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Industry Experts Weigh In on the Route to Engaged Employees

C-suite executives from a number of industries weigh in on the best ways to create an engaging and healthy workplace – and difficult realities involved.

Dr. Christine Miranda

Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer, Psocratic

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

The culture of the organization plays an integral role to both; however, they are often perceived and treated as two distinct concepts. When employees feel cared for, recognized, and supported in their work they are motivated to perform better. If employers reinforce this by demonstrating their active support of employees’ health and happiness through employee-centered programming, accolades, resources, perks, and in office philosophy, employees will feel good AND be more connected to their workplace. They are parts of a whole.

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

With mind-body practices such as yoga and meditation becoming more mainstream, there is a wider acceptance that wellbeing pertains to overall health encompassing various parts of the self, i.e. physical, mental, and emotional states. Exercise is just as important as cultivating a mindset that encourages focus and resilience; they are not separate but work in tandem. If this perspective was normalized, the approach individuals take to manage their health would be different.

What is the biggest obstacle companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

There is a discrepancy between messages supporting employee wellness and engagement, and what occurs in practice within workplace settings to meaningfully reinforce it. That’s not to say the right intention is not there. If anything it speaks to the delicate balance that must be struck for both the employee and the organization to thrive.

Paul Gordon

Senior Vice President, Sales, Rymax Marketing Services Inc.

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

The overall intention of trying to reduce health-related absenteeism, increase employee productivity and reduce high health premiums is very positive. The execution of the program needs to take into consideration all types of employees, realistic measurement criteria and the concerns about privacy of the participants. Communication vehicles need to be used via the company’s intranet and the progress and goal constantly reinforced. Communication of the program is critical.

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

Work lifestyle improvements in the office that lead to healthier employees. Gaiam balance ball chairs for back support and spinal alignment. Standing desks. Healthy snacks in the machines. Employee discounts on fitness and outdoor equipment. Flexible work hours. Companies can create a very effective program if they make it rewards based and inclusive for everyone. Human behavior is very hard to alter so make the goals realistic and the rewards worth the effort. Don’t create a heavy handed program but rather enhancements to the work environment that produces results.

What is the biggest obstacle company’s face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

The biggest obstacle is overcoming the reaction most people have to being engaged in something that they feel is being forced upon them. Yes everyone will admit that they could lose a few pounds, exercise more and quit smoking, but creating what some might see as a program to meet corporate health benchmarks often has a kneejerk negative rejection. Improve the work environment and you will improve the employee wellness.

Dr. Ann D. Clark

CEO and Founder, ACI Specialty Benefits

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

With advances in technology and greater acceptance of work-life flexibility, the only constant is change. Accommodating employees through mobile apps and user-friendly technology will increase productivity despite changes. Be prepared to provide convenient, 24/7 access to services and resources, and proactive program promotion to reach diverse employee groups. 

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

In addition to the emotional wellness resources offered through benefits such as EAP, one trend

helping to combat constant change is the expansion of work-life convenience services. Concierge benefits such as errand running, rewards programs and personal assistance can reduce employee stress, boost productivity and increase employee loyalty. 

What is the biggest obstacle company’s face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

The biggest obstacle companies face is budget and allocation across departments to meet workforce needs that have arisen over the past decade. Whether it’s pet-friendly policies, strategic benefit planning or proactive communication, companies must expand benefits beyond health, vision and dental to more creative approaches supporting recruitment, retention and performance.

Meera Oliva

Chief Marketing Officer, Gradifi

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

With today’s diverse and multi-generational workforce, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee wellness and engagement. The challenge lies in creating wellness programs that offer meaningful benefits on an individual level but that are also inclusive and engage employees across the organization.

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

Employers are increasingly introducing choice into their benefits and wellness programs, allowing employees to engage in the areas that are meaningful to them. For example, Financial Wellness programs can have components around managing student debt for younger employees and saving for a child’s college education for older employees.

What is the biggest obstacle companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

The biggest challenge is in how you measure results. Companies should first identify the key metrics they are trying to impact, and then design programs that will drive change. Understanding what you want to measure and how you will measure it will allow you to benchmark and read results quickly.

Setphany Verstraete

Chief Marketing Officer, Teladoc

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

Driving behavior change is a major challenge facing employee benefits programs. When we aim to engage employees, we’re actually seeking to change their engrained behaviors, which, in our case means shifting how they access medical care to overcome the well-worn habit of going to a brick & mortar location for every care need.

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

With smartphones in the hands of 90% of adults under the age of 65, consumers are increasingly comfortable using mobile devices to manage their health journey. This trend significantly expands our ability to engage employees with subtle reminders of their benefits, while providing an experience that aligns with consumers’ lifestyle and expectations of 24/7 availability.

What is the biggest obstacle companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

Raising employee awareness stands as one of biggest barriers to adoption, with 90% of employees not fully understanding their health benefits. To overcome this, employers should select partners that shoulder the responsibility of driving benefit program utilization. By developing customized engagement programs that mix digital communications with non-digital touchpoints, employers can grow benefit utilization and improve employee satisfaction.

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

Until recently, there’s been a missing link in employee wellness: sleep.  Sleep deprivation impacts the success of other programs such as fitness and nutrition, and compromises employee engagement because people are exhausted.  Supporting a culture of well-rested employees with sleep initiatives supports the wellness platform, energizing the workforce so they can and will engage in other programming. 

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

Recent research and news are sparking a growing paradigm shift for employers to recognize that good sleep is essential to employee performance, safety, health, and well-being, not to mention the negative impact of sleep deprivation and untreated sleep disorders on health care costs and the bottom line.

What is the biggest obstacle companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

The CDC calls sleep deprivation a public health crisis. 76% of Americans want to improve their sleep. Might it be that employees are just too tired to engage in employee wellness? Offering sleep programming for the entire workforce, along with resources for sleep disorder diagnosis/treatment for those risk, presents an opportunity and an ROI: from increases in productivity and safety, to a decrease in health care costs. Further supporting sleep initiatives is the recognition that a company’s investment in talent acquisition and professional development is compromised when an employee is chronically sleep deprived and not functioning optimally.

Anne Marie Kirby

Founder and CEO, CoreHealth Technologies

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

One of the major challenges is getting senior management to buy into the benefits of wellness programs. Business decisions are typically driven by ROI but with wellness, much likely occupational health and safety, measuring something that didn’t happen is a challenge.

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

People are starting to look at the bigger picture such as how companies that invest in their culture and the well-being of their employees are performing better overall – see Mercer research.

What is the biggest obstacle companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

Providing a way for the wellness team to show results and keep the attention of senior management while moving their well-being programs forward to the level required to show ROI. This is an innovation opportunity that leading technology companies, such as CoreHealth, are actively working to provide solutions.

Laurel Taylor

Founder and Driving Force Behind FutureFuel.io

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?  

Student debt is the primary source of financial stress for 70% of our graduates today. How can employees focus on wellness when their financial lives begin in a state of dis-ease?  Student loan debt is a significant blocker to both the fiscal and physical health of our emerging workforce.

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

Student debt centric benefits are becoming more prevalent in employer-sponsored benefits packages.  Employers are offering a range of perks and benefits to offer relief where employees most need it most, from offering access to refinancing to financial management of loans to monthly flat rate contributions to the loans of employees.

What is the biggest obstacle companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

Engagement is a response to an authentic expression of investment and alignment. When employees feel heard and valued, they lean in. The personalization of pay and optionality in benefits is an important step toward meeting employees as unique individuals with unique needs.

Stefan Sharma

President, MedPut

What do you feel to be one of the major challenges impacting employee wellness and engagement?

A major challenge impacting employee wellness and engagement is available bandwidth to deal with challenging situations.  The fact is, many US households are financially stressed with limited savings built up.  It’s easy to advise to expect the unexpected, but for many an unplanned expense will initiate a vicious financial cycle.  

What is one industry trend that is helping to combat the challenge you just mentioned?

We’ve definitely seen a shift toward taking a more holistic approach to employee wellness.  It’s no secret that financial stress impacts productivity.  Linking financial stress to its structural, root causes, such as healthcare affordability, instead of blaming employees really solves several problems.  

What is the biggest obstacle companies face when trying to improve workplace wellness and employee engagement?

Utilization is a major challenge for companies trying to improve wellness and engagement.  Employers can make all the right moves but breaking employee habits is really hard.  We think the forward-thinking employers in this area are targeting one or a handful of employee pain points, and capturing their attention.

Staff, [email protected]

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