How to take a ‘holistic’ approach to supporting employees

This month, HRE is helping HR leaders prepare for the year ahead with a series featuring insights from industry experts, thought leaders and others about what we can learn from 2020 and the challenges coming in 2021. Read the series here.


This year has brought HR a host of unprecedented issues to navigate: employee safety concerns, engagement in a newly remote world, legal considerations and even the reshaping of the HR role itself. With all of that change just in the last few months, many HR leaders are looking to 2021 with a bit of trepidation: What’s next?

To contend with the challenges to come and how this year has impacted employees, HR leaders should be strategizing how to support the “whole” employee–from financial wellness to mental health–according to Michael Spicci, EY director of benefits, and Wendy Edgar, EY Americas HR director. Both share their outlooks on how HR can center all aspects of employee health:

How did the challenges of 2020 impact how organizations approached open enrollment this year?

Michael Spicci, director of benefits at EY

Spicci: The global health crisis and remote work scenarios led many organizations to shift or reassess the way they approached open enrollment this year. It was more important than ever for companies to remain open and transparent about the process, offerings and costs, while also demonstrating a commitment to the overall wellbeing, health and safety of their people.

In response to the current environment, EY worked to keep the open enrollment process simple and consistent with what was offered in 2019. We kept our plan offerings the same, medical premiums flat and allowed for more default election options. We also hosted a virtual benefits fair for our people to connect, learn and better understand the full spectrum of benefits the firm offers. They were able to speak one on one with representatives or attend presentations to get more familiar with the tools and resources that best suit their needs.

What should be HR leaders’ first priority for 2021?

Edgar: As we look ahead to 2021 and as the lines between work and home continue to blur, it is critical that HR leaders continue to take a people-first approach. A top priority should be providing employees access to the tools and resources needed to instill resilience, both personally and professionally, and to support their overall wellbeing.

Wendy Edgar, EY Americas HR director

One way HR leaders and their organizations can do this is by prioritizing mental health. At EY, we’ve provided daily group counseling sessions and 30-minute mindfulness drop-in calls so that our people have an opportunity to practice mindfulness techniques and connect with one another. We’ve also offered learning opportunities and resources on a variety of topics, including support for families and caregivers, tips for staying focused and improving quality of sleep.

Compare HR’s role in large organizations today with a year ago. Will that role continue to evolve in 2021?

Edgar: The global health crisis and, in turn, the prolonged work-from-home scenarios, have brought to light the importance of supporting people inside and outside of work. From an HR standpoint, that means prioritizing the total wellbeing of our people and ensuring that all people have access to the benefits, resources and tools that make the most sense for their unique needs and life scenarios.

Total wellbeing can mean something different for every organization. At EY, it means supporting the emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing of our people. We have, and will continue, to help them thrive and succeed in both our fast-paced working environment and at home. From encouraging them to reach and maintain their physical peak to planning for their financial future, we take a holistic approach to supporting our people.

Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at