It’s a New Day for Employee Well-Being Options

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Perceptions of personal and community health and well-being have shifted dramatically since World Health Day 2020. For one thing, people are more aware of their personal health and the impact their decisions have on the broader community. And the options available for addressing health needs have transformed, possibly permanently.

This shift has necessitated a change in the way employers think about health and well-being benefits. To keep up with the evolving reality, employers must consider what their employees want, what they need, and how to most effectively and efficiently deliver benefits that make sense for this new era. Here are a few considerations to help employers create benefits that serve their full employee population this year and into the future.

Think Beyond the Gym

The COVID-19 pandemic hit gyms and fitness centers hard. Public health-related closures and uncertainty about working out in crowded spaces combined to cost the health club industry an estimated $13.9 billion from mid-March through August 31, 2020. Furthermore, with 83% of trainers saying they will work primarily online after the pandemic and 59% of Americans planning to let their gym memberships lapse after COVID-19, there is reason to believe behavior changes driven by the pandemic will linger long into the future.

Some of those changes may be related to concerns about health, but there is also evidence that Americans have simply discovered a more convenient, personalized way to exercise. Consider that as gyms closed, 40% of Americans were motivated to exercise at home for the first time. Perhaps more significantly, 66% say they prefer home workouts to the gym.

All of this suggests that Americans are interested in options and flexibility when it comes to staying active. As a result, employers that previously relied on gym reimbursements to support well-being will have to find new ways to engage employees in health and fitness. Doing so will require a solution that offers high-quality content users can complete from the comfort of home, enough variety to appeal to users with diverse interests and ability levels, and a clear progression that encourages individuals to continually challenge themselves and up the ante on their performance. Even better, there should be options for the entire family, allowing parents and children to motivate each other by working out together.

Mental Health Matters

COVID-19 has taken a toll on emotional and mental well-being, as well. Adjusting to work-at-home schedules, balancing work and home schooling, and simply navigating the uncertainty of life during a global pandemic are hard. Perhaps it’s no surprise that 41.1% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder in January 2021—up from 11% in the period from January to June 2019. This trend is even more pronounced among working adults, with 56.2% of adults aged 18–24 and 48.9% of adults aged 25–49 reporting such symptoms.

For employers that are committed to addressing the full scope of their employees’ well-being, this is a serious concern because poor mental health can also affect job performance and productivity, reduce engagement with work, and impact communication with coworkers. All told, depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

Employers have responded by enhancing mental and emotional health benefits. Fortunately, the options for providing mental health services have expanded in recent years. For example, telemental health visits were up 79% for men and 75% for women from January to October last year, and use of meditation and mindfulness apps has boomed in recent years. By encouraging employees to complete mindfulness exercises, take yoga classes, or focus on stretching, employers help employees reduce stress and focus on the task at hand, making them happier, more focused, and more productive….

Source: HR Daily Advisor

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