Holistic Wellness: Why It Matters Now


Life happens. Things happen every day that we rarely give a second thought to as we go about our daily routines.

High impact life events are another story. Not only do they disrupt our daily routine, but they can stop us dead in our tracks and affect every aspect of our lives: physically, emotionally, financially and even socially. Even planning for an expected event can seem to be overwhelming and disruptive.

When a high impact life event happens to an employee, the effects can ripple throughout the workplace. The distractions of the event can cause performance issues, absenteeism and presenteeism. Supervisors and HR traditionally have dealt with these issues through corrective actions, up to and including termination of employment. But changing workforce dynamics show us why employers need to reevaluate these strategies.

New generations impacting change

This low unemployment rate coupled with the generational demands of the millennial and Generation Z workforce create multiple challenges for attracting and retaining quality workers, including:

  • Technology providing instantaneous, multi-directional, and up-to-date information including apps for benefits and access to work files to maintaining contact with co-workers and supervisors;

  • Work-life balance, expanding outside of the traditional workplace. Employees are searching for jobs that offer the four pillars of holistic wellness as well as opportunities that are supportive of developing work ethics.

Salary and benefits do not seem to have the same draw that they used to for attracting top talent. A recent Korn-Ferry employer study found that today company culture is the first draw for candidates. The second attraction for a candidate is career progression, or the ability to move up in the company. The compensation package—which used to be first—is now third place in a candidate’s list of priorities.

Turnover has increased nearly 35 percent and employees are averaging four years at a given company, as reported by a recent Willis Towers and Watson study. According to the Conference Board 2016 Job Satisfaction Survey, only 50 percent of U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs. The survey findings state “the rapidly declining unemployment rate, combined with increased hiring, job openings, and quits, signals a seller’s market, where the employer demand for workers is growing faster than the available supply.”

U.S. unemployment, according to Bureau of Labor Standards stats

With the tight labor market and new generations in the workforce, the C-suite should be asking HR what they can do to remain relevant, attract top talent, and keep employees at the organization.

Over the past several years, insurance brokers and consultants have transformed their business models because they recognize the issues their clients face are often not within a silo but are in fact intertwined with other aspects of the business. Activities related to compliance are integrated with time-and-attendance systems, payroll systems, reporting and disclosure documents, and so on.

Challenges to address

The ability to manage employee risk is challenged by the ability of the employer to recognize the expensive, yet fractured benefits systems. The employer has costs that are independent of one another. Attempting to bring solutions across various expense lanes is a challenge. For example, a client might implement a disease management program across its employee benefit program. As a result, costs in worker’s compensation, disability programs, or leave of absence programs related to Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA) claims could ultimately rise.

Without strong strategic coordination, inefficiency in scaling solutions across the different buckets of cost is created. The current health-related approaches to address costs in the employee benefit programs are focusing on unit prices, or the supply side of the equation. For example, reforming the health delivery system, such as direct contracting strategies, quality score cards that are shared, narrow efficient networks, and on-site clinics, or reforming the health insurance financing system, which is what the Affordable Care Act attempted to do, are examples of a strategy that attempts to address the cost issues in healthcare through supply side management.

But there is recognition that equal amounts of time and attention should address the demand side of the equation. How does a client bring consumerism techniques to its employees, empowering them to be informed and making individual strategic decisions about their health care? The challenge is that employers need to think differently about the components of their strategy if they want to achieve a successful outcome.

This is where the concept of a total wellness approach is gaining momentum.

There have been individual elements of a holistic strategy that have made in-roads into the conversation brokers are now having with their clients. Concepts such as financial wellness (which is the current headline gaining momentum from rising student loan debt), physical wellness (the traditional wellness program with the benefit plan), emotional wellness (employee assistance programs) and social wellness (team building, corporate volunteerism) are all approaches that are focused on providing support to the employee.

The safety net

Employers have been implementing these strategies individually tailored or siloed. The missing ingredient is the integration and coordination of the programs — a sort of safety net that wraps around the employee.

Why should these wellness components be implemented as an integrated approach? Taking a holistic approach will enable employers to meet the specific needs of their employees at the time of need, not based upon a perceived need and time assumed by the employer.

Every employer desires to build a sustainable business with a great culture that attracts and retains great employees. To do so, it is important employers focus on and execute, a holistic wellness program. Doing so will bring balance and harmony towards achieving a lasting and sustainable workplace. Our team is happy to offer solutions that your company can implement easily, call us at 616-233-9050 to start the conversation.

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