The COVID-19 situation has rattled the global economy and businesses in many ways. For many employers, the pandemic has forced them to rethink their workplace culture policies and employee health care strategies, making it an amicable and actionable business goal.
A 2021 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey was conducted on 122 large employers group that were covering more than 9 million lives. The survey studied the employer approaches towards employee benefits and healthcare costs, and the impact of COVID-19 on their financial issues.
The survey focused on certain key areas that impact employee health and business growth, and emphasized 7 chief aspects pursued by employers in 2021.
Here are some outcomes of the Employee Wellbeing survey.
Prioritizing Employee Health and Wellbeing
The past few years have seen employers prioritizing employee health and wellbeing. There has been a drastic rise in the implementation of workforce strategies that include employee wellbeing as an integral part. The COVID-19 has further intensified the association of employee wellness and organizational productivity.
Compared to 27% in 2018, in 2020, 45% of employers consider employee healthcare as an integral part of their strategy. While 20% of employers did not pay much heed to employee wellbeing in 2018, the number dropped down to 6% in 2020 for employers who considered employee healthcare as a strategy separate from their workplace policies.
Telemedicine and Digital Health Solutions
There is no doubt that telemedicine and virtual healthcare are here to stay. With advancing wellness technology, employers are now offering digital health solutions as a part of the employee benefits package. With COVID-19 restricting physical activity and enforcing remote working, employees are more prone to musculoskeletal and mental health disorders. Although employers were promoting employee holistic health, COVID-19 has made virtual healthcare mandatory, and studies show an exponential rise in its demand.
80% of the employers in the survey agreed that virtual care is going to have a significant impact on how healthcare will be delivered in the future. There was a 67% increase in the utilization of telemedicine and virtual care solutions in the first six months of 2020, compared to the entire utilization in 2019. While 53% are planning to implement more virtual care and telemedicine solutions, 36% are looking to expand their access to mental health services through corporate wellness programs and likewise. 76% of employers are working towards offering better access to virtual healthcare solutions, 71% are accelerating telehealth, virtual care, and digital health solution offerings, and 12% of employers are reforming their deferred healthcare delivery system.
Although many employers were offering virtual care and digital health solutions for a long time, not many employees were utilizing the resources to their fullest. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has skyrocketed the access and utilization of virtual care and telemedicine solutions by employees from a previous 33% to 55% in 2020, even for remote chronic condition management.
Projected Healthcare Costs
Owing to COVID-19 social distancing and government regulations, many people have been deferring their healthcare, including preventative care and elective care. The delayed healthcare in 2020 has projected a 5.3% rise in healthcare costs in 2021. The study proposes that if normal healthcare resumes in 2021, the projected trend of a 5% increase in employee healthcare costs may be too low in reality. And so, to reduce delays in offering healthcare solutions to employees, employers are now looking to offer telemedicine and digital health solutions, along with other employee wellbeing resources to reduce healthcare solutions like corporate wellness programs, fitness wearable and tracking devices, workplace wellness apps, and more.
Emphasizing Mental Health Services
The past decade has thrown a lot of spotlight on employee mental health. As the coronavirus pandemic has caused global stress on various fronts, the risk of employee mental health issues is also on the rise. And so, the focus on employee mental health and emotional wellbeing has doubled up. Since employers are not stepping back from offering mental wellness resources, the social stigma around it has also reduced, and people are more open to accept and talk about their mental health issues.
The study shows a drastic rise in employer offerings for employee mental wellbeing from 2019 to 2021. In 2019, only 58% of employers offered access to online educational resources for mental wellbeing, whereas in 2020, the number rose to 69%, and is expected to grow to 88% in 2021. The manager and peer training facilities to identify and manage employee mental health was 30% in 2019, 47% in 2020, and 65% in 2021. Also, 20% of employers were going to offer mental health navigation programs at their workplace by 2021.
Revising Health Plans and On-Site Services
With a blow to the global economy, employers are looking for cost-cutting strategies. Right from revising the employee benefits package to addressing the high-cost insurance plans and treatment costs, employers are taking it all into account to draft actionable cost management strategies. While 9% of employers are choosing to move away from the full replacement high deductible health plans, 12% are looking to implement high-performance networks. Also, many employers are planning flexible on-site wellbeing initiatives, including mental health counseling, financial discussions with experts, biometric health screenings and assessments, COVID-19 workplace solutions, and on-site clinical consultation. Offering on-site health services is a major priority for many employers now. The number of employers offering on-site health services rose from 47% in 2016 to 58% in 2020, and is projected to rise to 72% by 2023.
Plenty of studies have proven the impact of employee health and wellbeing on workplace wellness and organizational productivity. And so, many employers are steadily leaning towards implementing the right employee engagement strategies to ensure workplace and employee wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven beyond words the importance of employee wellness and the need to be prepared with the right strategies to manage financial crunches or any workplace disturbances.
In short, the survey outcomes resonate with the willingness of the employers to implement future workplace wellness strategies that focus on improving the holistic wellness of the employees, establish a healthy workplace culture, reduce healthcare costs, and thus, plan and grow the business, without many hindrances in 2021 and further on.