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HEALTH

Support Your Clients, Their Workers Through Stress Relief

Stress has a huge impact on your clients and their workplaces. Stressed-out employees are less productive and less engaged, costing your clients thousands — if not millions — of dollars annually, according to a Colonial Life study of full-time U.S. workers.

According to the survey, 40% of employees say they experience high or moderate levels of stress. Half of these employees named finances as a top stressor. Here are some of the highlights from the study of more than 1,500 U.S. workers on the impact stress is having on their workplace:

  • More than 40% said stress made them less engaged.
  • More than 40% said it made them less productive.
  • Nearly one in four said it caused them to be absent more frequently.
  • And nearly 25% said it has caused them to look for a new job.

But there’s good news, too: As a benefits professional, you are in the perfect position to help your clients and their employees focus on wellness programs that can lower stress and improve both productivity and engagement in the workplace.

Increase Wellness, Decrease Spending

Employee health and wellness matter. A healthier workforce is not only more productive, it also helps curb the constantly rising cost of health care.
In the Colonial Life survey, for example, 35% of employees who report high levels of stress said they spend more than 10 hours on the clock each week thinking about their stress. And another 27% spend between five and 10 hours per week. That’s a concerning amount of lost productivity.

Highly stressed employees are also more likely to:

  • Say their employer doesn’t care about them.
  • Report they are not satisfied in their jobs.
  • Leave their employer in the next six months.

Results can be measured on both your clients’ bottom line and in their employees’ wallets. Estimates from different studies vary, but generally show a return of at least three-to-one for every dollar a company invests in a wellness program.

Think Broadly About Wellness Benefits

Employee well-being encompasses not only physical health but also financial, mental and emotional health. These areas of well-being overlap and interact: If you’ve ever dealt with a headache while juggling overdue bills, you know worrying over financial problems can cause stress that can lead to physical health problems.

Only 17% of highly stressed employees say they have wellness programs available to them in their workplace, according to the Colonial Life study. Meanwhile, nearly 30% of employees who report less stress say they have wellness programs at the office.

The good news is there are many benefit programs you can bring to your clients to help ensure a healthier, happier, more productive workforce. Even better news: Many are available at low or no cost from your benefits providers, especially if you’re bringing them a new account or can ensure optimal enrollment conditions.

Here are some of the wellness programs and services to consider offering your clients and their employees:

» Identity monitoring and restoration. According to IdentityTheft.info, 15 million Americans — that’s 7% of adults — are hit by fraudulent use of their identities each year, with financial losses reaching $50 billion. Identity theft protection provides identity monitoring and helps employees with the burden of recovering from identity theft. Programs may include a dedicated case manager to act on the victim’s behalf and resolve the issue. Some packages even include a service to make lost wallet replacement quick and easy.

» Financial education. Many of America’s workers don’t understand basic financial concepts. A WalletHub.com Wallet Literacy survey found 40% of U.S. adults give their personal finance knowledge a grade of C or worse — and even that may be optimistic. A financial education program can include access to online calculators, budgeting tools, videos and webinars, plus unlimited access to complimentary financial coaching by phone.

» Discounts on drugs and medical services. A discount program helps employees save money on doctor’s office visits, prescription drugs, vision and hearing products and services, lab work and imaging tests. Even if your client already offers a health or prescription drug plan, a discount program can complement it by helping pay for services that are limited or not covered, especially with a high-deductible health plan that leaves employees with considerable financial exposure to out-of-pocket costs.

» Student loan reimbursement support. Many recent graduates are spending a large percentage of their disposable income on student loan repayment. Some studies show millennials are more interested in student loan help than health care or retirement funding. Because of debt obligations, millennials are prone to job-hopping in search of extra income. Robust programs allow employees to manage their student loan burden, refinance their debt or help find creative ways to pay it down. Employers who are interested in keeping millennial employees engaged and at work are even able to contribute to employees’ student loan debt payment.

» Telemedicine. This service provides access to board-certified doctors online or by phone, any time of the day or day of the week. It’s not designed to handle emergency conditions or replace a primary care doctor, but it can often substitute for a doctor’s office or urgent care visit for common conditions such as the flu or pinkeye — saving employees valuable time and money.

» Employee assistance programs. EAPs provide short-term counseling and referral services to help employees with personal and family issues, as well as work-life balance goals. Services typically include in-person, phone or online counseling and other tools and educational resources available online.

» Wellness benefits. Some voluntary coverages such as cancer policies include wellness benefits that pay a set amount for preventive screening tests such as colonoscopies, mammograms and X-rays. This helps catch potential problems earlier, when they’re easier and less expensive to treat. The benefits paid for annual screening tests also make the coverage even more affordable, effectively reducing the net cost of the premiums for employees. The benefit is paid even if the exam is covered by health insurance and the amount doesn’t depend on the actual cost of the test.

Communication Drives Participation

Although the benefits of wellness programs may seem obvious, some critics claim they sound good on paper but don’t deliver results. And this holds true if employees choose not to participate in the program. The best solution to drive engagement is better communication and education.

Communication can take many forms. Some companies adopt wellness “champions” or ambassadors who help spread enthusiasm about the program throughout the organization. Other businesses include regular articles in company newsletters or distribute personal benefits statements that highlight the company’s total compensation package.

Partnering with a reliable benefits carrier that offers a full slate of enrollment services, including one-on-one benefits counseling, can help drive better participation in benefits programs and achieve the desired results from wellness initiatives. Personalized benefits education and consistent wellness messaging help employees better understand the importance of wellness and how it can improve their lives — and save them money. 

You can differentiate yourself in the marketplace, strengthen your client relationships and build your book of business by adding a healthy dose of wellness offerings to your benefits business. Encouraging your clients to take advantage of wellness programs and services can help them save money and create a happier, more productive workforce.

Michelle White is vice president, client management, for Colonial Life. Michelle may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].


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