Identifying Employee Wellness Program Gaps To Support Whole-Person Health

Jan 06,2022

Read Time 4 Minutes

A few years ago, a typical employee wellness program might have encouraged employees to exercise more or quit smoking. Those initiatives offered crucial support that met employee needs at the time, but in today’s quickly evolving healthcare landscape, they don't make enough of an impact.

With an increased focus on employees' overall health — not just urgent physical health needs — companies today need to drastically rework their wellness programs to go beyond short-term initiatives to achieve holistic, meaningful support. Employers must connect healthcare in a new way, using real-time connections, integrated solutions, and a personalized, simplified experience to proactively provide care for employees' wellness needs — whatever they may be.



Fill Wellness Program Gaps To Increase Value And Improve Outcomes


Traditional corporate wellness programs often have gaps that impact their ability to truly help employees. In one recent survey from Willis Towers Watson, just 29% of employers say their wellbeing programs have been effective at supporting employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half (54%) of respondents report rising stress or burnout as the biggest wellness challenge of the moment, and 40% cite higher mental health-related claims as a top challenge.


With 53% of human resources (HR) decision-makers at self-funded large companies (5,000 or more employees) planning to increase their investments in health and wellness benefits going into 2022, according to MOBE's 2021 Workplace Wellness Action Index, those benefits must align with employees' current and future needs and encourage more engagement with program benefits and initiatives.



Recognize That Flexibility Is The New Norm For Employee Wellness


Organizations may already have employee assistance programs (EAPs) in place, but they likely need to be updated to meet the needs of today’s employees. One way is by adding virtual care options that support the increase in remote work and recent telehealth services. With the gap in mental health support brought to the forefront during this time, companies now realize they need to deepen and broaden their efforts to meet individual employees at all stages in their lives.


That said, mental health is not the only wellness aspect that concerns employees. They worry about work/life balance, such as advancing their careers while taking care of family members. Employees worry about financial stability and family relationships. Others have difficulty in social situations or require support from individuals who can empathize with their unique challenges (e.g., a therapist who is part of the LGBTQ+ community).


Although the pandemic may have increased the pressures on employees, these concerns transcend the current moment. Stressors are likely to change again as employees navigate returning to the office or managing a hybrid work environment. Employees will face new challenges, even positive ones such as new job responsibilities, new family members, or job relocation. Adaptability is the new norm, and employees recognize that they must manage their wellbeing in a changing world for the long term.


This continued uncertainty makes employee wellness programs more essential than ever. However, to help employees thrive, companies must make sure their employee wellness program gives their employees what they need — not just what's included in a packaged benefits deal.



Designing An Evolving, Transformative Corporate Wellness Program


Today's programs must be flexible to support employees' wellbeing at every moment of their health. Companies looking to design a transformative employee wellness program should start with these steps.


1. Understand Your Employees' Needs


Business leaders may think they know what employee wellness programs should include, and there are certainly some common gaps as the Willis Towers Watson report found. Still, every organization and individual is different.


To head in the right direction for your company, you should check in with your employees using a variety of mediums (online pulse surveys, virtual town halls, one-on-one check-ins, anonymous surveys, etc.) to guide the way and ensure you're offering benefits that your employees actually value.


2. Fill Existing Gaps First


Once your employees’ needs are clear, take a look at current wellness program offerings for any unmet concerns. Review turnover data, feedback from managers, and employee resource groups to identify areas where your employees need support and what your wellness programs need to offer. For example, are people having difficulty working productively at home while also providing full-time childcare? Are employees having difficulty managing personal finances or making necessary purchases, such as buying the car they need to commute?


When you accurately understand your employee issues, you can implement programs that ease those burdens and help your employees thrive.


3. Take A Holistic View Of Healthcare


Wellness isn't an isolated concept. An employee's wellbeing connects to their mental, physical, financial, and social wellness. Keeping that in mind, wellness programs must take a holistic view of the employee to address all of those facets. With an integrated, whole-person care approach, actionable data is consolidated and shared among doctors and other healthcare professionals so they can better diagnose and treat patients, detect coverage gaps, and guide employees toward prevention and care management.


Holistic wellness programs provide multiple benefits for both your employees and your company, including:

  • Increasing proactive employee engagement in wellbeing programs

  • Lowering healthcare costs

  • Improving health outcomes

  • Simplifying your company’s benefits portfolios

  • Delivering better employee healthcare experiences


An employee wellness offering that connects pharmacy, dental, vision, disability, absence management, EAP, and supplemental health plan data to the employer's health management system helps providers offer more personalized care while helping businesses control costs, increase value, and improve outcomes.


Employee healthcare needs and expectations will continue to evolve. As they do, employers who identify gaps in their wellness programs and reinvent their culture with a whole-person approach can create a healthier, more productive, and more engaged workforce.