‘Wellness’ Programs Embrace Financial, Emotional Well-Being

Helping employees to manage stress, improve their resiliency and address financial challenges.

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Apr 6, 2016
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More employers are investing in “total well-being” programs that address areas such as financial fitness, stress reduction and emotional resiliency, according to the results of the 7th annual Corporate Health & Well-Being survey.

This year’s survey was fielded from November through December 2015 among business clients of Fidelity Investments and members of the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), which represents large U.S. employees and includes 71 Fortune 100 companies. The findings reveal that predominantly large U.S. employers are adding programs that help employees manage stress, improve their resiliency and assist with their financial challenges. For example, the survey found that:

  • Student loan repayment assistance is being offered by 13 percent of respondents, and another 21 percent are considering adding it in the future.
  • Financial education or counseling is provided by 76 percent.
  • Emotional or mental well-being programs are offered by 87 percent.

When asked about well-being programs in the future, 67 percent of respondents said they planned to expand their efforts.

At chemical firm BASF, with over 15,000 employees in the U.S., “we recognized the unique and important role we could play in helping our employees live a healthier lifestyle and improve their overall well-being,” said Mollie O’Brien, BASF’s director of total rewards. Since its launch in 2012, she noted, “our Healthy YOU wellness program has become a key part of our total offer, and we are seeing strong participation and engagement from employees. Based on this positive response, we are looking at ways to enhance the program in the future—for example, by strengthening our financial wellness offering—to continue to meet the needs of a diverse workforce.”

Help with Stress

Stress management is by far the most popular emotional well-being program offered: 54 percent of large employers currently offer this program and an additional 12 percent are planning to do so in 2017.

Also popular is resiliency training, which helps employees manage setbacks in the workplace or in life outside work: 27 percent of employers offer this program, with another 20 percent planning to do so in 2017.

To help employees manage their financial well-being, almost three-quarters (73 percent) of companies surveyed offer onsite financial seminars, and 59 percent make a financial coach available to employees.

“We are seeing more companies step up their efforts to integrate financial and emotional well-being, social connectedness and job satisfaction with their more traditional efforts to support physical health,” said Brian Marcotte, CEO and president of the Washington, D.C.-based NBGH. These holistic approaches to wellbeing “play an important role in employee engagement,” he added.

“Over the last decade, research has shown that high stress in employee populations has increased dramatically. Because high stress leads to other health and emotional issues, employers are more determined to address stress in the workforce,” said NBGH Vice President LuAnn Heinen. “Improving resiliency/reducing stress is among the top 5 behaviors employers say they are focused on in 2016.”

Changing Incentives

At surveyed companies in 2015, 81 percent of employees were offered wellness programs that included ways to earn incentive rewards, up from 73 percent in 2014.

But as employers expand their programs to include additional elements of well-being, they are moving away from outcomes-based incentives—dependent on achieving certain goals—in favor of incentives awarded for program participation. The number of employers using outcomes-based incentives is expected to drop from 44 percent in 2015 to 24 percent in 2016, the survey revealed.

Millennials Seek Financial Guidance

Just under half of Millennial workers (44 percent) say they want their employer to help them address their financial concerns, a response more than double that of Baby Boomers (20 percent), according to MetLife’s 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, released on April 4.

“Today, Millennials represent the largest share of the American workforce, and by the year 2020 nearly half of workers will be Millennials,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president for group, voluntary and worksite benefits at MetLife. “Millennials—and all employees—are looking to the workplace for guidance and support to achieve financial security.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow me on Twitter.

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