There can be no question about it; employee wellness needs a kick-start in the right direction. Work-related stress, anxiety and depression now account for over 10 million working days lost each year, while 40% of NHS resources are spent on preventable diseases.[1] Combine this with an increasing array of financial pressures, the demands of an ‘always-on’, but sedentary, lifestyle and you have a recipe for a high-stress, high-cholesterol workforce.   

Taking steps to improve employee wellness – financial, physical and mental – can bring about real, positive change for businesses. Healthy employees are more productive, more engaged, and more capable of consistently performing well. Yet existing programmes are falling short of delivering on this. Our recent Employee Benefits Watch 2016/17 report highlighted a significant disconnect between the traditional benefits employers are offering, and the flexible wellness benefits employees want to help them lead healthier, happier lives.

Now’s the time to transform our thinking and approach to employee wellness. Here are five steps employers can take to improve employee wellness:

1. Align your people strategies and initiatives

As far as benefits are concerned, employee engagement is the single biggest objective for most HR and reward professionals. Employers will be almost 30% more likely to achieve this goal if they align their people and benefits strategies. If employers are looking to increase workforce productivity for example, they may want to introduce benefits that help employees focus on work. With 2.4 million working households in the UK facing money worries, a financial advice service may be the answer.

2. Segment and be relevant

No one likes feeling like another name on a long email list, or having to sift through vast numbers of communications to find the information they’re looking for. Employees are no different and sending them personal and relevant messages can go a long way to encourage them to take advantage of the benefits that matter most to them. The solution lies in segmentation: dividing employees into different groups based on their preferences, to send them targeted messages that they actually want to receive. Just 9% of employers currently do this – and those who do are twice as likely to meet their benefits programme objectives.

3. Put employees in the driving seat

Employees would like to be able to make the benefits choices that work best for them. Not everyone wants traditional wellness benefits such as gym memberships; many prefer to choose their own benefits via a wellness pot of money to spend, for example on Zumba classes, running clubs music lessons or rock climbing. Yet, only 4% of organisations currently offer a wellness pot and 76% aren’t even considering implementing one – even though more than half (51%) of employees would appreciate this benefit.

4. Place tech at the centre of your strategy

Ensuring your benefits are convenient to access is the best way to encourage employees to make full use of what’s on offer. One of the best ways to reach a busy employee – wherever they may be – is through their mobile devices. In fact, 66% of employees stated that they would like to receive digital communications, yet just half of employers currently communicate in this way. Online platforms that deliver an easy-to-understand overview of benefits are key to driving engagement and with it, employee wellness.

5. Measure progress to stay on track

Less than 20% of employers are currently measuring the impact of their employee wellness programmes. But doing so is vital to ensure targets are achieved, return on investment and ultimately, that your benefit programme works for your employees and your business. Analytics are enabling HR departments globally to explore how their employees are interacting with their benefits and measuring the impact of their wellness initiatives, adapting their approach as necessary. Those that are harnessing technology are reaping the rewards, being almost twice as likely to be very effective in meeting their benefits engagement objectives.

Our research found that employers that offer flexible and personalised benefits, such as wellness pots, will have around three times as many employees who are extremely engaged with their company. It is likely these employees will lead healthier and happier lives, and therefore perform better and make a greater contribution to your business. So isn’t it time to kick-start your benefits transformation?