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Employees Are Demanding Wellness Benefits. Employers Should Listen

Employees are fighting for workplace wellness like never before. But their demands are going far beyond healthy snacks, standing desks, fitness challenges, and other physical health amenities.

Faced with increasing amounts of stress, a growing number of employees are looking for help with mental and financial health struggles, and smart employers are taking note, experts say.

The time is now

“Financial insecurity and mental health challenges are top distractors, and [they’re] more likely to impact work performance and productivity than physical health problems,” says LuAnn Heinen, vice president of wellbeing and workforce strategy at the National Business Group on Health. “Addressing [those] issues in wellbeing strategies is becoming a high priority, and we fully expect this trend to expand in the coming years.”

Roughly one in three employees say they would like their employers to provide more assistance to improve their financial health, while more than a quarter would like additional support for mental health, including ways to cope with burnout, according to NBGH research. 

Stress and distress

Financial stress, in particular, is rampant in the workplace, experts say, and it is taking a toll not just on employees’ health—it can result in everything from depression and anxiety to ulcers and heart issues—but on employers, too. Employees with money issues typically suffer from presenteeism and absenteeism and are less productive, which in turn costs American businesses $500 billion per year, according to research from Salary Finance.

Those dire statistics are prompting employers to help employees budget, manage money, and tackle debt, as well as cope with stress.

A good thing? 

A hot job market also is contributing to the shift in employers’ focus, as they might risk losing talent if they don’t address the demands for more comprehensive wellness benefits.“For many employees, financial stress isn’t just challenging; it’s not just difficult; it’s the No. 1 stressor in their life,” Robert Stewart, HR administrator at Brigham Young University of Idaho, said recently at an industry conference. “If I’m having a hard time paying my bills … I’m going to view how you’re taking care of me as an employee. If you’re not, I’m more likely to leave.”

Kathryn Mayer, Health & Benefits Editor, Human Resource Executive® Magazine, [email protected]

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