Making the case for Employee Health & Wellness

Employers nationwide are paying close attention to the need for wellness programs and benefits. Historically, one of the main drawbacks to providing wellness benefits is that it costs money, and the return on that investment isn’t always clear-cut. However, as the labor market continues to fluctuate and health care costs continue to climb, employees are seeking out more benefits from their employers than ever before.

As more employers are investing in wellness, companies are shifting away from basic physical wellness initiatives. Instead, there’s been a shift to integrate total wellness, particularly with a focus on mental health and wellness.

In fact, employee mental health has become a top concern this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has created immense uncertainty, change, and stress for employees across the country. According to a survey by FlexJobs, a telecommuting firm, employed workers are more than three times as likely to report poor mental health now versus before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Generally speaking, an increased focus on employee wellness can improve employee health and wellness. Happy and healthy employees translate into higher recruitment and retention results and employee engagement levels, as well as lowering a company’s overall healthcare costs. This Medical and Life Care Consulting white paper explains why employers should provide wellness benefits.

What are workplace wellness programs?

Traditionally, workplace wellness programs are initiatives that employers offer to encourage employees to lead healthier lives. According to the 2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit organization that focuses on U.S. health issues, 53% of small firms and 81% of large firms offer a program designed to help employees address health risks and unhealthy behaviors.

References: 

2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey. (2020, October 8). KFF. https://www.kff.org/health-costs/report/2020-employer-health-benefits-survey/

Bolden-Barrett, V. (2018, December 6). Fulfillment is the new standard for employee engagement. HR Dive. https://www.hrdive.com/news/fulfillment-is-the-new-standard-for-employee-engagement/543618/

Gallup. (2020, October 19). Q12 Employee Engagement Center. Gallup.Com. https://www.gallup.com/products/170969/q12-employee-engagement-center.aspx

Harter, B. J. (2020, November 11). Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S. Gallup.Com. https://news.gallup.com/poll/241649/employee-engagement-rise.aspx

Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases | CDC. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm

Increase Productivity | Control Health Care Costs | Model | Workplace Health Promotion | CDC. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/model/control-costs/benefits/productivity.html

Mental health in the workplace. (n.d.). World Health Organization. Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/mental-health-in-the-workplace#:%7E:text=A%20recent%20WHO%2Dled%20study,or%20getting%20work%20is%20protective.

Oss, M. E. (2020, May 7). Mental Health Spending Now & After The Pandemic. OPEN MINDS. https://openminds.com/market-intelligence/executive-briefings/mental-health-spending-now-after-the-pandemic/#:%7E:text=Mental%20health%20spending%20rose%20to,OPEN%20MINDS%20Market%20Intelligence%20Report

Reynolds, B. W. (2020, August 21). FlexJobs, Mental Health America Survey: Mental Health in the Workplace. FlexJobs Job Search Tips and Blog. https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/flexjobs-mha-mental-health-workplace-pandemic/

Supporting workers through Post-Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery

Workers are still feeling the effects of COVID-19: There is a new program to help!

In early September (2020), the United States surpassed 6 million[i] cases of COVID-19 reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Since March, the U.S. has witnessed the diagnosis exponentially increase around the country, some diagnosis resulting in death (approximately 200,000 nationwide[ii]), yet the vast majority of those diagnosed (nearly 97%) recover. Within the population of those who recover the effects of the virus on their body ranges from asymptomatic to a wide variety of lingering ailments. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, in their ‘Science’ journal report “Ongoing problems include fatigue, a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, achy joints, foggy thinking, a persistent loss of sense of smell, and damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.[iii]

So, what’s next for those who return to work? In this INSIGHT article, we partner with Physical Therapist Nicole McManus, MSPT, OMT, FAAOMPT of Professional Physical Therapy (ProPT), a provider of outpatient therapy services with a passion and dedicated program for injured workers to examine the impact of reconditioning after being diagnosed with COVID. ProPT recently added a Post-COVID Reconditioning Program to their service line which is focused on systematically preparing the worker to tolerate the demands of their job.

Post-COVID effects include limited cardiovascular endurance, muscle weakness, low VO2 max (respiratory capacity) and in some cases, cognitive processing deficits and depression as a result of post-intensive care syndrome (PICS).  If a worker needs to be able to perform physically demanding tasks over the course of a normal work day, there is a strong possibility that without reconditioning, the worker will fail to meet the job requirements and may need to remain on restrictions.

Professional Physical Therapy uses a validated pulmonary conditioning protocol to address the adverse effects of COVID-19.  The worker is evaluated by a licensed physical therapist who not only assesses the impairments and functional deficits present but takes specific measurements regarding their pulmonary and cardiovascular function.  These key measurements are reassessed regularly to monitor progress and to compare their current abilities to the job requirements.  The benefit of a specific reconditioning program for the affected worker is that they can also see and feel their progress.  Injured workers who participate in this program have less anxiety or reservation when it is time to return to work as reconditioning allows them to practice their job tasks while consistently increasing their cardio-pulmonary endurance and capacity.

References: 

[i] CDC COVID Data Tracker, retrieved from https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/?utm_source=morning_brew#cases

[ii] COVID in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html

[iii] From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists, retrieved from https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/brain-fog-heart-damage-covid-19-s-lingering-problems-alarm-scientists