What’s the number one challenge employers face in creating and implementing workplace health programs and how can it be addressed?
Thordarson: The most daunting challenge is often the sheer amount of time and effort it takes to create a comprehensive well-being program that’s engaging and impactful year-round. Too often, programs are set up simply as an annual event, which doesn’t allow for true change and growth. We’ve found that it’s most important to engage employees when and where they are. To have the most impact, it needs to be convenient for them. We use technology they may already own—a mobile phone app or website log-in—that can be linked to show progress toward their personal goals. We’re now bringing this expertise to employers in the communities we serve. Such a partnership enables proven results with limited time and budget for the employer in creating a culture of well-being.
Kunst: Strategy. I’d say the number one key in creating a successful well-being program is making sure the program is designed for that specific workforce. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, an employer must first understand its workforce by reviewing past insurance claims data, employee surveys and health assessments to select well-being programs that address their employees’ most common health challenges. Then, the employer can outline short- and long-term objectives, budgets and expected outcomes.
Burke: The toughest challenge can be to find a cost-effective beneficial partner who will work with you to customize your program to meet the needs of your staff and business. Once you have your customized program, rolling this out to get staff buy-in and participation can be a daunting task, as it takes a lot of effort and the willingness to change. Introducing a new health and wellness program is intimidating at first. It’s important to be consistent, focus on what employees really want to enhance or change and continue to be positive and show the benefits.
Siddiqi: Caring for the whole person and not just a disease is fundamental to managing population health. We’ve implemented innovative solutions to address these important social needs, such as a partnership with technology company NowPow to connect patients with community-based organizations that can address unmet social needs such as safe housing, nutritious food, transportation and stable employment.
What’s been the biggest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far on workplace health?
Kunst: Stress levels have been rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the numerous disruptions in our daily lives. The American Psychological Association reported back in 2020 that we’re facing a national mental health crisis. And it’s not just adults who are feeling it. The report also revealed that our children are experiencing elevated stress. We provide members access to mental health support where they are including in-person, over the phone and digitally through services such as Sanvello.
Thordarson: Amidst the growing need for supporting physical and mental health there’s been a noticeable shift in how mental health is perceived. “It’s OK to not be OK,” is heard often and widely. This awakening has opened the door to powerful conversations and there’s less stigma in reaching out for help. From the very start of the pandemic, our medical and spiritual professionals went to work supporting our associates and physicians. Our behavioral health experts continue to run confidential virtual support groups several times weekly to care for our caregivers.
Siddiqi: The COVID-19 pandemic aimed a spotlight on the connection between …….