Keeping employees healthy and happy at work is about more than just ensuring that they have the medical care they need. It’s also about fostering a commitment to personal well-being that will help employees make better life decisions, miss less work and be more productive on the job.
Employers cannot afford to overlook the well-being of their employees. Out of the total annual estimated costs of poor worker health, 70% is comprised of indirect costs from productivity problems such as absenteeism, presenteeism and poor engagement, with the rest attributed to direct health costs such as medical care and prescription drugs, according to a 2004 study by Cornell University’s Institute for Health and Productivity Studies. The hundreds of billions of dollars lost every year have driven companies to focus on well-being, but even companies with wellness programs aren’t all seeing the desired results.
Through a more integrated employer group wellness model focusing on company well-being assessments, personal coaching, and employee assistance and work-life programs, Humana is showing that a smarter investment in employer group wellness pays dividends for the healthy futures of companies and their workers.
Promoting employer group wellness starts with determining what areas need improving. That’s where the Humana Well-Being Index® comes in. Through employee self-assessments, data analytics and modeling, Humana can deliver comprehensive reports, using an easily understood well-being index, that give organizational leaders a good grasp on how employee wellness could be made better.
The Well-Being Index acknowledges that employee health is not just about physical health, but about emotional and spiritual health as well. And health is just one of the four pillars of well-being under the Humana strategy. Employees’ sense of purpose, belonging and security also play major roles in determining whether they are well. The report might indicate to company leadership that factors such as stress and anxiety, feelings of financial insecurity or confusion about company resources might be much more of a drain on the company than direct medical costs.
Humana found that a one-point difference (on a five-point scale) in how an employee views his or her vocation, emotional health or financial health can impact physical health as much, if not more, as a one-point difference in a more traditional health factor, such as body mass index. Three questions from the Humana Well-Being Assessment can predict health care costs just as accurately as or more accurately than traditional health factors. And a one-point improvement in physical health for an employee translates into $1,300 in annual cost avoidance without even taking into account the costs of the sickest workers, a 2014 University of Michigan study found.
Post-assessment consultations with employers give companies actionable items that can help employees achieve better well-being. The results for a company might suggest that an employer work-life assistance program could help address stress levels, or that a financial services series could help address workers’ money troubles, or that a fitness fair could help motivate employees struggling to lose weight. No two companies will have exactly the same set of employee well-being problems, but customized assessment and consultation can move any company toward the same overall wellness goal.
Not all employees will be able to achieve better well-being all on their own. That’s why a major element of Humana’s employer group well-being strategy is personal health and life coaching. Health coaching focuses on modifiable health risks such as smoking, stress or low activity levels. Life coaching focuses on other issues with which people might need help, such as parenting, money management and achieving work-life balance.
Whatever the help that a particular employee needs, Humana’s coaching follows a tried and true strategy. Communications with employees are customized according to individual needs and preferences. Coaches don’t tell people what they must do, they help them figure out what goals they want to achieve and then help them take the incremental steps needed to get there. All along the way, the process relies on positive psychology that builds on a person’s strengths and successes—and shows them just how their lives can be better with positive changes.
The positive results of Humana’s coaching efforts are clear for both companies and their workers. Nearly half of participants receiving weight management assistance lowered their body mass indexes, and a third of tobacco cessation program participants were able to quit. Employer groups saved an average of $156 per month for every employee they had who was actively engaged in the coaching process, according to self-reported data.
The concept of work-life balance involves prioritizing both career and personal responsibilities. Humana understands that in practice, however, the boundary between work and life often is blurred, and many employees struggle to find—and maintain—a good balance.
Employees who are distracted by or busy dealing with personal concerns are not able to focus fully on their professional responsibilities during the workday. Over time, such difficulty in striking a work-life balance can create a cycle of stress that helps lead to or exacerbate physical health problems, ranging from headaches and backaches to more serious conditions, such as heart disease.
Ignoring the stresses of employees' lives outside of work has real costs. Job stress is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $300 billion per year—money lost due to a wide range of reasons, including absence, turnover, legal judgments and direct medical expenses, the American Institute of Stress found in 2014. Companies offering flexible work arrangements that include part-time schedules and telecommuting options can help some employees balance work and personal demands. But Humana understands that some employers want to go a step further to help workers find new approaches to balance the components of work, home, community and self.
That’s where Humana’s Employee Assistance and Work-Life Programs (EAP/Work-Life) come in. EAP consultants work with employees to address their issues and also can refer them to community services, further counseling, and other employer-sponsored benefits—always taking into account the employees’ preferences, needs, and health coverage. Work-Life specialists carry out research on all types of daily-life needs, and they provide guidance and customized referrals, saving employees and their household members time, effort, and stress.
A company offering services that help employees solve their problems quickly helps stave off stress and allow workers to refocus on the tasks at hand during the workday. At an employer level, Humana’s EAP/Work-Life services help increase productivity and reduce absenteeism, and as a result, boost the employer’s bottom line.
Unfortunately, too many employer wellness programs don’t work the way they should or don’t demonstrate that companies are dedicated to their workers’ well-being. Humana’s strategic approach to employer group well-being demonstrates that with a smarter design, actionable data and targeted resources, companies and their employees don’t need to keep paying such a steep price.