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Valuing Whole Health Reframes ROI

5 min read

Directly or indirectly, behavioral health challenges affect everyone. One in 5 adults experience a diagnosable mental health condition in a given year, and more than half go untreated.

That lessens your employees’ quality of life, whether it’s their challenge or a family member’s, but it also affects your costs as an employer. A 2019 Harvard Business Review study found that mental health conditions and substance use disorders annually cost employers in the United States more than 200 million workdays, equating to roughly $16.8 billion in employee productivity.

Physical health and behavioral health, which includes mental health disorders and substance use disorders, are intertwined. A person with physical ailments often experiences related behavioral health problems, such as clinical depression or escalating dependence on painkillers. Likewise, physical health often deteriorates in people suffering from substance use disorder or experiencing mental health challenges. They may not have the ability or inclination to tend to their physical health, take their medicines or go to medical appointments. So, when physical health coverage is paired with ample behavioral health resources, studies show that both areas improve for the patients. When you add in wellness programs, the results can be even more meaningful and satisfying.

Today, a majority of U.S. companies have well-being programs, Employee Assistance Programs or other behavioral health resources in place in addition to their general health plan. There is a growing trend to invest more in these areas. However, tracking the return on investment (ROI) to justify their expense can be difficult, as it can be tricky to isolate the variables that may account for improved health outcomes and possibly lower medical costs to your group and its members.

That’s why it is wise to consider positive outcomes of whole-health (physical and behavioral health coverage) benefits plans in ways beyond basic ROI. Traditional metrics may not always tell the whole story, making valuable programs easy for employers to nix without truly understanding the impact it’s having on the workforce.

A More Valuable Assessment

The key to evaluating your health plan’s performance is to reframe success in terms of what matters most to your workforce and what outcomes would make the biggest difference. Here are some promising ways* to measure the value of investment (VOI) beyond traditional ROI.

  • Participation: How engaged are your employees with these programs overall and specifically in program eligibility, enrollment and actual engagement with the resources? Companies with engaged employees can see as much as 4.5 times more revenue growth than those with low engagement levels.
  • Satisfaction: Poll how satisfied your employees are with these benefits, asking the same questions to your leadership and management staff.
  • Organizational support: How well is your company incorporating these resources to create a culture that embraces health across programs, departments, policies and procedures? Can you do more to integrate these into your culture?
  • Productivity and performance: Design ways to track and connect health factors to employee absenteeism, retention and job success.
*Source: Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and Population Health Alliance (PHA)

A Healthy Mix of Metrics

Evaluating your programs via ROI where applicable and with VOI for programs where ROI is less apparent is the strongest strategy. Your organization’s behavioral health and well-being programs are often meant to help employees and their families improve rest, focus, resilience, balance, stability and self-care. When successful, these efforts create intangible value that affects your organization in other ways, such as reducing employee presenteeism and burnout while boosting their engagement and productivity.

For example, evaluating an employee wellness program could include tracking employee morale, number of sick days, employee productivity and talent retention. When you understand what you want the benefits you offer to accomplish, you can set measurable and achievable goals and communicate the intention of your investment to your workforce, getting more buy-in from employees, supervisors and managers.

Strategic First Steps

Some concrete actions to get your team on board with this new focus on VOI:

  1. Start by evaluating your approach. What matters most to your employees? Ask them. Ask what effects your benefits are designed to produce. How could those benefits affect the health and performance of your workforce?
  2. Acknowledge that ROI still matters, but in some areas, the benefits you are taking and your approach to them aren’t about direct financial impact. Seek ways to assess the VOI and discover meaningful results.
  3. Consult with your health plan partner directly. Your health plan isn’t only focused on administering benefits and developing new solutions. They can work with you on ways to measure their true value to your organization.

Measuring your holistic health plan through value-linked outcomes can deliver impressive and clear results.

Four Keys to Reducing Employee Burnout

A full 75% of the American workforce has experienced burnout at some time in their careers. Employee burnout stunts productivity and engagement and leads to missed days of work, poor attitudes and employee turnover.

A key part of fostering your organizational identity as a company leader who cares about its employees is actively bringing that culture to life in your workplace.

Here are four ways to promote an engaged, more satisfied workforce and reduce employee burnout.

  1. Train empathetic leaders — Creating a supportive company culture starts at the top. Managers can encourage their teams to take advantage of available employee resources, ensuring them that there will be no penalization for seeking help. This includes normalizing the conversation around behavioral health issues and connecting employees to those resources.
  2. Allow downtime and bonding — Hard work from committed, driven employees stems from allowing them time to decompress for a few minutes while at work and encouraging employees to forge supportive workplace relationships with their colleagues.
  3. Give employees meaningful work — Make sure your employees understand they each play an important role and can make a difference in your organization. Find ways to recognize their achievements and listen to their ideas. Feeling valued and appreciated can be a motivational force for employees.
  4. Promote preventive care and healthy habits — Incorporate wellness and preventive care information into your communications and explore incentivizing wellness and personal enrichment activities. Offering wellness programs, webinars and other career or personal development opportunities shows employees you care about their growth.

Burnout happens to almost everyone at some time, but applying these strategies within your organization can make a big difference in curtailing it while building employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Visit healthbenefitinsight.com for more information into how behavioral health impacts your employee population. To see behavioral health resources available to Arkansas Blue Cross members, go to mymindhelp.com. Connect with a case manager by calling 1-800-225-1891.

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