Nontraditional Wellness Benefits Improved Firm’s Engagement and Retention

Also, it's wise to help those with chronic conditions to keep taking their medications

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Oct 23, 2017
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Nontraditional approaches to promoting employee wellness can improve work attendance and on-the-job performance, according to Crystal Frey, SHRM-SCP, vice president of HR at Continental Realty Corp. (CRC) in Baltimore.

"One of the things that employers can do is to offer nontraditional benefits to help employees manage their health," noted Frey, who participated in a panel discussion on innovative health care approaches held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4 and sponsored by The Hill, a publication covering government and public policy.

Frey's company, CRC, has had success with nontraditional wellness benefits, she noted. For instance, with one-third of its employees working in sedentary jobs, "CRC's employees can complete a 30-day list of wellness challenges in order to receive a standing desk, if they choose," Frey pointed out. Other health and well-being activities include meditating for five minutes a day and participating in team walks.

"About half of eligible employees in desk jobs have participated in this program and now use standing desks that help to get them up and moving," Frey said.

Other innovative programs CRC offers its employees include:

  • Providing Fitbits to employees who complete at least one of the voluntary wellness programs that the company hosts quarterly. "To date, approximately 60 percent of our employees have received Fitbits," Frey said.
  • Holding health fairs where employee benefit vendors educate workers on wellness topics. "This year's fair included a five-minute guided meditation station, along with an impairment station where employees wear impairment goggles while walking through a simulated living room to illustrate the impact of alcohol or drug impairment on motor skills and perception," Frey said.
  • Providing fruit and other healthy snacks to employees throughout the year.

"We don't have to offer these benefits, but we do because they work well for our employees and help us attract and retain the best people," Frey said.

"Our average tenure is over seven years with an 80 percent retention rate, while the industry average is about 65 percent to 70 percent," Frey said. "We have also been recognized as a Top Workplace by The Baltimore Sun for the past four years, an award that is based solely on employee survey results."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Designing and Managing Wellness Programs]

Improving Medication Adherence

Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) can help design interventions to ensure that employees with chronic conditions are taking the appropriate medications at the lowest possible cost, said Keith Reynolds, vice president of enterprise health plans at CVS Health, during the panel discussion.

To help manage diabetes, for example, a PBM can make sure that employees are filling their prescriptions and know when during the day to take their medications. "We can reinforce medication adherence over time with counseling, by linking those with chronic conditions with a health care coach," Reynolds said.

Reynolds advised making sure that people are taking medications at the lowest possible cost, choosing generic drugs when possible or an equally effective but lower-priced branded product if a generic isn't available.

Plan sponsors also can manage their prescription drug formulary, which details cost-sharing tiers for specific medications.

"Managed formulary clients spent $89 per [drug plan] member per month, compared to clients that did not manage a formulary, who spent $113 per member per month," Reynolds said.

"Design your formularies around drugs found to be most effective, and provide higher coverage to drugs that deliver the most value to patients, with better quality outcomes," he advised.

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