The Evolution of Wellness Programs to Wellbeing Programs
Employee health and wellness have long been a focus for employers, but how they address it has changed in recent years. As more and more employers understand the benefit of implementing well-designed wellness programs, there has been a shift in focus from basic employee health to overall employee wellbeing.
For employers, employee wellbeing helps solve a range of issues from curbing absenteeism and sickness to reducing healthcare-related costs. Successful wellbeing programs can also drive employee engagement, boosting overall productivity and employee retention rates. Health Advocate estimates that stress costs U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion annually in lost productivity, while obesity-related healthcare expenses are expected to cost the U.S. $344 billion in 2018. These staggering numbers provide a strong financial incentive for employers to continue improving their corporate wellbeing programs.
For employees, the evolution of basic health plans to overall wellbeing can be beneficial in more ways than one. Employers today are taking a more holistic approach to managing wellbeing, covering areas beyond just health. This can include things like health and fitness, financial stability, personal growth, and mental health. Focusing on these areas improves overall wellbeing, driving productivity by reducing intangibles like stress or personal issues. Further, this approach is more preventative and aims to reduce the need for healthcare altogether.
New technology also continues to improve wellbeing programs, making it easier for employees to participate and drive overall engagement. Starting with wearables and the gamification of fitness tracking, new devices allow participants to track daily lifestyle habits and earn rewards for reaching certain milestones. For example, a client of ours, the ITA Group, a global engagement solutions expert focused on creating authentic, lasting emotional connections between organizations and their people, offers its Strive5 solution which emphasizes the five key areas it believes affect employee health and wellbeing: performance, career, wellness, social and community. Strive5’s proprietary technology supports ongoing data aggregation from the user’s recognition, performance and wellness initiatives to provide unprecedented visibility into his/her overall success.
Additionally, more and more programs involve a mobile app that can offer services ranging from life coaching to sleep tracking and meditation. These tech-enabled programs are more interactive, increasing participation rates across all demographics.
With all the ongoing interest in the space, there has naturally been a large amount of M&A and fundraising activity in the sector. Investors and corporations alike are drawn to the recurring and scalable nature of these wellbeing program providers. In 2017, digital health solutions providers such as Solera Health, Omada Health, Sharecare, and Jool Health have raised over $100 million in venture capital and growth equity. MHT Partners is very familiar with the investor interest in this space, having recently worked with ITA Group to pursue acquisitions in the space, including an acquisition that closed last September.
Bottom line: wellbeing programs can provide enormous advantages to an organization, including increased employee retention, improved participation rates in wellness and training options and improvements to both earnings and revenue.