healthy habits. Some of the most popular programs include:

  • Wellness initiatives — from step challenges to healthy eating awareness campaigns — can promote better nutrition, encourage fitness, and improve overall health knowledge.
  • Incentive programs for fitness and/or annual check-ups encourage not only physical wellness, but also peer accountability. Rewards can range from prizes or raffle tickets to recognition in a newsletter or on a company intranet.
  • Offer in-office educational programs like nutrition seminars, webinars, or Q & As with medical specialists. Or share resources, like how to set up an ergonomic home workspace.
  • Rebates for fitness equipment and gym memberships or exercise classes can help offset the financial cost that can be associated with physical wellness programs. 

Offer benefits that support physical health

A comprehensive benefits package — along with benefits education, smooth enrollment, and ease of access to benefits —  is becoming a necessity for employers to remain competitive. Medical and dental insurance are the core of an employee benefits package, and an important tool to promote your employees’ well-being.

Additionally, you can help your employees in the event of an illness or accident by offering disability insurance, which provides partial income for employees that are too sick or injured to work. Disability insurance can be offered as an employee-paid benefit or as a voluntary benefit, making it an affordable option to offer enhanced benefits coverage. 

Offering voluntary supplemental health insurance is another way to help improve your benefits suite with little to no added cost to you, the employer. Supplemental health insurance benefits — such as accident, cancer, critical illness, and hospital indemnity insurance — are elective benefits that can help employees pay for unexpected costs that may come from an accident, illness, or other events. These plans can help your employees maintain financial confidence and can also help you to stay competitive and retain a productive workforce.

To help your employees manage medical costs, consider offering a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), which can help with tax savings and can assist with financial strategizing for short and long-term health expenses.

Promote benefits awareness

Currently, only 23 percent of workers feel that their current benefits address their physical health needs. However, many benefits that employees are being offering aren’t being used. Only 17 percent of employees took advantage of the online wellness resources offered by their companies, and even fewer took part in fitness programs, meditation classes, or utilized a home office consultation to assess the ergonomics of their workspace.

Businesses can adopt strategies to promote the benefits that they do have in place:

  • Multi-channel communications: Don’t rely on only one communication method to increase awareness. Make sure that your programs are communicated through multiple platforms, such as email, an intranet, and company message boards. Share resources with people leaders so they can update workers they manage in team meetings or during one-on-one check-ins.
  • Offer flexibility: Time is one of the largest barriers to a routine exercise program. If possible, offer flexibility so employees can take breaks for short walks and stay active during the workday. Encourage breaks for short workouts or offer staggered schedules that permit employees to fit in exercise during the day. Build in time for breaks between meetings so employees can stretch or stand-up.
  • Improve enrollment and access to benefits through technology: Consider a digital benefits administration platform to promote education and improve employee satisfaction. Digital enrollment platforms help to centralize access to benefits, so employees know what benefits they have and know where to go to access them.

Improve your employee leave policies and practices

While a large part of supporting the physical health of your workforce is about prevention, having a comprehensive leave strategy in place if your employees require time off for recovery can support them when they need it the most. Every year, around five percent of US employees will experience a short-term disability due to illness, injury, or pregnancy.2

  • Use technology to better manage leave: Digital platforms can support leave management and can help employees better understand the different types of leave that they’re entitled to. Leave management can be complicated and it can be challenging to stay up to date on the latest legislation. Outsourcing, or using a leave management platform, can take the burden of managing leave off your administrative staff and can help ensure it’s being handled compliantly.
  • Build a company culture that supports leave: Supporting employees when they need time off to recover can have a positive impact on employee health and well-being. Companies that prioritize paid family and medical leave policies report higher employee benefits satisfaction. Review your company’s messaging and approach to leave. Use language that normalizes the need for leave so employees can feel comfortable taking the time they need to support their physical health.

Looking for more ways to support workforce well-being? Read our report Mind, Body, and Wallet: Workforce well-being in the pandemic era.

 


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Disclaimer

1 Unless otherwise noted, all data is sourced from Guardian’s 10th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, 2021.

2Chances of Disability,” Council for Disability Awareness, September 30, 2021

Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon only when coordinated with individual professional advice. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, and employees do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional regarding your individual situation. Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

2022-132044  20240101