In Pursuit of Equity and Well-being

At Workforce Strategy 2020, we discovered key insights to Reimagine Work & Well-being.

At Workforce Strategy 2020, we engaged in an honest dialogue with bold ideas for approaching health equity, diversity & inclusion, mental health, resilience, telehealth and much more. Together, our community will take what we learned to push boundaries and accelerate the shift toward achieving well-being and equity for all.

Here are key insights from this year’s Workforce Strategy conference, which focused on how to Reimagine Work & Well-being.

Equity, diversity and inclusion must be strategic priorities in the next era of well-being and health care.

The evidence is irrefutable and longstanding—diverse, inclusive organizations perform better, attract talent and have a positive impact on employee health and well-being. What is unique in this moment, according to Keynote Kate Feather, Vice President of Culture & Engagement at Lincoln Financial Group, is that diversity, inclusion and well-being are being discussed in the boardroom and keeping your CEO up at night. As HR leaders, we have an unparalleled opportunity to advance our goals and make significant, meaningful changes in employees’ lives. During Workforce Strategy sessions like Diversity & Inclusion and Employee Well-being: An Inside Look and The Future of Equitable Health Care, experts shared real-life examples of how to move all employees to their optimal health. Strategies discussed included training on cultural competence in the workplace and across health care networks, ensuring that benefits are relevant to populations served, aligning policies with organizational values and using metrics and accountability to achieve bold, admirable goals.

Employee health cannot be separated from community health.

It’s clearer than ever that the well-being of employees and their families is influenced by the communities where they live, work and play. And as exemplified by several Workforce Strategy sessions, organizations are turning this understanding into action. A number of speakers offered ideas and inspiration on how benefits and well-being leaders can expand their reach, including urging the audience to understand community factors that negatively affect employee health and aligning internal benefits and programs to address those needs. Speaker Andy Hiles, Vice President, Plan Sponsor Insights & Health Equity Solutions at Aetna, a CVS Health company, predicted that social determinants of health analytics will soon become the norm and will provide employers with helpful insights that they can use to tailor their benefit offerings. Importantly, at Workforce Strategy’s closing session, David Hoke, Senior Director, Associate Health & Well-being at Walmart, reminded us that the health of our businesses depends on the vitality of the community, which is why Walmart is promoting behavior change beyond the four walls of its stores by sharing its signature well-being initiative with everyone in Muskegon, Michigan.

Loneliness and grief may be invisible, but they must be acknowledged and addressed.

Loneliness and grief are common human experiences that deeply impact the health, well-being and performance of employees. As the ongoing pandemic forces employees to grapple with feelings of social isolation and loss, it is more important than ever for organizations to enhance meaningful connection among colleagues so that they feel seen and supported. In Transforming Loneliness: The Power of Social Connection and A Modern Conversation on Grief in the Workplace, Dr. Parneet Pal, Chief Science Officer at Wisdoms Labs, Inc., and Leslie Barber, Founder and CEO of Grief Warrior, offered actionable ideas for organizations to do this, such as trainings that give employees the skills to compassionately respond to colleagues who are grieving, or trainings that help leaders enhance feelings of trust and appreciation to create stronger interpersonal ties. Each session also underscored the importance of thoughtfully developed policies and benefits, such as offering ample bereavement leave or crafting an onboarding strategy that creates a sense of belonging.

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Are you OK? Employers step up to support mental health.

The data and the stories are telling - we’re experiencing a mental health emergency across the globe. Workforce Strategy sessions discussed the ways that the pandemic and racial injustice have increased the number of people reporting poor mental health, including worry, stress and anxiety. While the challenges and needs are great, speakers focused on actionable solutions: helping employees access mental health treatment through creative benefit design, telehealth and digital solutions, as well as training employees to become more agile and resilient But as discussed in Mental Health: An Executive Priority, addressing employee mental health takes more than offering world-class benefits. It’s also imperative to create a culture that’s inclusive, stigma-free and engages leaders at all levels in mental health conversations and initiatives. When all these ingredients are combined, employers are proactively and empathetically supporting the diverse mental health needs of all employees.

Physical health remains top of mind, with employers using creativity and technology to promote it.

While employers have dialed-up their focus on mental health, they’re still as tuned in as ever to the physical health and safety needs of the workforce. Several Workforce Strategy speakers pointed out that the mind-body connection is strong, so focusing on physical and mental health in tandem offers real benefits. Promoting telehealth to provide safe and easy access to care, launching challenges that encourage – and give employees permission – to step away from their desks and move throughout the day, helping employees set up ergonomically sound home workstations so that musculoskeletal health doesn’t suffer, and utilizing digital health solutions for condition management are a few examples that emerged during sessions exploring practical, creative employer approaches. What’s more, investments in employee health are paying off. UnitedHealth Group presented how higher health engagement resulted in greater productivity, higher sales, less safety accidents and shorter short-term disability claims. It’s clear that the value of health is more than cost savings; it has a positive ripple effect on the entire company.

The events we’ve experienced in 2020—a global pandemic, an economic crisis, the killing of George Floyd and other Black lives taken unjustly —sparked significant changes in our world and in our workplaces. From the accelerated adoption of AI in navigation and telehealth to long-term remote work strategies, strategic partnerships between diversity & inclusion and well-being teams, and employers taking on a greater role in addressing racism and inequities, we explored how leading companies are embracing change and ushering in the future of work. At Workforce Strategy 2020, the power of people coming together was felt, and Business Group on Health will continue to convene our community to tackle workplace challenges and drive change that impacts individual well-being, community health and business prosperity.