How to make your wellbeing programs more meaningful

Employee wellbeing programs have become almost ubiquitous in the benefits world–but, in reality, these programs don’t go far enough.

With the unemployment rate lower than it’s been in decades, the plan design a company chooses to offer can provide a real advantage in today’s competitive job market. Staying ahead of cutting-edge benefits–both in terms of innovative solutions and cost–allows companies to have a real impact on the health and wellbeing of their employees. It can also be a factor in attracting new talent and retaining tenured staff.

Related: Why the shift toward employee wellbeing matters

A valuable wellbeing program meets employees where they are along their healthcare journey by addressing the health goals they already have in place.

The recent Path to Better Health Study by CVS Health found that consumers are eager to live a healthier life and meet their top-five goals that span across their whole body health. These goals include eating a healthy diet (59%), improving fitness (47%), sleeping better (45%) and reducing stress (43%).

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While consumers are on their way to meeting their health goals, they need help getting there.

Evolving Benefits to Meet Employee Health Goals

As new generations of employees populate the majority of the country’s workforce, they increasingly expect employers to play a role in their life–in the office and beyond the hours of 9 to 5 by providing resources and tools that address employees’ social lives, personal passions and financial security.

This evolving relationship between employers and employees has also allowed consumers to turn to their employer for help in accessing healthcare and staying healthy. Our Path to Better Health Study found that 44% of people think it is somewhat or very important that their employer supports their healthcare goals.

As the largest generation in the U.S. labor force today, millennials cite having the toughest time meeting these goals, but they are committed to addressing their healthcare needs. Our study also found that 64% of millennials agree that monitoring their health is somewhat or very important.

Health-plan design is a powerful driver of behavior, and wellbeing goals can feel more achievable when the tools to achieve them are easily accessible and integrated into everyday life. To help employees, especially younger generations, improve health outcomes, it’s also valuable to think about ways they can access care in a new setting–one that may not be traditional for healthcare but is already embedded in the everyday lives of consumers.

For example, the expansion of CVS HealthHUBTM locations to more than 1,500 stores across the U.S. within the next three years will reach millennials and other members who may not have access to a primary-care physician in a local retail setting.

Rewarding Employees for Reaching Their Goals

With millennials relying most heavily on digital technologies, employers should also include digital-health tools in their benefits offerings for employees to track progress against health goals. Electronic diaries or apps (28%), wearable trackers (27%) and calorie counters (26%) are the top-three tools millennials use to track their personal health.

Incentives and rewards can also help turn your employees’ healthcare goals into reality, especially for groups of your population using technologies like wearable devices to track their progress. Wearables can track everything from reminding an individual to take their medicine to scheduling an annual doctor’s appointment to tracking daily physical activity. In many ways, apps like this take the frustration out of achieving health goals by tracking and measuring progress and motivating individuals to continue on their healthy path. Employers who offer rewards for achieving goals tracked by wearables show their employees that they’re supporting them along their health journey.

Addressing the Top Factors Impacting Employee Health

Healthcare is connected to everything we do, and approximately 60% of a person’s life expectancy is influenced by their everyday activities and social and environmental factors. When designing benefit plans and offerings, it’s important for employers to recognize the connection between social determinants of health, higher healthcare costs and reduced worker productivity. By addressing the many factors impacting employee health in benefits packages, employers can help their population successfully meet healthcare objectives.

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Sometimes, an employer will need to consider plan-design changes, provider-network adjustments or a refinement of their clinical outreach to address the social determinants of health needs of their population. Analytics that quantify the impact that social determinants of health have on an employer health plan can determine the right interventions needed for an employer or individual to lead to better health outcomes. Our new Destination: Health platform offers this type of analysis to employers.

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Staying Competitive Through Goal-Oriented Plan Design

Regardless of a company’s population trends or the social determinants impacting each individual worker’s health, each employee’s health goals and the routes they take to achieve them are unique. Plan sponsors must proactively support and guide employees along their healthcare journey. The health goals of a population can directly inform a company’s healthcare benefit goals, and employers can stay competitive by aligning plan design to the objectives set by their employees.

Sheryl Burke is president of commercial business at Aetna, a CVS Health Company.