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Healthy Habits: Encouraging Health-Positive Behaviors in Your Workforce

Health issues can affect an employee’s ability to perform at work, leading to lower productivity, increased sick days and a negative impact on the bottom line. So encouraging employees to be healthier as part of an overall wellbeing strategy makes good business sense. However, individual health is a highly personal and sensitive issue, so how do you make sure every employee feels included and supported in your health benefit programs?


The pandemic changed the world of work forever. Amid the uncertainty, many business leaders were conscious of the importance of emotional wellbeing, as well as supporting their employees’ roles as caregivers at home and promoting a good work-life balance. 

Post-pandemic, North American organizations can continue to build a caring culture by taking a more holistic approach. Encouraging physical activity, educating on preventative care, supporting mental health, providing developmental opportunities, fostering inclusion and influencing financial stability are all ways to help improve employees’ health, build resilience and enhance their productivity and engagement.

In this article, we explore how encouraging health-positive behaviors helps to build a happier, more engaged and resilient workforce. We will also discover how global science and technology firm Danaher’s response to the pandemic has helped them identify ways to promote healthy behaviors in a more diverse and inclusive way. 

With insights from:

  • Amy Broghammer, Health and Welfare Benefits Manager, Danaher
  • Lisa Burt, Vice President, Health Transformation Team, Aon
  • Mike Pasterick, Senior Vice President, Local Practice Leader, Health Solutions, Aon
  • Jim Winkler, Chief Innovation Officer, Aon

 

The top five risks to employee health

COVID-19 drove a rapid shift to a global virtual work environment while creating a new category of essential workers. Blurring the line between home and work significantly affected the emotional wellbeing of employees, so much so that emotional wellbeing issues now make up the top three risks to the physical wellbeing of employees.

 

Adding emotional wellbeing issues to chronic conditions often makes them worse. It is widely documented that people with mental health issues are less likely to seek help for treatable and preventable physical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.

By investing in the health and wellbeing of employees, organizations can help to create a strong, healthy, happy and resilient workforce. In fact, Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey  shows that improving employee wellbeing leads to positive business outcomes in customer satisfaction and retention, employee satisfaction, profits, innovation, and employee turnover.

 

Increase in wellbeing performance

3%

3.5%

 

4%

5%

 

 

4%

Increase in business outcome

1% Customer satisfaction and retention

1% Employee satisfaction

1% Customer acquisition

1% Company profit

1% Commitment to innovation

1% Net promoter score

1% Employee engagement

1% Deceased employee turnover

 

However, it is not just about spending money and rolling out several disparate health apps. To create real resilience the approach must be aligned to the needs of the workforce, well communicated and be within a work environment that allows resilience to thrive.

 

Diverse workforces need diverse health and wellbeing programs

The case for diversity and inclusion in organizations is proven. A Deloitte survey[1] showed diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee, while Gartner[2] found inclusive teams improve team performance by up to 30%[3] in high-diversity environments. Since the success of a diverse workforce is created by the different backgrounds, beliefs and perspectives of its people, it follows that health and wellbeing programs should be tailored to individual need, and not follow a cookie-cutter template.

To achieve this, a flexible, practical approach is required. One where employees are made aware of the benefits available, but are always given the freedom and choice to select the ones best suited to their needs.

 

‘Wellbeing is not something somebody is doing to me. It’s something you’re making available for me to do for myself.’

Jim Winkler, Chief Innovation Officer, Aon

 

This approach is one that Danaher understands very well. As a diverse, multi-skilled organization of almost 30 operating companies, each with their own P&L, a blend of centralized benefits and those that each business adopts independently, is required. This is a constantly evolving task with a number of challenges to success. However, it is one that Danaher is willing to tackle on an ongoing basis.

During COVID-19, the business recognized that the pandemic was adversely affecting its female employees who, as essential workers, were often juggling homeschooling and looking after loved ones while trying to bring their best selves into work. Danaher acted swiftly by introducing Bright Horizons[4], an organization that provides child care to it’s client list of over 1,100 businesses, as an additional benefit.

 

‘We immediately put in Bright Horizons, offering 20 emergency care days for free.’

Amy Broghammer, Health and Welfare Benefits Manager, Danaher

 

Women comprise almost half of Danaher’s workforce, at 40%. As a diverse, inclusive business, Danaher believes these women should not have to choose between a cherished job and the desire to start a family. Which is why its Maven[5] benefit proved very popular during the pandemic, as pregnant associates preferred to use the service on their path to parenthood rather than risk attending in-person prenatal clinics.

 

‘We found that one of our highest take rates of Maven is around fertility. Women who go to school, get PhDs, Master's degrees -- they really invest a lot in their career and may start family planning a little later in life. We need to figure out a better path to parenthood for those associates and we're looking at augmenting some of our fertility benefits in the future.’

Amy Broghammer, Health and Welfare Benefits Manager, Danaher

 

Once a program is up and running, it is just as important to listen to the feedback, to enable the program to be tweaked or adjusted to an emerging need.

 

‘It's important for these programs to be nimble. So there's usually a direction or focus that we have mapped out, but a lot of times, based on new information, we have to pivot to what the need is.’

Mike Pasterick, Senior Vice President, Health Solutions, Aon

 

With the Maven program underway, Danaher gained critical insight into what its employees wanted and pivoted quickly to create a more diverse and inclusive benefit.

 

‘When we met with our LGBTQ and Friends, ARG [Associate Representative Group], we had a same-sex couple start a path to surrogacy with Maven. We had never really gathered information about that. Many of these benefit needs aren't discussed in a public setting, particularly in some of those associate resource groups. We didn't even know that this was a need that people were interested in. Given that interest, we were able to augment a benefit to match our adoption benefit, where we give $10,000 on the completion of an adoption, we now will do the same for surrogacy.’

Amy Broghammer, Health and Welfare Benefits Manager, Danaher

 

Everyone has the right to a private life

An employee's health is their own business. Caring employers will always respect that and should construct benefits programs in such a way to provide easy access to employees without compromising their right to privacy. Digital technologies allow companies to encourage hard to reach employees to access their benefits and embrace health-positive behaviors anonymously.

 

‘We were really worried about those associates needing care and not getting care during the pandemic. We also wanted associates to feel safe getting that care. Often, people don’t know if they should seek emergency or urgent care or just wait it out.  To help answer that question, we established a partnership with a company called Buoy, an online symptom checker that was founded by a Harvard-trained medical doctor. It's done anonymously, you don't need to register and it'll promote some of the Danaher programs or connect you to telemedicine or your particular health plan that you're enrolled in, or if you're not enrolled in one, one that you could use.’

Amy Broghammer, Health and Welfare Benefits Manager, Danaher

 

Telemedicine vendors such as this can make a significant difference to employees’ lives outside of the workplace, which, in turn, contributes to the creation of a healthy, resilient workforce. Danaher has also implemented a digital physical therapy program called SWORD Health allowing its employees to take advantage of physical therapy treatment at times that fit into their schedules.

It also helps employees engage with new initiatives and adopt more health-positive behaviors if they see their leaders taking part too, so senior team members at Danaher are leading by example. By fostering a culture of wellbeing and helping associates improve their lives in and out of the workplace, everyone is able to reach their true potential.  

It is not just the benefits that should be designed with the individual in mind. Not everyone wants to engage purely face to face or solely online, so it is important to provide different resources in different ways, for different populations.

 

‘It’s important that organizations ensure a wide range of wellbeing resources encompassing all dimensions – physical, emotional, social, financial, and work life. By addressing diverse employee needs, employers can meet people where they are at and when they are ready.’

Lisa Burt, Vice President, Health Transformation Team, Aon

 

Keep listening and let data drive your HR program decisions

Whether through employee feedback, focus groups, leadership interviews, surveys, medical data, or usage statistics, it is important to be guided by data when designing or updating employee benefits programs.

 

‘Wellbeing is a journey. It’s never over.’ 

Amy Broghammer, Health and Welfare Benefits Manager, Danaher

 

Introducing an employee assistance-style program is a significant first step, but it is crucial to understand that employees’ needs are constantly evolving. Building on the basic platform over time is very important and the only way to achieve that is to listen.

 

‘Danaher is a huge, data-driven organization, so every solution that we consider, whether for financial wellbeing, women’s health, or clinical-type programs must also be data driven. There is a need identified and recommendation made to move forward with that particular component in mind. It is foundational to who Danaher is as a company, and to how we work together to deliver results for their associates.’

Mike Pasterick, Senior Vice President, Health Solutions, Aon

 

It should also be recognized that, for global organizations, what wellbeing looks like will vary between regions and different cultures.

By continually listening to employees, evolving benefits programs accordingly, modeling health-positive behaviors at a senior level and offering multiple channels for engagement, employers can provide the tools, knowledge and support for employees to adopt health-positive behaviors and manage their individual wellbeing — in a way that suits their schedule, wherever and whenever they may be working.

 

Encouraging health positive behaviors - the next steps for people leaders:

  • Ensure your health and wellbeing processes cater to the needs of diverse workforces.
  • Respect employees’ right to privacy.
  • Provide a healthy work/life balance for all people in all situations.
  • Use data to inform your HR decision making.
  • Continuously evolve your HR programs to meet the wellbeing needs of employees across the world.

 


[1] Why Diversity and Inclusion Has Become a Business Priority

[2] Technologies Are Critical for Inclusion in the Workplace

[3] Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Benefits and Challenges

[4] Bright Horizons

[5] Maven Clinic