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Wellness Strategies Employers Are Using Now: Here’s the Latest

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Wellness Strategies Employers Are Using Now: Here’s the Latest

Wellness

Effective wellness strategies for employees are always top of mind for savvy HR pros.

The challenge of implementing effective wellness strategies has been amplified as many employers grapple with the tension between return-to-office mandates and employees who have latched on to the idea that working remotely is a permanent change to the way that work should get done.

How are employers administering wellness benefits in this new era?

Report shows wellness strategies

Wellable’s seventh annual Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report provides some valuable insights about wellness strategies.

The report aptly describes what it calls a “tug-of-war between employers advocating for a return to the office and employees resisting the departure from remote work.”

Wellness collected data from health insurance brokers to distill best practices for employers as they navigate the challenge of administering wellness benefits in the current business environment.

What are the prevailing investment trends when it comes to wellness strategies? What factors are most important when it comes to decision-making? How are employers evaluating wellness vendors?

The Wellness report dives into these questions.

Let’s take a closer look at the report’s findings.

Mental health takes center stage

Last year, the report says, mental and financial well-being benefits were the most popular solutions for employers.

It adds that financial wellness has now taken a back seat to mental health, with organizations taking a “holistic and flexible” approach to providing benefits in this area.

A majority of the companies Wellness surveyed said they are increasing investment in the following specific areas (percentages are percentages of companies investing more in 2024):

  • Mental health (91%)
  • Telemedicine (66%)
  • Lifestyle spending account (65%)
  • Stress management/resilience (55%)
  • Mindfulness/meditation (52%).

These figures show that organizations that are not investing more in these areas are in the minority – and when it comes to mental health benefits, that minority is very small.

Mental health benefits play an important role in enhancing productivity, satisfaction and overall well-being, the report notes. They are particularly important in light of the lingering effects of the pandemic, it adds.

AI enters the picture

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are having an impact everywhere – and believe it or not, they are even playing a role with respect to the provision of wellness benefits.

How, you ask?

The Wellness report refers to an Oracle survey that found an astounding 68% of people would prefer to discuss stress and anxiety at work with a robot instead of their manager. In addition, the Oracle survey found that 80% of people would at least be open to the idea of having a robot counselor or therapist.

Wellness says AI-driven therapy tools increase the accessibility of mental health support by:

  • Providing an environment free of judgment
  • Offering a neutral space
  • Providing support on a 24/7 basis
  • Simplifying the process of getting mental health treatment
  • Keeping users accountable, such as by providing regular reminders and suggestions.

What wellness benefits are trending downward?

The Wellness report also describes areas where respondents said they anticipate spending less rather than more when implementing wellness strategies.

Those areas include the following (percentages are employers who will invest less in these areas):

  • On-site fitness classes (59%)
  • Biometric screenings (46%)
  • Free healthy food/stocked kitchens (41%)
  • Health fairs (33%)
  • On-demand fitness classes (32%).

Which criteria influence decisions the most?

Not surprisingly, the rising cost of benefits was the most significant influencer when it comes to making benefits decisions, with 86% of respondents citing costs as a prominent factor.

Other big decision influencers included the following:

  • Creating a competitive benefits plan (64%)
  • Matching employer-employee interests (54%)
  • Measuring ROI from changes to benefits (44%)
  • Macroeconomic conditions (41%)
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion (39%).

How are vendors being selected?

Wellness also asked respondents which criteria played the greatest role when it comes to selecting wellness benefits vendors.

Here are the most prominent factors (percentages indicate respondents who said the criterion was a leading criterion):

  • Pricing (89%)
  • Flexibility and customizability (59%)
  • Customer services (50%)
  • Reporting and measurement (41%)
  • Innovation and technology (29%)
  • Accessibility inclusivity (22%)
  • Domain expertise (12%).

Best practices for employers

Finally, the report recommended the following best practices:

  • Invest in wellness program rewards and incentives
  • Select programs that provide regular and continuous incentives
  • Offer recurring stipends for wellness-oriented expenses, such as by setting up lifestyle spending accounts for employees
  • Incorporate budget-friendly options, such as employee recognition, paid time off and company merchandise.

Take a look at the full Wellness report here.

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