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Why Achieving Whole-Person Health Must Include Financial Wellbeing

Cheryl Larson

President and CEO, Midwest Business Group on Health

While employers have long invested in traditional health benefits, many are missing a critical component needed for a happy, healthy, and productive workforce: financial wellbeing.

According to a study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 85 percent of Americans are anxious about their financial situation, and that anxiety interferes with work. As a result, we’re seeing innovative employers focusing their benefits around whole-person health to address not only the physical, but financial and social aspects as well.

The whole 365

When employees have the resources to manage their physical health and financial situation, they are better able to focus on their work responsibilities. As a result, employers benefit from increased performance and profitability, improved employee satisfaction and retention, and a bigger return on their benefits investment.

So, what can an employer do to achieve whole-person health for its workforce?

Monitor the financial stress of employees: Incorporate financial wellbeing questions into an annual health risk assessment questionnaire and conduct an annual engagement survey to dig deeper and better understand the root cause of financial stress for an employee population.

Consider employee demographics when deciding what financial wellbeing support/programs to offer: For example, consider the various life stages of your workforce. Young parents, those that are caregivers for an aging parent, and employees from different generations will have different values, wants, and needs. Life status also plays a key role such as a single parent who may struggle more with financial wellbeing than a two-income family.

Incorporate financial wellbeing programs into overall year-round programs and messaging: Offer programs that focus on whole-person wellbeing that includes retirement savings and loan repayment benefits. Through open enrollment communications, allow employees to have choice regarding the benefit options that will best fit their needs such as the ability to pick a health plan, reduce debt, and save for the future. Get creative on ways to include financial wellbeing as part of your overall health management communication strategy such as connecting health plan selection with annual household budget planning, offering a cooking class with strategies to eat healthy on a budget, and including education on low-cost fitness options as part of your next weight management program.

Today’s low-unemployment environment is driving employers to take a more holistic approach to the wellness programs and benefits they provide. Not only are employers seeing the value of this whole-person approach through health and productivity improvements, but this strategy also helps to retain quality employees; an important element of an employer’s recruitment strategy.

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