What’s the top priority for well-being programs?

Although well-being might mean different things for different workforces, companies across the globe are investing in financial and physical health strategies to improve productivity.

The focus on employee well-being has outpaced employee engagement and attracting and retaining employees as the topic objective for employers, new research finds.

In fact, nearly 60% of the 428 global organizations polled said improving performance and productivity were their top well-being objectives, according to Xerox’s annual workforce well-being report.

Fostering a strong culture of well-being doesn’t come without strategy, experts say.

Also read: How employee recognition programs boost positive work culture

While 83% of employers aspire to this culture, only 33% have implemented it in their workplace, according to the survey.

“That data point says employers really believe strongly that this is the direction they need to head in,” says Ruth Hunt, principal in the engagement practice for Xerox HR Services.

So why haven’t more companies executed a strategy to increase well-being in the workforce?

Multinational companies overall face strategy challenges due to the nature of their structure.

The American Benefits Institute, the education and research affiliate of the American Benefits Council, and management consulting firm Aon Hewitt polled 200 global organizations and found that 70% reported challenges with their benefit programs’ operational infrastructure.

For businesses with offices that span continents, executives are expected to work with international regulatory agencies that are “scrutinizing financial products to a greater degree,” says Lynn Dudley, senior vice president of global retirement and compensation policy for the American Benefits Council.

Decision-makers at global companies need to take many cultures and laws into consideration when producing a strategy, according to Xerox. These companies don’t have global oversight, and well-being strategies might be inconsistent with global strategies.

Despite these challenges, Xerox found that 74% of employers consider well-being programs a key element of their value proposition.

Hunt says “employers are trying to understand the barriers to financial well-being,” which is a top area they are looking at.

“Even though traditional retirement and long-term savings, education and programs have been around for quite a while,” says Hunt, “[employers are] focused on financial literacy and skills.”

These programs also are the fastest growing, with 24% of employers having programs in place one year or less and another 39% for just the past two to five years, according to the survey.

Hunt adds that employers should start with pushing their employee assistance program, an under-utilized benefit that can help employees manage physical and financial well-being.

“They may know of it, but it’s an old school understanding of mental health and substance abuse,” Hunt says. “There’s a misconception about the full breadth of services that the EAP can provide.”

She says employers should look for teachable moments to help their employees become aware of services like counselling.

“That EAP can coach you on what kinds of resources could benefit your needs,” Hunt says.

Employee assistance programs also offer health-related programs, such as counseling.

Despite the link between stress and productivity, stress fell from the No. 1 global driver in the 2014 and 2012 Xerox surveys to third in 2016.

However, stress and depression are still the top drivers in Europe. The region, according to Xerox, will continue expanding the number of stress management programs offered to employees.

If employers are able to improve their global strategies for increased wellness, Hunt believes they can convey a genuine message to employees.

“We can accomplish a variety of objectives by pursuing a culture of wellbeing,” she says. “Now how do we get there?”

Also read: Would employees be healthier, more productive with a shorter workweek?

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