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Health Equity is Key to Employee Well-being

A recent e-book released by Virgin Pulse, “3 Trends Driving the Future of Employee Health and Well-being,” examines ways that HR leaders can revamp their workforce health and wellness strategy to reduce costs while enhancing employee satisfaction. The book explains that employee health and wellness is vital to their productivity, safety, business continuity, employer brand, organizational performance, benefits, and healthcare costs.  

Yet, a study from Columbia University finds that executives tend to prioritize talking about customers over their employees, with many believing that customers are “analogous to opportunities,” while employees are analogous to “risks.” While prioritizing customers may help boost revenue in the short-term, it can have a major impact on employee retention and increase long-term costs for the organization.  

As organizations grapple with the lingering impacts of a turbulent economy, HR leaders are under pressure to control costs, improve employee benefits, and maximize the benefits of their top talent. Since employers directly influence the health and well-being of their employees—and since employees spend a significant amount of their time at work—sustainable workforce strategy requires a focus on well-being, Virgin Pulse finds.  

While the link between happy employees and the bottom line is nothing new, the book explains. What is new, however, is the direct link between employee satisfaction and increased revenue.  

Research supports a strong business case for investing in employee wellness, with WTW research finding that companies with effective well-being programs outperform their counterparts in key areas including financial performance, retention, and productivity. Similarly, U.S. companies with higher well-being scores have a superior return on their assets, generate higher profits, and command higher valuations, according to research from Oxford’s Well-being Research Center.  

HR leaders must approach well-being strategy with a long-term view, ensuring that programs align with company goals and can be adapted to evolving workforce needs. Research finds that 71% of HR leaders say they can clearly see a return on investment of their well-being efforts, while 90% of Virgin Pulse members say they are more effective at work.  

Virgin Pulse explores the idea that health equity—the state in which every person has a fair opportunity to attain the highest level of health—is key to the future of work. This means that organizations need to steer clear of a one-size-fits-all approach to employee benefits. By helping each employee in the best way for them, organizations can improve retention and support their surrounding communities.  

The research finds that employers are uniquely positioned to make a major influence on health equity, given that they have a direct impact on healthcare access and affordability, can address the role of social determinants of health, and have the potential to drive behavioral changes in the workplace. Some of the benefits of a health equity focus on the workplace includes the following:  

  • reduced healthcare costs; 
  • enhanced employee morale; and  
  • lowered absenteeism. 

In addition to improving health equity, organizations can help improve well-being by taking a life-centric—rather than employee-centric—approach to benefits. This means understanding that employees are multifaceted individuals who are adapting to life’s challenges, and focusing on top areas of growth in the benefits industry. These include offerings for weight management, women’s health, and mental health, according to Virgin Pulse.  

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