Perks to Help your Employees Stay Well
Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD
Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo is a Licensed Practicing Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Master's degree in Physical Therapy, and the authority on how to crush your inner critic so that you can live a life of purpose, fulfillment and True Success™. She’s America’s most trusted celebrity psychologist with over 100 national media interviews. She writes for Combined Insurance in an effort to help educate readers, but her medical opinions and advice are for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for visiting your doctor.
Did you know that stress causes or worsens 90% of all illnesses1? With stress levels at an all-time high for many, now is a great time to focus on how to help your employees be and stay well.
Over the past few years, companies have come to realize the power of investing in mental health. In fact, 88% of U.S. companies2 are investing more in mental health, notably on stress-management and resilience resources.
Is it worth it?
While you want what’s best for your employees, you may be asking yourself, “What’s in it for the company?” Well, it turns out – a lot. There is data to support the powerful benefits of offering employee well-being programs—physical, behavioral, social or financial—through work. These include:
- Improvements in health behaviors: including eating better, exercising more and smoking less.
- Reduced health risks: Changes in these behaviors can lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which can decrease the chance of suffering a cardiovascular event.3
- Reduced healthcare costs: Research shows that for every $1 you spend on wellness programs, there is a $3.27 savings due to reduced healthcare costs.4
- Lower rates of absenteeism: Employees with better physical health (e.g., healthy weight and blood pressure), those who practice better health behaviors and those who can better control their stress all have decreased absenteeism rates. In fact, a study out of Harvard found the ROI of wellness programs when it comes to absenteeism is a $2.73 savings for every dollar invested.5
- Increased productivity: While absenteeism means your employees are not at work (even remote work), presenteeism refers to team members being at work but not actually doing their work. Presenteeism due to contributors like poor emotional and physical health costs companies two to three times more than direct healthcare costs.6 Wellness programs can reduce presenteeism and boost productivity.
- Improved recruitment: One survey found 87% of employees7 said they consider health and well-being offerings when choosing an employer. Another found 48% of employees8 would consider company benefits and perks, including just offering snacks, in their decision to find their next job.
- Boost retention: When team members feel appreciated and supported, they are less likely to leave. In fact, 50% of employees9 report they would leave their job for better employee benefits. What’s more, 60% of employees say benefits are very important for their loyalty.10
- Enhanced morale: Wellness programs communicate “We care about you,” which can enhance employee morale and engagement, leading to greater productivity.
One study found 80% of employees want perks or benefits more than they want a pay raise!11
What perks are you going to offer?
Before offering new wellness programs, get a baseline assessment regarding where your employees are regarding their overall health—think beyond just physical and mental health to social and financial health— as well as what benefits they want. Also consider where your employees are located. Given that remote work is here to stay, you want to consider how perks are disseminated.
With the change in times, this is a great time to reconsider past programs offered to your employees to assess what they really need or could benefit from now. This goes beyond “basics” like health insurance, parental leave, sick leave, vacation time.
Here are some options to consider, depending on your office culture and environment, when it comes to company-offered benefits to help employees stay well:
- PTO: Paid time off is a key opportunity for employers. Whether it be for mental health days, sick days, vacations, a day off for birthdays or time off for childcare activities, PTO can help boost employee mental and physical well-being. But make sure employees feel encouraged to take their PTO and that leaders model the same.
- Flexible hours: Especially important during remote learning school for children, offering flexible hours can help anyone: parents whose children are in day camps over the summer, “children” taking care of parents or just people who are strong “morning lovers” or “night owls.”
- Personal finance assistance: Retirement plans, student loan assistance, courses on investing can help reduce stress associated with finances.
- Flexibility with work location: Many people enjoyed at least some components of working from home over the pandemic. Offer your team members options on return to work, including hybrid situations where they are sometimes in the office and sometimes remote. The flexibility sends a message that says, “We trust and respect you,” which can help boost engagement.
- Bring your dog to work day(s): Pets can have an amazing ability to decrease stress and boost happiness. Permitting and even encouraging employees to bring their dogs in on certain days can help boost pet owners’ and colleagues’ morale.
- Performance bonus: Rather than giving a financial reward, offering time off for hard work and achievements can be a great way to boost emotional well-being.
- Recognition gifts: As we have explored in previous articles, rewarding positive behaviors can help increase the likelihood that they will be repeated, as well as help employees feel appreciated.
- Day-Care: Onsight day-care, reimbursement for childcare and/or paid parental time off can help parents reduce stress so they can be more productive when at work.
- Offer a comprehensive benefits package: Think beyond traditional healthcare insurance, and consider offering optional supplemental insurance employees can choose to fit their needs and lifestyle.
- Vaccines: Offering on-site vaccines (for COVID, flu, whatever else might pop up in the future) is a great way to help your team members be healthy.
- Free meals: Whether it is delivering lunch to their home for those who work remotely or having food at the office, offering delicious and nutritious meals can help boost emotional and physical well-being.
- Workout options: Gym memberships (or even discounts on them), in-office yoga classes and/or on-line exercise routines can help enhance employee mental and physical health.
- Invest in fun: At work, this could mean a ping-pong or pool table, happy hour together or social clubs (like chess or a book club). You can invest in remote team members’ fun by having online cooking classes, trivia night, happy hour or a movie view party.
- Virtual healthcare: Provide telemedicine options for physical health and mental health visits for your employees and their families. This will help reduce stress of how to get needed medical attention for your team members and the stress they feel for their family.
- Ergonomic assistance: While this has been a focus for many in the past at work, assisting employees in optimal work accommodations is also important in the office and at home. A course presenting keyways to set up a desk/computer, blue light screens to help dampen the effects of computer glare on employees’ eyes or offering supportive chairs are all options.
- Community service: Research overwhelmingly shows that volunteering can boost happiness. Encourage service projects during work hours with full pay to incentivize team members to participate. In the book, “The Happiness Advantage” author Shawn Achor stated that a company with happy employees could increase their sales by 37%, and productivity by 31%, which directly contributes toward building a high-performance work environment and improves the quality of life for all people involved with the work.12
- Tickets: Tickets to a local show, movie, or even a flight for a vacation can help enhance mental well-being.
- Offer classes: Classes on meditation, exercise, stress management or getting out of the Red Zone can all benefit your employees’ emotional well-being. Create a lunch and learn where you have speakers provide a presentation over Zoom on topics of interest to your ream. You may also consider watching videos such as inspiring TED talks or FAN interviews (both free resources) to help boost mental well-being.
- Personal growth programs: Investing in your employees’ personal growth through a speaker series, book club, encouraging hobbies or reimbursement for classes.
How do you know what programs are best? Ask your employees what they want. And consider offering team members the opportunity to choose from different options, such as a standing desk, gym membership or monthly massage.
Make sure to consider…
It is vital to note that merely offering these benefits will not result in the desired transformations. Culture is of utmost importance to ensure that employees are actually using the services and programs you provide.
As an example, one company trained all its employees in a particular type of meditation that calls for two daily practices for 20 minutes each. At this company, team members typically worked 10-12 hour days. After being trained, however, management shunned employees from taking time out of their workday to practice their meditation. The result? Not only did most team members not implement the mediation they learned, but they also developed resentment towards the company with a sense that the company cared more about looking good than being invested in their mental and physical well-being.
As such, make sure that management is not only open to team members engaging in your programs, but also encourages them to participate.
One study found how pivotal culture can be.13 “In supportive organizations (those that favored work-life balance and where employees felt safe to share their struggles), the incidence of mental health issues dropped by 40%, and workers there felt almost twice as likely to be able to cope with the everyday stresses of work.
A survey by Great Places to Work14 of workers during the COVID crisis found that, more than perks, what employees want right now are the following:
(1) Mutual trust between leadership and workers
(2) A culture focusing on “we’re all in this together,”
(3) Emotional wellness
(4) Commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity.
So, regardless of what programs you offer your employees, consider how you are creating a culture that encompasses these key variables.
Ready to make some changes?
A Combined Insurance agent can help you look over your benefits package and suggest additional options for your employees. Fill out this form, and an agent will contact you to answer any questions you may have about supplemental insurance, coverage options, and provide you with a quote.
1- Stress Management for the Health of It. NASD. (n.d.). https://nasdonline.org/1445/d001245/stress-management-for-the-health-of-it.html.
2- Strong, N. (2021, January 4). 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report. https://blog.wellable.co/2021-employee-wellness-industry-trends-report.
3- Story, C. (2020, March 29). What’s the Connection Between High Blood Cholesterol and Hypertension? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cholesterol/treating-with-statins/hypertension#1.
4- Rossi, A. (Ed.). (2010). Wellness programs on the rise. Biotechnology healthcare. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873731/#:~:text=A%20meta%2Danalysis%20of%20the,%241%20spent%20(Baicker%202010).
5- Baicker, Katherine, David Cutler, Zirui Song. Health Affairs. Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings. Accessed February 8, 2019.
6- AI;, B. W. N. M. A. W. (n.d.). Pharmaceuticals and worker productivity loss: a critical review of the literature. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12802214/.
7- Employees Place a Premium on Culture of Wellness but Employers Still Struggle to Communicate and Measure the Effectiveness of Programs, According to New Virgin HealthMiles Survey. Employees Place a Premium on Culture of Wellness but Employers Still Struggle to Communicate and Measure the Effectiveness of Programs, According to New Virgin HealthMiles Survey | Business Wire. (2013, June 3). https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130603005303/en/Employees-Place-a-Premium-on-Culture-of-Wellness-but-Employers-Still-Struggle-to-Communicate-and-Measure-the-Effectiveness-of-Programs-According-to-New-Virgin-HealthMiles-Survey.
8- Malcolm, H. (2015, September 16). Study: The key to happiness at work is free snacks. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/09/16/study-says-snacks-affect-happiness-at-work/72259746/.
9- Circle, V. (2021, May 20). Employee Engagement Survey: Everything you need to know. Nurture an Engaged and Satisfied Workforce | Vantage Circle HR Blog. https://blog.vantagecircle.com/employee-engagement-survey/.
10- Importance of Employee Benefits: Increased Focus, Loyalty, & More. Patriot Software. (2021, January 28). https://www.patriotsoftware.com/blog/payroll/why-are-employee-benefits-important-purpose/#:~:text
11- Fractl. (2020, June 10). Employee Benefits Study: The Cost and Value of Employee Perks. Fractl. https://www.frac.tl/employee-benefits-study/#:~:text=Fifty%2Dseven%20percent%20of%20people,they%20want%20a%20pay%20raise.
12- Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work.
13- Accenture. (n.d.). It's Not 1 in 4 it's All of Us: Why Supporting the Mental Health of Younger Workers Starts with Organisational Culture . Accenture. Why Supporting the Mental Health of Younger Workers Starts with Organisational Culture .
14- Work, G. P. to. (n.d.). It's Time to Rethink Job Perks for a Post Pandemic World. Great Place to Work®. https://www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/it-s-time-to-rethink-job-perks-for-a-post-pandemic-world.