Five Improvements for Employee Health
  • Benefits Strategy

New Year, New Benefits: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Employee Health & Productivity

The turning of the New Year inevitably brings resolutions, and we know that some of the most common are related to improving health such as losing weight, eating better and getting more sleep. Unfortunately, we also know that the best laid plans often go awry. In fact, approximately 80 percent of these grand aspirations fail by the second week of February. 1  

In many scenarios, employers try to support these health goals with initiatives of their own; in some cases, offering walk programs, Fitbit devices or employee challenges. Yet, employers lose $225.8B (yes, “B” as in billion) each year in employee productivity due to employee illness and/or that of their family members.2 

So, how do we help set our workforce up to be healthy and productive throughout the year?  

There’s a simple way to improve a person’s health, and it doesn’t have to include kale and sit-ups. It’s a valuable part of total well-being. More specifically, it’s preventative care.

Preventative Care: The 5 Most Important Actions

What can I do to make this a healthy year? This is an admirable question that many people ask themselves when setting resolutions. The tricky part is that people tend to aim high with goals that are simply unattainable or with goals that aren’t clearly defined.  

Instead, focus on encouraging goals that are easily defined, relatively simple to achieve and satisfying when completed. Here’s how it works…

Knowledge is power, and the sooner people know if something is lurking in their body that needs to be addressed, the sooner they can take action. So, help employees get in the habit of making January and February the months where everyone takes action on these top five annual health goals:

  1. General well-checks, including blood work and immunizations. With a general wellness exam that reviews medical history, changes to family situation and checks on all the basics of great health, employees can get a jump on the year and uncover any hidden issues.
  2. Screenings based on age, gender and family history. Depending on varying factors, employees could take advantage of screenings, including mammograms, colon, prostate, skin cancer, blood pressure, cholesterol, depression and more.
  3. Renew & refill prescriptions. Employees can set themselves up for a healthy year by renewing prescriptions at the beginning of the year. That way, they don’t have to worry about running out mid-year and finding themselves lapsing in needed medications.
  4. Dental cleaning & checkup. After the abundance of holiday treats, what better time to push a reset on dental health. Additionally, oral health can reflect overall health, and, in some cases, the dentist could be the first to detect a health problem in its early stages such as diabetes or oral cancer.
  5. Vision exam. The New Year typically marks when vision benefits start over. It’s the perfect time to do a vision check and utilize those benefits. Along the same lines as dental exams, vision exams can help detect other medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions.

​​The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Only eight percent of Americans take advantage of all of the highly-recommended preventative services that have the greatest impact on health outcomes.3 

Employees likely know that these are beneficial to take care of, but need more motivation for them to take the jump. So, show them what’s in it for them. Answer the question of why these check-ups and why in January or February? Here are two scenarios to help them see the why:

Scenario 1: You head to your primary care visit in November. Your doctor does the typical screenings; however, finds that your blood pressure is in an elevated zone. He prescribes medicine along with limiting salt in your diet, increased exercise and follow-up appointments.

Scenario 2: You meet with your primary care doctor in January. He finds that you have elevated blood pressure and prescribes the same treatment as above.

The Difference: For many employees, January means the start of new medical, dental and vision benefits and the time when existing benefit deduction tracking sets back to zero. You could have saved big bucks by getting your medical checkup, screenings and prescription early in the year. Why? Because starting the same treatments in November could mean you receive treatment that crosses over two calendar years. The result is that you end up having to pay your deductible twice. Instead, if you start in January, every co-pay or out-of-pocket payment goes towards your deductible, giving you the best shot at meeting your deductible early in the year so you’re set up to take advantage of the savings the rest of the calendar year.

The early bird really does get the worm here.

Now What?

All of this is to say that, as a benefits administrator, you have tools to help encourage employees to take advantage of annual, preventative care that can set your employees up for a healthy year and help your organization maintain a healthy, productive workforce.

Here are some ideas to make employees successful:

  • Everyone loves FREE, so make sure to highlight that preventative care is covered 100 percent.  
  • Make it easy for employees to find a provider. Give them a list of doctors, vision care and dentists in your network and within a certain range of the workplace.
  • Hold an in-person or digital forum for employees to share doctor, dentist or vision recommendations and referrals.
  • Invite service providers in to the office so employees can take advantage of blood screenings, immunizations or other screenings on-site.  
  • Offer incentives for preventative care (i.e. gift cards for getting blood drawn, etc.).
  • Make it acceptable to miss work for preventative care appointments in January and February, and even continue to pay hourly workers for that time.
  • Use multiple communication channels to encourage preventative care, such as email, mobile, video, etc.
  • Use analytics to target employees who haven’t taken advantage of preventative care after the first quarter of the year.

Take a look at additional ways employers can set their workforce up for success in the on-demand webinar, Employee Benefits Trends: How to Make the Most of 2019.

U.S. News & World Report

2 Business Pulse: Healthy Workforce Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Health Affairs, June 2018