Employee health and well-being
The benefits of a healthy workplace and strategies to consider to help get you there
Employee health is about more than the physical. It’s about social, community, financial, and career factors that influence their overall wellness—and how they interconnect.
For example, if a person is in chronic pain, it may impact their ability to do their job well. This can cause stress about job performance which affects their mental health and makes their brain more reactive to pain.
If they cannot afford physical therapy co-pays, their condition may go untreated and progress. The effect on their mobility can make it difficult to engage in things that give them joy and connect them with others.
A holistic approach to employee health aligns with a truth that often seems absent in conversations about an employee benefit: A person is a sum of all of their parts.
Filling the void of absent employees is increasingly difficult with worker shortages.
Retention and recruitment are more challenging as the workforce puts more value on being a part of a workplace that nurtures them and better accommodates their personal needs.
Healthcare costs just continue to rise.
Solutions to all of this and more have a common root: better employee health.
This article goes over what employee health is, the benefits of a healthy workplace and healthy employees, and strategies to improve your employees' health.
What is employee health?
Employee health is defined as the physical and mental health of the employees in an organization, and all of the facets that influence them.
Gallup, with the help of economists, psychologists, and other scientists, conducted research on exactly what makes up a person’s well-being. These are the five essential components they identified:
Physical well-being: Being in good health and having enough energy is crucial for employees to do their jobs and live their lives outside of work.
Social well-being: Strong, supportive, and loving relationships foster good mental health and overall wellness.
Community well-being: The same is true for a sense of engagement and belonging where they live and work.
Career well-being: People want to feel engaged with their work and that it has meaning. This gives them a sense of optimism, self-esteem, and accomplishment. Career well-being also means that they have support from their co-workers and managers, and have the tools they need to do their jobs.
Financial well-being: People need to feel secure and that they have enough money to tend to their basic needs in the present and plan for their future.
As you can see in the examples above, when one falters, there can be a domino effect that impacts an employee’s overall wellness. And while some of these may not seem like areas that a person’s work has a place or interest concerning themselves with, the more areas an employee thrives in the better they are all around.
How well are employees? Only 53% of U.S. workers say they have a high level of well-being, according to a 2022 workforce and well-being survey conducted by Alight.
Benefits of a healthy workplace and healthy employees
When you invest in the health of your employees, your business benefits in several ways:
Reduced absenteeism: Happy, healthy employees are more likely to be engaged employees. And in a poll, also performed by Gallup, teams who scored in the top 20% in engagement had a 41% reduction in absenteeism.
Reduced attrition: Employees who are happier at their jobs are far less likely to leave them, meaning less company turnover. In addition, this same poll found that the top 20% most engaged teams also had 59% less turnover.
Better production and performance: Happy, healthy workers are 13% more productive than their peers reporting a lower level of wellness.
Improved work culture: Employees who feel their company cares about them will have a better view of their job—and when their peers feel that way too, it leads to a powerfully positive work culture.
Increased work satisfaction: In addition, when workers feel valued by their company, it helps increase their feelings of self-worth and their satisfaction with the job.
Better safety in the workplace: According to a study in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, workers who expressed more satisfaction at their jobs had a more positive perception of the company's safety and were more committed to safety management. They also had lower rates of accident involvement.
Reduced healthcare costs: Healthier employees also spend less money on health care. A systematic review of 56 studies of workplace health programs found that well-implemented initiatives can lead to a 25% savings on healthcare costs.
Attraction of candidates: Today’s candidates simply have higher expectations of how an employer should contribute to their well-being. When you make employee health a priority, word spreads, and it can be a major factor in attracting new talent.
Companies with strong employee health programs outperform others on the stock market, according to research reviewed in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Charting a path to better employee health
There are many things you can do as an organization to help foster better employee health and wellness. Here are just a few suggestions:
Communicate that employee health is a core priority of your company, both to managers and staff at large.
Train and educate your employees on how to do their jobs safely.
Encourage workers to participate in their safety and health programs, and provide positive reinforcement when they do.
Monitor the workplace for safety issues, and take steps to prevent hazards.
Evaluate the highest medical claims to see if there is a gap in care that needs addressing.
Seek input from exit interviews and employee surveys to identify challenges to employee health that they, themselves, want to highlight.
Review and bolster your company policies and benefits portfolio to ensure they are adequately addressing all elements of employee health.
Considering new employee health solutions? What to ask
An employee health program is only as good as the engagement with it. When looking at a potential offering, consider the following factors which can influence adoption and adherence:
Does the program take a holistic approach to total wellness? As discussed, health issues seldom occur in a silo. Therefore, a multi-pronged approach is often more effective.
Is this program easily accessible to your employees? Even the best program isn’t going to be utilized by many employees if it isn’t practical for them. Look for programs, such as digital care options, that offer employees the ability to improve their health at convenient times and locations.
Is it easy for employees to start the program and use it? When there are several logistical and technical hoops to jump through, it’s easy to quit before you even begin. Look for simple onboarding and set-up.
Can the program be customized for individual employees? If you’re looking to help employees with long-term behavior changes or managing chronic conditions, their needs will likely evolve. Investigate whether a program can be customized based on employees’ real-time feedback and changing health status.
2024 Employee Health Trends In planning for 2024, companies are preparing for rising healthcare costs while staying focused on attraction and retention:
64% will enhance their health and well-being offerings in 2024
59% plan to invest in mental or emotional wellness
44% intend to invest in financial wellness
43% will invest in health benefits
43% plan to invest in physical wellness
Source: Mercer 2023 Total Rewards and Recognition Survey
Employee wellness initiatives: Concrete examples
Employee health efforts can take many forms. The key is making sure that what you choose to do, in aggregate, caters to as many of the factors that influence employee health as possible.
Here are a few starter ideas:
1. Invest in standing desks for employees who want them, and encourage them to take desk breaks to stretch and move around to support physical well-being. Provide programs that can help them with high-impact health concerns, like depression or musculoskeletal (MSK) pain.
2. Consider starting a mentoring program, forming an intramural company soccer team, hosting a company-wide trivia event, or setting up a team scavenger hunt to encourage better social well-being.
3. Organize volunteering days at a local non-profit, showcase employees’ photos throughout the office (with permission), or form additional affinity groups to help employees realize they are an important part of a greater community.
4. Work with employees to set goals that not only help the business, but their career desires. Be transparent about exactly how every level of the business contributes to its success.
5. Invite speakers to run a workshop on budget planning, reducing debt, or saving for retirement. You can also invest in financial wellness tools to provide personalized coaching and e-learning for employees.
How Hinge Health can help you
Joint or muscle pain touches virtually every area of your business. Sufferers are less productive and more likely to be absent or prone to presenteeism. And with rates of new chronic pain cases soaring, already-high related healthcare costs will only continue to grow.
Hinge Health is a clinically complete MSK care approach that keeps members engaged. For everything from minor sprains to chronic pain, our care team uses advanced technology to manage member pain and remove barriers to recovery.
Studies demonstrate that our powerful, clinically validated digital MSK solution yields positive long-term outcomes and claims reductions.
There are many health issues you can’t have much of an impact on.
This isn’t one of them.
Let’s talk about how we can get to work for you.
Traditional MSK Care Is Falling Short
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Engaging Employees in Their Health and Wellness.
Jones LK, Jones JW. Career Well-Being: Defined and Strengthened. National Career Development Association.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.
Orchard, C. The Business Benefits of a Healthy Workforce. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Executive and Continuing Professional Education.
Vulpen E van. Employee health (and why it matters to HR). AIHR.