United Benefit Advisors Insight and Analysis Blog

Moving from Employee Wellness to Employee Well-Being

By Lisa Weston, CWC, CWPM
Director of Wellbeing Program Management at BAGNALL
A UBA Partner Firm

  Apr 28, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Woman walkingThe terms “wellness” and “well-being” are often used interchangeably; however, they mean very different things when applied to workplace health promotion. Traditionally speaking, employee “wellness” programs have primarily focused on just physical health. Whereas employee “well-being” programs emphasize emotional, mental, social, and financial health in addition to physical health.

With the addition of millennials in the workplace coupled with the aging working population, organizations are realizing that the traditional approach to workplace health promotion isn’t enough. Employers have begun to take a more holistic approach to employee health and are now beginning to focus on well-being. According to the 7th annual survey on corporate health & well-being employers are expanding programs to focus on improving employees’ emotional and financial well-being. This includes offering education and resources focused on stress management, work-life balance and financial health. There is also a social aspect in well-being programs which encourage team-building and boosting morale.

Generally speaking, employee well-being programs tend to be more inviting than traditional wellness programs. Well-being programs offer a larger variety of activities and resources which are based upon interest as well as need. These programs have a greater focus on the “fun factor” the program’s appeal to a broader employee population.

The motivation for employers to offer employee well-being programs has also increased. The desire to address soaring health care costs and increase productivity while reducing presenteeism and absenteeism remains a top priority. However, employers are now positioning their well-being programs to attract top talent and to encourage employee engagement. Employers seek to become an employer of choice by offering thoughtfully designed plans. This is especially valuable if you are looking to acquire millennial talent which tends to be enticed by such offerings.

How do you start an employee well-being program?

There are seven common elements in successful wellness programs, according to the Wellness Council of America. Common elements in successful wellness and well-being program development include the following:

  • Garner C-suite support
  • Develop a cohesive wellness team
  • Collect data to drive a results-oriented wellness initiative
  • Create an operating plan
  • Choose appropriate interventions
  • Create a supportive, health-promoting environment
  • Carefully evaluate outcomes

June 2016 will mark the 8th annual National Employee Wellbeing Month. If your organization has not yet implemented a well-being program, now is a great time to start. Well-being programs are significant additions to a fringe benefit program—for employees and employers.

As you move to well-being programming, be sure your wellness offerings provide a best practice foundation. UBA’s Health Plan Survey Executive Summary can help you benchmark your wellness program components.

Topics: wellness, health care costs, employee wellness, wellness programs, employee health, well-being