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Employee Wellness Makeover for 2019

Existing and new trends in companies' employee wellness programs will gain more traction this year, testing human resources departments' ability to deliver.

One emerging trend centers on employers' ability to create a holistic program that encompasses the physical, mental and emotional well-being of their employees. Furthermore, the trend focuses on finding a way to help workers realize what matters most in their lives, says Joyce Young, managing director for the High Health Network. So reports Workforce.

It is not enough, for example, to just screen for a specific illness to sufficiently measure an employee's well-being. "We need to provide the techniques and methods for the everyday person who's not seeking treatment to be able to build their capacity and strength in the mental, emotional and purpose in life directions," Young notes.

Tapping technology to help oversee wellness programs and to better engage with employees to support and encourage good behavior is important. However, it will not be easy, says Cecile Alper-Leroux, vice president of human capital management innovation at Ultimate Software.

Employers who are successful in fostering workplaces that take care of workers' total wellness needs will see employees who want to stay and do their best, Alper-Leroux says. It also means those who fail will have a tough time keeping the top talent.

On-site health centers also may become more prevalent this year, says Michael Huang, national medical director of Marathon Health. Last year, 33% of companies employing 5,000 or more had a general medical clinic either on location or near the workplace, an increase from 24% in 2012, according to Mercer's 2018 Worksite Medical Clinics Survey. And, 66% of those clinics have medical doctors on staff, up from 52% in 2015.

"Actions employers are taking now to build a culture of health include providing healthy food choices in cafeterias and meetings (63%), prohibiting smoking on the work campus (57%), providing onsite fitness facilities (33%), offering resources to support financial health (54%), and a range of technology-based resources to engage employees in caring for their health and fitness (54%)--all of these are ways to visibly reinforce good health habits," Mercer notes.

Apple and Tesla are among some Silicon giants that have opened up onsite health centers, Huang tells Workforce. Companies with these workplace centers reported "returns of 1.5 times or higher" last year, he says.

"By inserting the health system into the existing workplace, physicians are better able to forge lasting relationships with patients through face-to-face, personalized interactions," Huang says. "This individualized care encourages regular visits to the health center, allowing employers to better track health trends, and improvement on those trends, by an employee population."

An employee's well-being may have less to do with their medical history or specific physical condition, such as weight, and more to do with socio-economic status, education or even where they live, says Pamela Berger, director of health and wellness solutions at Aetna International.

In the case of expats who are on work assignments away from their extended family and friends, for instance, employers should collaborate with health insurers that provide more than medical benefits, Berger notes. This includes supporting the health and wellness of the expat's immediate family.

"Expats on assignment are educated individuals who aren't struggling as much with economic conditions, so different social determinants influence expats," she says. "As such organizations with international teams and globally mobile employees will need a different focus for corporate well-being, one that is focused on chronic condition management as well as mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression."

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