A better place to work: How well-being impacts the bottom line

Did you know: One in 10 employers are skeptical about the value of well-being programs. Health challenges, near stagnant wages, financial stress and more can take a personal toll on your employees, causing their stress levels to rise. Read this blog post to learn more.


Logically, employees bring their “whole selves” to work. Unfortunately, health challenges, relatively stagnant wages, heightened financial pressures, always-on technology and contentious geo-political climates around the world all take a personal toll on employees in the form of rising stress.

Employers recognize that the health and well-being of their workers is vital to engagement, performance and productivity, yet one in ten are skeptical about the value of well-being programs. But by learning from peers’ experiences, employers can take steps to help employees improve their well-being through access to related programs and services. And that contributes strongly to the overall success of the organization.

Survey says

According to the 252 global employers polled in the Working Well: A Global Survey of Workforce Wellbeing Strategies, building a culture of well-being is a higher priority than ever. Fully 40 percent of organizations believe they’ve actually achieved it, up from 33 percent in our 2016 survey. Of those who have not, another 81 percent are making plans to get there.

Top priorities for wellness programs in North America were to reduce stress and boost physical activity. Stress is a bottom-line issue for employers: 96 percent identified employee stress as the biggest challenge to a productive workforce.

Closely related priorities were improving nutrition and work-life issues, addressing depression and anxiety, and getting better access to health care services. On the latter, discussion with many employers confirms this includes sufficient access to mental and behavioral health providers—directly related to the top challenge of stress and its more serious potential debilitative consequences that can include anxiety, depression, addiction and more.

Health

The most frequently offered employee health benefits which respondents also assessed as most effective included the following:

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs): By far the most frequent program, offered by 86 percent of global employers and 96 percent of US respondents. About 7 in 10 of those who offer an EAP said it’s effective in achieving their objectives, although actual experience reveals a wish that many more employees would take full advantage of EAP services. Know your numbers assessments, including health screenings and health risk appraisals, rose in prevalence globally and were considered effective by 86 percent of respondents.
  • On-site care: While smaller numbers of employers offer on-site immunizations, delivery of medical care, or fitness centers, they were still rated at just over 80 percent effective – demonstrating that convenience and access can remove barriers and enhance results.
  • Flexible working policies: These rose in prevalence over our last survey, consistent with other research demonstrating that multiple generations prize work flexibility to enable balance and help manage life’s stressors.
  • Wearables: Sensors and trackers also rose in prevalence. Globally, two-thirds of respondents credited them with effectiveness in monitoring and perhaps motivating healthy activities.

The survey also found health literacy is required to engage and drive behavioral change, and employers need targeted solutions to build it.

Finances

Validated by other research, a majority of employees live paycheck to paycheck today. Of US respondents, 87 percent reported financial distress among employees (the global average was 83 percent). Employers cited negative bottom-line results from financial stress, such as lower morale and engagement, delayed retirement and lower productivity, among other detrimental impacts. Other studies show financially stressed employees spend three hours or more each week distracted by it.

In prior years, this survey showed a top focus on saving for retirement; now, non-retirement-related objectives are rapidly catching up as priorities. It’s hard to focus on retirement when current needs are pressing. As a result, well over 7 in 10 employers also seek ways to ensure adequate insurance protection, help in saving for other future needs, better handling day-to-day expenses, reducing debt, and having emergency savings.

ROI vs. VOI

Just under half of respondents have specific, measurable goals or targets and outcomes for their well-being programs overall. But measurement is tricky, and 45 percent of respondents noted a lack of resources to support measurement as the top barrier to metrics. Nevertheless, only 8 percent perceived “no measurable return.”

Of those measuring the health care cost impact, 54 percent reported their programs were reducing trend by 2 to 5 percentage points per year. Financial well-being ratings were more challenging, with only 4 percent globally saying they have objective data to demonstrate their financial well-being program effectiveness.

Concurrently, many placed their bets on technology tools to inform program design and outreach: 84 percent rated predictive analytics as effective in helping to support well-being, even if just over a quarter offer it today—another half plan to do so in the next 2 to 3 years.

A value-of-investment priority emerges from the data. Employers intuitively pursue programs that build goodwill by providing helpful resources. The top four objectives globally focused on engagement and morale, performance and productivity, attraction and retention, and overall, enhancing the total rewards offering while managing spend. While reducing health care costs was the top objective for the US, it was fifth globally. Other objectives linked the organization’s image or brand and values and mission—if the company has a message to external customers, it needs to “walk the talk” internally with employees.

Holistic strategy

Compared to prior surveys, employers continue to explore new ways to support well-being, in response to employee and business needs. The historically stronger emphasis on health-related well-being continues, but financial well-being efforts are on the rise. For the US/Canada, the recent fast-rising program elements have been spiritual well-being (67 percent), retirement financial security and preparedness (57 percent), social connectedness (57 percent), and financial literacy/skills (63 percent).

In total, survey responses suggest employers understand that these well-being issues are interconnected and cannot be effectively addressed in isolation without a more holistic strategy and delivery solutions.

That’s where value of investment comes in, acknowledging that enhancing physical and emotional, financial, social, and other aspects of employee well-being can help make the organization a better place to work.

SOURCE: Hunt, R. (11 April 2019) "A better place to work: How well-being impacts the bottom line" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2019/04/11/a-better-place-to-work-how-well-being-impacts-the-bottom-line/


Wellness Programs Benefit Employers, Employees

Original post benefitspro.com

Offering employee wellness programs isn’t just an exercise in altruism for employers. It pays off where most companies would value it most: the bottom line.

According to Forbes, companies are jumping on the wellness program bandwagon right and left, to varying degrees. In fact, Society for Human Resource Management statistics indicate that in 2015, 80 percent of employers offered preventive wellness resources and educational information, with 70 percent providing full strategic wellness programs.

But while companies are happy that such programs pay off in healthier employees — 59 percent of employers offering such programs believe they’ve resulted in improved worker health — those programs also pay off in ways that have more to do with the balance sheet than the scales.

The cost of wellness programs is nothing to be sneezed at, but on the other hand, employees involved in them often shift their diets to healthier foods, quit smoking, have a better mental outlook on life, and watch the pounds come off through diet and exercise. That means they’re less likely to have to take so much advantage of company-provided health plans, if they’re reducing or eliminating some of the risk factors that could send them to the doctor more often.

Healthy employees might exercise more and weigh less, but they’re also more engaged, and thus more productive. Better health can also keep them on the job longer, with better results and better job satisfaction. They’re less stressed, miss fewer days at work and don’t look for a new job as often; all those things add up to an 8 percent improvement in productivity.

All of that can translate, for most programs, to dollars and cents: a return on investment of approximately 3:1. It can, however, go as high as 6:1, thanks to reduced health care costs that result when workers are eating better, exercising more, and forestalling some of the conditions that can result in mega health care bills — and equally mega premiums.


OSHA launches heat safety phone app

Source: http://www.wave3.com
By Joey Brown

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The extreme heat can be a work hazard for some people, and for that reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a mobile phone app to help keep workers safe.

The OSHA Heat Safety tool provides vital safety information whenever and wherever it is needed on workers' mobile phones.

The app allows workers and their supervisors to calculate the heat index for their work site and displays a risk level to outdoor workers. It also issues reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect against heat-related illnesses.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for the safety and health of their workers, including conditions that could lead to heat-related illness.

To get the free smart phone app, search for "OSHA Heat Safety Tool" at the App Store.

 


How can company policies prevent injury?

Source: http://www.riskandinsurance.com

Implementing, enforcing policies can improve bottom line, study suggests

Prescription drug abuse, texting, and falls by older adults are among the emerging injury threats cited in a new study. It suggests policymakers and others implement and enforce policies to reduce preventable injuries.

More than $400 billion is spent annually in lifetime costs for medical care and lost productivity resulting from injuries. While the report focuses on steps states can take to prevent injuries, the recommendations are also appropriate for employers trying to reduce workers' comp costs and improve their bottom lines.

Injuries are the third-leading cause of deaths nationally, according to the researchers. Among the most common types are:

  • Falls. "More than eight million Americans suffer falls that require medical attention each year," it says. One in three people age 65 and older experiences a fall annually, and falls are the leading cause of injury deaths in adults over 65 years of age. Falls can be reduced "by as much as half" among participants involved in exercise programs.
  • Violence. Injuries caused by intimate partners alone cause more than 2,000 deaths a year. Nearly three in 10 women and one in 10 men have experienced physical violence, rape, or stalking by a partner.
  • Misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. The report notes the dramatic increase in the past decade, saying prescription painkillers are responsible for approximately 15,000 deaths and 475,000 emergency room visits a year.

For employers, injuries mean lost productivity as well as increased workers' comp and health care costs. Adults between the ages of 25 and 44 comprise 30 percent of the U.S. population but account for 44 percent of injury-related productivity losses.

Overall, businesses lose $326 billion in productivity annually due to injuries. Motor vehicle and other road-related accidents are responsible for $75 billion of the total while falls account for $54 billion, and struck by or against costs $37 billion.

"Many injuries are predictable, preventable and controllable," according to the study. "For instance, researchers found that seat belts can greatly reduce the harm caused to individuals in motor vehicle crashes."

The study, The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, cites research showing seat belts saved an estimated 69,000 lives between 2006 and 2010. However, 18 states do not have primary seat belt laws.

Thirty-one states do not require helmets for all motorcycle riders, although research says they saved an estimated 8,000 lives from 2005 to 2009.

The researchers ranked the states in terms of their injury prevention efforts based on 10 key indicators. They included whether the state has enacted a prescription drug monitoring program, whether it has a primary seat belt law, and whether it requires a helmet for all motorcycle riders.

California and New York received the highest score while Montana and Ohio netted the lowest.

"Millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based prevention policies and if programs were fully implemented and enforced," the report says.

"We could dramatically bring down rates of injuries from motor vehicles, assaults, falls, fires and a range of other risks even more if more states adopted, enforced and implemented proven policies," said Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance. Hers was one of several groups that teamed up with the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the study.

 


Employers fail at measuring wellness program ROI

BY AMANDA MCGRORY

As health care costs continue to rise, employers are on the lookout for ways to reduce spending, and wellness programs are becoming an increasingly popular solution. While research has shown that wellness programs can reduce costs, many employers are failing to measure their return on investment to get an accurate picture of how these programs impact the bottom line, says LuAnn Heinen, vice president at the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit dedicated to representing large employers’ perspectives on national health policy issues in Washington, D.C.

“It’s important for everyone to look at what they’re spending on wellness per employee and look at that as a percentage of what they’re spending on health care,” Heinen says. “Most employers keep their wellness program investments small – only 2 percent of less of claim costs. There’s a body of evidence in different employer settings and over a number of years that suggests there is a return on investment of $2-3 per every dollar invested. When looking at these figures, a lot of companies might find that they’re underinvesting in wellness and prevention.”

Despite the importance of measuring ROI on wellness programs, it can be a struggle for employers because of the various components, Heinen says. Employees are coming and going, coverage policies could change, new insurance carriers take over – there are so many revolving factors in an employer’s reality that getting a real read of wellness programs can be difficult.

“We have a messy real world,” Heinen says. “The bottom line is you can try to collect and study a lot of data to determine the return on investment, but for all kinds of reasons out of your control, you don’t end up with valid information.”

Although measuring ROI is challenging, that’s not a reason for employers to give up, Heinen says. Instead, Heinen recommends that an employer divides its employee population into two groups: participants and nonparticipants. Between those two groups, an employer can look at the difference in claims over time. However, there are some problems with that approach.

“It’s easier to participate in wellness if you’re healthy, so maybe that person would have cost less anyway,” Heinen says. “Just because you participated in wellness doesn’t mean it was because of the wellness program that those people cost less, but at least you know there’s an association between people in the wellness program who tend to be lower cost, and it can give you that confidence that the more people participating in wellness, the better for your trend.”

An employer can also measure ROI by matching a participating employee to a nonparticipating employee who both represent similar demographics, Heinen says. For instance, an employer can take a nonsmoking 35-year-old woman following the wellness program and compare her claims to another nonsmoking 35-year-old woman who is not participating. These similar demographics do a better job of painting the true claims picture.

“It wouldn’t be a good comparison if all the employees participating were 25 and all the employees not participating were 45,” Heinen says “You want to match based on key demographics that drive costs and then you have a better chance of seeing the differences in the cost profiles is the wellness program and not their age or their smoking status or something else.”

Employers should keep in mind that calculating the success or failures of a wellness program takes time, Heinen adds. Considering the revolving workplace and the time and effort it takes for implementation, employers should give their wellness programs two to three years before they relying on the data.

“It takes a while to get enough people to participate, and then it also takes time to get information on their experiences and make changes,” Heinen says. “You really need at least two years.”