Is it time to change your health and wellbeing strategy?
Two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, rapid changes have continuously reshaped our work and impacted our health and wellbeing.
Attitudes about life and work are not the same as they were before. So, at this point in the pandemic, does it still make sense to revise your health and wellbeing strategy? And what are other organisations doing?
In 2021, Optum surveyed 352 large employers around the world to understand how the pandemic continues to impact health and wellbeing (H&W) strategy.1 Optum also surveyed 608 employees at companies that offer H&W programmes to capture a broader perspective.2
Programming for both virtual and onsite support
At some point during the pandemic, 96% of companies implemented a “work from home” policy. Now, many companies have changed their structure to accommodate remote work indefinitely. Employees want to keep that option, with 92% of remote workers reporting they want to maintain or increase how often they work from home.
Three in four employers made pandemic-related changes to their H&W strategy in 2021 (compared to 83% in 2020), many to accommodate remote workers. The top changes include:
- Virtual health promotion
- Virtual stress reduction sessions
- Virtual fitness offerings
- Telehealth services
- Virtual Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) counselling
It’s important to note that virtual stress reduction activities have increased in popularity. This change makes total sense, given how long the pandemic has lingered.
Health promotion coordinators managing virtual and onsite programming can ensure their organisations deliver H&W options consistently to all employees, regardless of work environment.
As some employees return onsite, companies are also exploring ways to better support them. Twenty-seven percent of employers added an onsite EAP for returning workers.
Building a culture of health ownership
Before the pandemic, 63% of companies believed building a culture of health ownership was important; now, 74% do. However, only one in three consumers say their employer has established a culture of health ownership. The increase in remote working makes it even more challenging to establish that health culture.
Virtual health promotion and programming offers one solution. Online and video outreach can help establish a culture of health ownership among those working offsite and contribute to their overall wellbeing.
What employees are asking for
Only 55% of employees express satisfaction with current H&W offerings. Respondents were given the opportunity to share in their own words what their employer could do to increase their satisfaction. Over and over, employees said they wanted more programmes, and in particular, respondents called out the need for mental health support. As one respondent put it: “The [company’s] most important asset is the human being; therefore, you must provide alternatives to achieve good physical and mental health.”
When asked what programmes they would likely use if offered by their company, on-site/worksite fitness centers and financial wellbeing programmes tied for most popular. Employees also want H&W programmes extended to their families; 67% felt it was extremely or very important. Specific offerings employees wanted to share included flu shots, disease management, health risk assessments and an H&W website.
Is it too late to make changes now?
Four out of five employers who haven’t yet changed their strategy are considering it — are you one of them? With COVID-19 variants and fluctuating vaccination rates worldwide, now is a good time to re-evaluate your H&W strategy. Having onsite EAP support in addition to expanded virtual support can help employees as they transition back to the office or adapt to a long-term remote routine.
Optum can help. Learn more at optum.com/globalemployers.
- Optum 2021 International Employer Wellness in the Workplace Benchmark Study
- Optum 2021 International Employee Wellness in the Workplace Benchmark Study
About the Author
Natasha Laing, General Manager, Optum International. Natasha Laing leads the Optum International EAP and Wellbeing business that spans a portfolio of integrated health solutions, including our global Employee Assistance Programme. In this role, Natasha is responsible for delivering wellbeing solutions across international markets, helping ensure that employers have high-quality programmes regardless of where their employees are located around the world. Natasha brings her extensive experience in business operations, strategic planning and management consulting, along with a passion for emotional health and wellbeing. She earned her M.S. from Rush University and her B.S. from Miami University. Natasha lives in Minnesota with her husband and twin boys.