In their infancy, wellness programs focused exclusively on physical health — a common-sense starting point. That focus was, and remains, needed. However, with growing stress in employees’ personal lives, to truly commit to a wellness initiative a company must go beyond basic physical wellness and take into consideration their employees’ mental and financial wellbeing.

Benefit advisers should be prepared to counsel employers on the following components of a comprehensive corporate wellness program:

Physical wellness: These benefits include diabetes and high blood pressure management, smoking cessation, weight loss counseling and cancer screenings. According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, common physical ailments continue to cost employers in many ways. For example, employees with diabetes are 47% more likely to miss at least one day of work per month than workers without the disease. However, most conditions can be managed, and employers can help their employees to do so.


Mental wellness:Companies have offered benefits that address employees’ mental wellness for years — often called employee assistance programs, known in the industry as EAPs. They are designed to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely affect their job performance, health and wellness. Those problems could include everything from substance and spousal abuse to caregiver concerns and work or occupational stress. Alcohol and drug abuse, in particular, are widespread, and the abuse of these substances affects not only the user, but also family, friends and coworkers.EAPs help employees deal with these and other life events through assessment, support and referrals which may include short-term counseling for employees and the other members of their household.

Financial wellness:According to PwC’s latest survey on this matter — called the Employee Financial Wellness Survey — half of all employees in the U.S. are worried about not having emergency savings for unexpected expenses, and more than four in 10 worry about whether they will be able to retire when they want. These are just some of the financial concerns occupying employees’ minds and impacting their productivity, but they are far from the only two issues. One in seven employees provides care to an aging parent or in-law, and 15% have been victims of identity theft. Employees also worry about how to balance paying for a child’s higher education and even just meeting monthly bills.Some employers offer financial advice or counseling to help workers deal with everything from juggling competing financial priorities to balancing a checkbook. They may also refer workers to specialists including attorneys, eldercare experts, financial advisers and other professionals.

Note: Critical illness insurance, disability income insurance and life insurance can also be considered financial benefits. Employees can access these through their employers’ voluntary benefit menus at a reduced cost and little to no cost to companies.

A three-legged stool

If a three-legged stool needs all three legs to balance properly, a happy and productive workforce depends on three legs of wellness for maximum productivity. Each leg relates to the other.  As benefit advisers, you can tell employers to address the physical, mental and financial concerns of their employees to increase their capacity to remain fully productive.

Fleet is president of AmWINS Group Benefits, a wholesale broker of comprehensive group insurance programs and administrative services.

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