By: Ali Payne, MS, Regional Vice President, North and South Central Region Wellbeing & Engagement Practice Leader; Kathleen Schulz, MS, CHES, Area Vice President, Eastern Region Wellbeing & Engagement Practice Leader; Rebecca Kruske, EdM, Western Region Wellbeing & Engagement Practice Leader


The merits of wellness programs have gradually earned them a place in employee total rewards strategies. In 2015, 42% of employers offered a wellness program of some kind.1 However, there is still a wide gap between organizations that are implementing traditional wellness programs and those that have discovered the value of a total wellbeing approach.

Wellness programs focus primarily on physical health. Wellbeing is a more holistic concept that includes physical, emotional, financial, career and community health dimensions. A total wellbeing program addresses healthcare costs along with employee engagement, productivity, and talent attraction and retention – more strongly supporting efforts to become or remain an employer of choice.

It can be difficult to develop and implement a total wellbeing strategy. Right from the outset, this pursuit requires commitment from leadership, in-depth research and the right data. And, having a true sense of an organization’s starting point is important before developing tailored recommendations.

Once a course of action is determined, a comprehensive communication plan will support employee understanding and participation. Most important of all, a wellbeing strategy requires a culture committed to fostering this type of initiative.


 It’s all about culture

Character and personality define an organization’s culture. These traits make employers unique and are the sum of their values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors and attitudes. Culture, usually determined by senior leaders, will positively or negatively influence the behaviors of their employees – with far-reaching consequences. Employees’ experience of their culture impacts everything including individual wellbeing, work performance, injury rates, employee engagement, productivity, and talent attraction and retention.

With issues around talent and engagement driving three of the top five human resource challenges in 2015,1 the advantages of a positive organizational culture should not be overlooked. A focus on wellbeing and engagement is a clear differentiator in this competitive and pro-employee talent market. Thriving, engaged employees generally cost less in annual healthcare benefits spend, take less time off due to illness and injury, are more likely to be high performers, and are less likely to leave the organization.

The key to becoming an employer of choice often starts with understanding the organization’s unique culture, and then identifying opportunities to help build or strengthen the behaviors that lead to healthy outcomes for employees and the business. By leveraging employee engagement surveys, executive interviews and focus groups, employers can develop targeted action plans to enhance their culture and map the right total wellbeing strategy.



Financial wellbeing is a top concern

Financial wellbeing, one of the five total wellbeing dimensions, continues to grow as a key concern for employers and employees. Financially stressed employees are less productive and engaged compared to those with a healthy financial outlook. And this situation relates directly to an organization’s bottom line.2

For example, financial stress can impact an individual’s physical and mental health by contributing to sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression, headaches and high blood pressure. Higher healthcare costs, increased absenteeism and lower productivity often stem from these conditions. Also, financial stress may indirectly relate to an increase in workers’ compensation claims and costs associated with delayed retirement.

Personal finance is about more than just numbers; it’s about acquiring and applying knowledge through behavior. When employees are equipped with the appropriate tools and resources to budget and plan their savings and investments, financial stress is reduced and financial wellbeing increases. This often leads to a more productive workforce and a healthier organization. When evaluating a total wellbeing approach, it’s important to analyze and identify a scope of financially focused benefits and programs that are best suited to easing employees’ financial concerns.

Onsite clinics: A growing resource for total wellbeing

More employers are looking for effective ways to manage healthcare costs, and onsite clinics are a driving factor in reducing expenses related to productivity and health management. These clinics are growing in popularity because they help create a physically and emotionally supportive culture for employees, which in turn helps to drive an effective total wellbeing strategy.

Where appropriate, onsite healthcare can also decrease lost work time, keeping employees present, engaged and productive. With the right strategy, both small and large employers can offer these opportunities.

Onsite healthcare can be an asset for both employees and their employers in many ways, including:

  • Employee access to coaching or behavioral health specialists
  • Onsite services such as dental care or physical therapy
  • Enhanced opportunity to change workplace culture and drive engagement, by empowering employees to easily and conveniently support their physical and emotional wellbeing

So, how do employers evaluate whether an onsite clinic will work for their organization? Often the process starts by understanding their culture and workforce needs, evaluating logistics such as available space and vendor support, and conducting data analysis and compliance research on the potential challenges.

Overall, total wellbeing continues to grow as an important strategy for enhancing organizational culture to support increased employee engagement and productivity, while driving down cost. Financial wellbeing programs can contribute to lower costs by relieving employee distress over financial concerns, which is often a factor in physical health problems. In addition, onsite healthcare solutions provide a cutting-edge benefit that helps keep employees healthy and productive, empowering the organization to compete as an employer of choice.

1 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., “2015 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey – U.S. National Report,” August 2015
2 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, “The Stock Performance of C. Everett Koop Award Winners Compared With the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index,” January 2016, Volume 58, Issue 1