Wave Goodbye to the Pitfalls of Presenteeism

The US Department of Labor says that the average American takes eight days off every year, meaning workers gift thousands of dollars of unused vacation time to their employers annually. But why?

Part of the issue is presenteeism – which plagues corporate America and, at the last calculation, costs the country $150 billion a year. This estimate attributed lost productivity due to poor health conditions of employees who still came to work – but did not take into account other effects – such as how presenteeism can also affect company culture, worker retention, and talent attraction.

The basic definition of presenteeism is when an employee spends more time at work than is required – including if they are unwell. A report from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found over half of Americans go to work when they are sick.

Deadlines are feared, having too many actions to return to, and expectations that employees must put work before their own health. For many workers, presenteeism is engrained in company culture. And it’s a problem many industries are grappling with as they increase flexible working policies that improve work life balances.

Companies must take the necessary actions to combat this issue, with three steps to consider below:

Step one: Addressing the root causes

Organizations should first take steps to address the root causes of poor physical and mental health within their workforce by offering comprehensive benefits packages. To have the greatest impact, these should include wellbeing support through a holistic benefits package such as wellness initiatives/allowances, access to mental health resources, massage or acupuncture sessions, and nutritionist sessions that support employees’ physical and mental health.

Additionally, technology is essential for HR and benefits teams to counter presenteeism. As well as offering sophisticated analysis that enables HR to track the popularity (and, therefore, success) of any company initiatives over a period of time, benefits tech and wellness pots can make a more immediate and tangible impact by allowing employees to self-administer benefits to impact their day-to-day health and happiness. This opens up an endless list of options, for example this could include access to yoga classes, therapy sessions, or financial wellness training. This digital approach to benefits management not only also means employees can access their benefits whenever and wherever they want, but provides data back to employers on what benefits are being used (and therefore valued.)

Step two: Analyze company culture

Presenteeism is often a cultural issue entrenched in an organization by the behavior of the leadership team or company values that haven’t yet evolved. While most within a company will recognize change as necessary, direction and leadership must first come from management.

If workers see management and leadership teams taking time off when they’re sick or are in need of a rest, they’ll be far more likely to do the same. It sends a clear message that when somebody is ill, they too should take the time to recover and when work is done, it’s time to go home.

HR can also facilitate open discussions about the importance of wellbeing to help shift company culture by using listening exercises that demonstrate to the workforce the company cares. Furthermore, organizations can take polls and surveys to help address any gaps in company benefits packages that could enhance their employees’ wellbeing – there is no shortage of ways employers can try to make improvements in this area.

Step three: Tech is key

Technology has effectively allowed more employees to work from home or other remote locations. Remote work brings many benefits such as reduced stress by saving money and time on commuting. But with this comes a need for balance.

Employers must be clear to workers that when they are sick, they should not be sending emails or seen online. When they are ready and well enough to return to work, they will be recovered, rejuvenated, and more productive.

We have a lot of work to do to address and eliminate presenteeism. Companies need to start by looking at their culture and management structures to better understand how to lead by example. People should be made to feel comfortable to take time off when they’re physically or mentally unwell without fearing piles of work or judgement from their manager – or their colleagues. This means actually taking time off when rest is needed so they can recuperate, and not working remotely which should be actively discouraged by managers during sick leave.

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Cultivating Workplace Culture Through Technology

Although individual employees’ wants and needs differ, one point remains true for so many. That beyond salary, they want to feel valued and work in an environment where company culture is a priority. Employers therefore need to take the lead in prioritizing company culture in a number of meaningful ways, from benefits to flexible working.

Technology has given us the opportunity to stay connected wherever we are but is often blamed for creating our “always-on” culture. Employers and employees grapple with the question of whether this way of working is actually contributing to or hindering workplace culture from evolving. But technology in the workplace has huge potential when it comes to promoting overall company culture by bringing personalized benefits to life, while transforming the way we work.

Technology in the workplace 

In recent years, the use of technology has been under fire for having negative repercussions on both mental and physical wellbeing, from creating eyesight problems to producing a sense of social isolation. Thanks to technology, we can work anywhere, at any time which is very convenient, but it can also lead to an always-on culture in the workplace.

On the other hand, technology has enabled people to access all the information they need about their benefits in one place, from a range of devices, making them feel valued and appreciated by their organization. In fact, Our Global Employee Benefits Watch report found that 81% of employees who can easily access their benefits said they feel loyal to their employer, while 79% of employees who can easily access their benefits said they were proud to work for their organization. This flexibility also means that previously admin-intensive tasks, such as submitting expenses or choosing benefits for example, have become quicker and easier, not only for the employee but the HR department as well. HR teams no longer have to waste resources on manual tasks. Instead, they are able to use technology to automate these activities to free up time to focus on larger, more strategic initiatives. It’s important that organizations recognize the power of technology as a vehicle to communicate and support their culture, enabling the changing needs of the modern workforce.

Company culture remains top priority

A great company culture is now essential for attracting and retaining employees. Taking it a step further, giving employees a purpose and reason to work for you over a competitor, aside from just pay and compensation, can be a differentiator. Culture manifests itself everywhere from the office environment, the values the company operates by, to company policies and benefits offerings.

A quick win is to look at the benefits you offer your employees and ask – do they align to your values? Do they help to promote the culture you want to create? A key part of that exercise will be examining how employees access and interact with their benefits. Benefits technology not only allows employees working anywhere to access their benefits and engage with their organization, but allows the HR team to examine which benefits are resonating most with their employees and deliver an offering that is reflective of their culture.

Business leaders paving the way

Change must happen from the top. Business leaders need to take charge in promoting a culture of technology as a force for good. In order to do this, there are foundational changes that need to happen.  Executives need to ensure that all their operations are set up to provide employees with the same workplace experience, wherever and whenever they’re working.

From a cultural perspective, being able to access benefits from anywhere is as important as having access to email. Employers need to be able to provide remote access to all platforms – benefits included – so that employees aren’t forced to go into the office to access the information they need.

Benefits offerings require flexibility 

Benefits offerings speak volumes about an organization and exemplify what values they truly believe in. For example, if a high proportion of an organization’s employees work from home, offering a cycle to work program or gym membership tied to office locations is not only useless, but exemplifies a lack of consideration for the needs of their employees.

Instead, employers need to offer personalized benefits that match individual needs based on preference, location and schedule. This will help build alignment between culture and benefits. If businesses wish to develop a flexible culture, offering benefits that employees can enjoy from anywhere is important. But businesses can’t stop there. It’s also vital that these benefits are communicated to all employees in an effective manner, and that they’re accessible whenever needed. Benefits technology bridges this gap.

When developing company culture, technology should be a major cornerstone. We live in a technology-enabled world, and employees expect this same connected experience at work. Employees want to feel both appreciated and supported by their employers and technology can be the first step in cultivating an authentic workplace culture.

 

 

 

 

Earn Employee Loyalty through Benefits Technology

As organizations continue to compete for talent, they are realizing the integral role that benefits play in attracting and retaining the right employees. This is evidenced in our Global Employee Benefits Watch research, which surveyed 2,200 employees from companies around the world and found that only 15% of candidates don’t ask about benefits at all during the interview process. In fact, benefits have a huge role to play not only in attracting talent, but in influencing employees feelings about their current employer. Eighty percent of employees who said they have a good variety of benefits to choose from also said they identified strongly with their organization’s vision and values, as opposed to 40% of those who don’t. Market-leading organizations recognize this and to attract the best candidates and keep current employees happy, more and more employers are working to improve their benefits programs. While offering tailored benefits is important, much of the impact on employee loyalty is lost if these benefits aren’t easily accessible.

Giving employees easy access to their benefits information seems simple enough, yet over 50% of employees say they can’t access their benefits in the way they prefer and just 21% of employees say they can easily access their benefits. Clearly, employers are still delivering benefits in ways that don’t resonate with their people. So, what action does this mean employers should take? How can organizations make sure their people take full advantage of what’s available to them? Our research shows that employees are looking for the same experience they have getting information in their personal lives to be mirrored at work – one of the main aspects being the ability to consume information in a variety of ways. Using a number of communication options, including those driven by tech, is the key to keeping employees engaged and happy.

Integrating technology-enabled communication methods really pays off. For example, 62% of employees prefer to use a laptop for research and information gathering and 40% prefer mobile. Technology’s prevalence in everyday life is pushing employers to make sure their benefits strategy is delivered through  intuitive HR tech with a seamless user experience.

While making sure employees can access benefit information online is critical, it’s also important to deliver this information through other methods too. The only method that beats email and computer access is discussing benefits face-to-face with an employer, with 46% of employees receiving information this way reporting being satisfied. Email and computer access were close behind with satisfaction levels at 44% and 42% respectively. When information is more complicated and personal, people often prefer an in-person conversation.

The numbers say it all. 81% of employees who can easily access their benefits said they feel loyal to their employer and 79% say they were proud to work for their organization. Easy access to benefits information keeps employees happy and has the potential to secure longevity. 77% of employees who understand their benefits offering said they saw themselves staying at their organization for the foreseeable future.

It’s encouraging that employers realize the need to offer better benefits options to their people. But too many are stopping there. Making sure employees have the information they need about their benefits is the next step in solidifying employee loyalty, influencing whether they recommend working there to a friend, and, arguably most importantly, decide to leave or stay. If employers are committed to attracting top talent and keeping their employees, they need to ensure their benefits not only meet their needs, but that they can access them in the most consumer-friendly way possible.

 

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How to Build and Support Employee Wellness in the Workplace

1 in 5 adults in the US today is dealing with a mental health condition. This has a direct impact in the workplace for both employees and employers. The Depression Center at the University of Michigan found that depression is a leading cause of U.S. productivity loss with an annual cost of $44 billion to employers. The important role employers have in helping to support the mental health of their employees is more critical than ever, especially as our latest Global Employee Benefits Watch 2017/2018 research found that a concerning 64% of US employees feel that their workplace has a negative or very negative impact on their wellbeing. So how can employers better support their employees’ needs?

The need for a tailored, comprehensive benefits program

Many employers struggle to recognize the importance of their benefits offerings in fostering mental health. Companies need to evolve their benefits programs to meet the shifting needs of today’s employees. Our research found a disconnect between the support offered by employers, and the support employees actually want. This disconnect is especially pronounced in areas affecting employee wellness.

We can no longer view physical, mental or financial health in isolation. These different aspects of health all interconnect and influence employees’ sense of wellbeing. Workers who are anxious or ill are unlikely to operate at peak performance, and this can hugely impact a business’ bottom line.

Take mental health, for example: 56.5% of American adults suffering from mental health illnesses do not receive treatment. For those who sought out treatment, 20.1% reported they still had unmet treatment needs. Providing a health care plan that offers free or low-cost mental health treatment is imperative for helping to address these unmet needs.

When it comes to improving general wellness, 63% of the workforce has the goal of getting fit and healthy, yet only 30% think that their employer supports them in reaching this goal through their benefits program. That’s one of the reasons why many companies are turning to ‘wellness pots’, including us at Thomons, to give employees the flexibility to spend a set amount of money on anything that helps improve their wellness. We also offer Yoga classes on a Monday, boot camp on a Wednesday and Zumba classes on a Thursday to help promote and cultivate wellness. Getting moving and healthy together as an office has short-term endorphin payoffs and helps build and promote a culture of wellness within the workplace.

When considering which benefits best suit your employees, it’s important to consider generational differences. Younger employees in particular aren’t receiving the support they’re looking for from their employers. Traditional financial benefits such as a 401K are deisgned to meet the needs of an older workforce, which differ greatly from those of millennials. Buying a home is a goal for 74% of 18-35s – yet only 4% feel that their benefits scheme supports this. Employees who feel unsupported by their employer are less likely to engage with the business and their work. In order to avoid a lack of engagement from their staff, employers need to reassess the type of support they offer younger employees.

How to take action

To start, employers need to take steps to thoroughly understand what employees’ want in regard to wellbeing, and commit to supporting these wants through their benefits program. After the new benefits are in place, companies must effectively communicate them to their people. Employees can only engage with wellbeing benefits if they’re aware of them. Therefore, employers need to take into account whether their employees are more likely to read a text, pick-up a flyer or take part in a one-on-one chat. Finally, employers need to consider how best to encourage benefits take-up. The best way to do this is by providing a positive user experience. Mobile-first, easy-to-understand software is critical for engaging employees in their benefits plans and improving their overall perception of their employer.

With more Americans than ever before suffering from serious psychological distress, it’s clear that today’s employees are dealing with an unprecedented number of mental health issues. Employers need to play their part in addressing it. Helping improve employee mental health does not have to be a complicated task. Simply adjusting benefits in a strategic way can positively impact employees’ experiences, therefore improving how they feel and perform in the workplace.

When wellbeing is addressed correctly, the picture is much more positive. Employees who say that their benefits needs are met receive 76% more wellbeing initiatives and have 58% more life goals supported from their employer. This loyalty pays off, as these employees are twice as likely to recommend their employer to a friend, say they have a positive experience at work, and be proud to work for their company. The message for employers is clear: prioritize offering the best wellbeing benefits for your workforce, and you’ll reap rewards in employee engagement, attraction, and retention.

Improving Mental Health in the Workplace: Why Employers Should Turn to Tech

Improving Mental Health in the Workplace: Why Employers Should Turn to Tech

Winter is often the time associated with mental health issues, chalked up to the “winter blues,” but mental health struggles can hit at any time. Employers need to recognize employees’ need for mental health support as a year-round concern. This should be considered especially pressing since our recent Global Employee Benefits Watch report found that 64% of Americans feel their workplace has a negative impact on their wellbeing. Investing in wellness tools that educate employees on mental health and help them cope with work stressors is one way organizations can provide support.

By accurately providing care for their employees, employers can create a more balanced and productive workplace throughout the year. One simple but effective solution is to use technology to make mental health treatment easier and more accessible than ever before. Many people turn to technology, specifically mobile apps, to monitor and maintain their own mental wellbeing. Employers should take advantage of the opportunity to provide extra support to their employees via technology.

Why turn to tech?

According to a recent Rock Health report, two of the top funded areas of digital health were healthcare consumer engagement and digital therapies. In the first half of 2017 alone, companies in these categories raised $556 million. These applications are diverse, ranging from telemedicine platforms that enable remote access to care to interactive apps that track emotional fluctuations to daily motivational text messaging services.

The growth in the number and range of mental health apps comes at a time when mental health services are under unprecedented strain. Of the total population of American adults living with mental illness, 56.5% did not receive treatment and, for those seeking treatment, 20.1% reported they still had unmet treatment needs. Employers are realizing they can implement tools to help employees address these treatment needs.

For many, mental health is a topic that is difficult to discuss, either with their employers or a healthcare professional. Technology provides another avenue to monitor how you are feeling and suggest coping mechanisms.

How do employers benefit?

Increasing numbers of people are in need of mental health support. Yet, according to our research only 40% of employers prioritize wellbeing in their benefits strategy. This is a significant missed opportunity for employers. Supporting mental wellbeing can lead to improved employee engagement, reduced absence rates, and higher productivity.

Many employers are realizing the full cost of ignoring their employees’ mental wellbeing. According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, depression alone costs employers $44 billion each year. Investing $1 in depression and anxiety treatment leads to a $4 return in better health and work performance.

What can employers do?

Employers need to invest in software that enables employees to access mental health support on their own terms, wherever and whenever they choose.

Wellbeing apps can form one part of this care, but they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Flexible wellness pots offer another solution. With the right software they can be approachable and easy-to-use, giving employees an allowance to spend on their own wellbeing as they see fit. Employees can select wellbeing benefits or choose to be reimbursed, all through a consumer-friendly user experience. This flexibility can remove some of the barriers to care that exist today.

How can we support mental health in the long-term?

Apps or flexible wellness pots can open the door for the use of more sophisticated tools, such as data analytics. Thomsons’ recent Global Employee Benefits Watch 2017/18 report found that employers with developed global benefits strategies and systems in place are able to transition to using advanced tools more easily. They can use data and analysis to help identify the root cause of employee stress and create workplaces that foster mental wellbeing and boost happiness well before problems arise.

Analyst Josh Bersin cites one forward-thinking employer who used smart badges to monitor employees’ movements at work. The data revealed that the biggest contribution to employee happiness was walking around the office. Through this analytic process, business leadership came up with a simple solution – relocating conference rooms to encourage more movement.

Analytics can also help employers create data-driven benefits profiles, which can be used to present individuals with the wellness benefits that suit them best. When employees are aware of the benefits that fit their specific needs, they are more likely to take advantage of them. Putting the technology in place that enables this process is key.

Employees’ mental health care should always be a top priority for employers. But identifying and implementing the most effective care will never be an easy task. This process can be made infinitely less complex by technology. Employers can now use wellness apps and wellness pots to give employees the tools to help themselves, while simultaneously conducting data analysis to determine the best way they can support them. By allowing technology to assist them in keeping their employees healthy, happy and productive, employers will create a workplace that fosters a positive culture an unprecedented amount of success.

The Majority of Americans Believe Their Workspace Negatively Impacts Their Well-being. Here’s How To Fix It.

From the worsening obesity epidemic to stress levels continuing to rise, American employees are struggling with their wellbeing. New research shows that a shocking 64% of American workers believe that their employer and workplace are having a negative or very negative impact on their wellbeing. But what’s behind this alarming statistic? And what can businesses do about it?

When it comes to employee wellness and the employee experience, we found that forward-thinking organizations are recognizing their employees’ needs and addressing them through dynamic benefits programs that support them in and outside of the workplace. Research shows that they’re reaping rewards for this. Bersin by Deloitte finds that organizations focused on creating a flexible and empowering workplace experience are five times more effective at improving employee engagement and retention than their peers. Meanwhile, businesses that do not tailor the employee experience to support their workers will find themselves left behind. Companies that do want to gain a competitive advantage should focus on establishing a wellness program, looking for ways to go beyond traditional benefits, and digitizing the HR process.

Establish a wellness program

Wellbeing initiatives can take many forms, but flexible wellness pots, which enable employees to spend a wellbeing allowance in a way that suits them, are gaining in popularity. In a world where employees increasingly wish to be recognized as individuals, this approach enables organizations to cater for their personal preferences, be they for a diet program or meditation class. Surveying employees can also help to determine which wellness benefits they would value most, gym memberships for example, or counseling services to support them in times of need.

Nick Lawry, Reward Manager at Virgin Management, believes that benefits have never been more vital in ensuring the wellbeing and peace of mind of employees, notably as part of offering a fantastic employee experience. From offering financial education through to super flexible working and unlimited annual leave, they try to give people the benefits and the flexibility that allow them to take control and make the choices that are best for them.

Go beyond traditional

Promoting holistic employee wellness demands going beyond just health and fitness benefits. Financial concerns can have a significant negative impact on the mental health of employees – one Harris poll found that 82% of employees are under financial stress. Our research also indicates that they would appreciate having personal goals in this area of their lives supported by their employers. Outside of salary and retirement plans, employees would like employers to support broader financial needs, such as saving to buy a home or debt management. When we consider that over half of US employees aspire to buy a home, but less than one in twenty benefits programs cater for this life goal, the opportunity for employers to seize the initiative and support this need is clear.

Having flexible benefits that are customized to employee life goals sets companies apart and transforms them into great places to work. Pharmaceutical innovators Mundipharma recognized this, and in addition to its core benefits, launched a new range aligned to its employees’ lifestyles and designed to give them more choice. This additional selection ‘pot’ of benefits, called “Flex”, achieved staggering results. Since the rollout of Flex, 96% of employees have ‘flexed’ their benefits and employee turnover has reduced by 45% within 18 months. Meanwhile, the time to fill job openings has reduced from 50-days on average to just 28. Perhaps most importantly, engagement also improved and 90% of those who flexed their benefits regularly said they’d still “be working here in a year’s time.”

Digitize the benefits process

Employees are looking for an employer who will make a positive impact on their day-to-day lives. For companies to accomplish this, HR departments need to spend more time on transformational activities that focus on culture, engagement and employer brand. HR can free up time for this by automating and digitizing more processes. This is one of the reasons adoption of global and regional shared service centers as well as global human capital management (HCM) and global benefits technology are all on the rise. Working with top companies around the globe, I’ve seen firsthand what having a more digitized, globally-driven strategy that’s better aligned with people and business strategy can do. Achieve this, and organizations won’t just reduce admin and improve compliance – they’ll see an increase in benefits engagement, which will domino into workplace engagement, and have a positive impact on how employees feel about their organizations.

Companies with an established global benefits strategy and technology that supports the implementation of this are three times more likely to see a reduction in administration errors and twice as likely to see a reduction in benefits overcharges. The implementation of those benefits further help the company’s bottom line by creating a positive, supportive working environment that reduces the current disconnect between employers and employees around the workplace experience, attracting and retaining staff for the long haul.

Ultimately, the best companies are creating amazing global strategies and have the technology in place to deliver these so that employees really feel the benefits. They’re happier and healthier and they enjoy being at work. This is what will keep them an engaged and productive member of your organization.