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Advisor know-how:
5 ways to support employee health and wellness

It’s been on the uptick for years, but the employer focus on employee wellness isn’t a trend. It’s here to stay, and that’s a good thing. Yet effective routes toward improving employee well-being aren’t always clear, especially for small businesses. While larger corporations can invest in luxury offerings such as on-site nutrition classes and massages, small businesses may not have the resources to do the same.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing they can do. As an agent, you already work with your clients to develop strong benefits packages that can help protect them from the shortcomings of health insurance, so you’re invested in employee well-being. Staying on top of other ways that small businesses can support wellness can further show your clients that you’re not just dedicated to making a sale—you’re dedicated to care and to helping make their lives easier. Here are some ways you can advise clients on ways they can support their employees’ well-being.

  1. Increase comfort, increase productivity.

    Just as a well-designed home puts its residents at ease, a better workplace environment can significantly improve employee well-being and, in turn, their productivity. That doesn’t have to mean a total overhaul, either. Simply tuning up your organization can help: The average employee spends 4.3 hours a week searching for papers in the workplace—files, folders and important documents—which can lead to higher stress levels.1 Adding organizational tools such as a companywide filing system can go a long way.

    Indoor plants can also be a great addition, and not just aesthetically. By releasing oxygen and absorbing the carbon dioxide that employees exhale, plants can boost the air quality of a workplace. This can help employees breathe better, and it has been shown to increase productivity by as much as 11%.1

    Improving workplace ergonomics can also go a long way. That applies to highly physical jobs and more sedate ones. Manual material handling—lifting and carrying heavy loads, pushing and pulling carts, and other physically intense work—is the primary source of compensable workplace injury.2 And in addition to physical discomfort, the awkward postures stemming from an inappropriate setup can trigger psychological stress. This stress can influence your employees’ behavior—studies show that prolonged stress can lead to lower efficiency and cognitive functioning.3 Investing in ergonomic solutions such as lifting aids, transportation devices and better chairs can help.

  2. Prioritize mental health services for employees

    If an employee came into the workplace on crutches, she wouldn’t be expected to help move boxes and carry on as if she weren’t injured. You’d ask her what she needed to perform her duties, and you’d reassess her tasks and deadlines. Mental health should be treated the same way.

    Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 66% of employees reported that workplace issues affected their sleep, and 51% said they engaged in unhealthy behaviors to cope with workplace stress.4 The pandemic has only exacerbated mental health issues: Nearly 88% of employees reported moderate to extreme stress in 2020,5 and 30% of adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, up from 11% before it.6

    Employees may keep this stress to themselves, perhaps out of fear. In fact, more than 50% of employees say they’re afraid of being punished for taking a day off for their mental health. Explicitly discussing mental health may help relieve that fear—and it may help you retain your talent, as 45% of employees say they’re looking for a new job at least several times per week.4

    Your clients can help cultivate a workplace that prioritizes mental health by ensuring that their staff are aware of where and how they can access mental health services,7 and by providing training for managers so they can recognize and help their team members while also serving as role models for self-care.

  3. Understand their insurance carriers’ value-added services

    In the same way that your clients want their employees to understand and take advantage of their benefits, employers themselves should understand their insurance carriers’ value-added services. Once they do, they can better help their employees understand and use them. You can become invaluable to them by helping them navigate the specifics of their benefits offering and helping ensure they are getting every drop of value out of it. For example, carriers such as Aflac offer a value-added portfolio of services, including financial wellness programs, health advocacy, college assistance plans and employee assistance programs.8 Encouraging clients to promote these services will help show their employees they care, and can help reduce employee stress as they get help with common challenges, such as finances and navigating the healthcare system.

  4. Increase workplace flexibility

    A flexible workplace can be instrumental in increasing productivity, supporting people with mental health issues and more.9 The definition of flexibility varies from business to business, but flexible locations and flexible hours are getting more attention in the wake of the pandemic and the upheaval it caused for work-life balance.

    Remote work was the most desirable flexible work option even before the pandemic, with 76% of employees wanting to be fully remote. Their reasoning is sound: 44% said a job with flexibility would make a “huge improvement” on their overall quality of life, 78% said it would allow them to be healthier—eat better, exercise more—and 86% said they’d be less stressed.10 Location flexibility can boost your bottom line, too: Nearly 90% of people who worked remotely during the pandemic thought their productivity either stayed the same or improved.11 And their benefits packages can offer extra value for remote workers, with options such as telemedicine giving them access to health advice from wherever they are located.

    For jobs that can’t be done remotely, your clients can consider other forms of flexibility, such as flextime, job sharing and compressed workweeks. Relaxed dress codes can also help employees feel more physically comfortable at work.

  5. Increase workplace flexibility

    Be it a health plan, supplemental coverage or telehealth services, your clients provide wellness offerings for a reason. Yet employees may overlook these ready-made boosts to their well-being. So remind your clients to let their teams know what’s available to them. Clear communication about wellness offerings can inform your clients’ employees about resources and incentives they may not have been aware of—for example, Aflac’s critical illness insurance policy has a wellness incentive for preventive care visits.

    When you demonstrate your commitment to your clients’ employees by keeping up to date with wellness practices and other industry trends, you’re setting yourself up to be more than a salesperson. You’re setting yourself up to be a true advisor—the kind your clients can’t do without.

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