From the Blog:

State of employee healthcare: 10 ways to connect with your people

No surprise: the healthcare landscape is ever-shifting, with rising costs and healthcare reform. Meanwhile, employer-sponsored health plans and wellness programs play a continual game of “review and revise” to stay in lockstep with budgets and new laws. All of this can make it difficult to keep your finger on the consumer headspace: what’s working for them, what’s not and how you can design plans and programs to meet their needs, while still meeting business objectives and government regulations.

Enter Aon Hewitt’s third annual Consumer Health Mindset study, which lets us in on how people feel about employers’ health and wellness strategies. We’ve got 10 favorite takeaways from the study – all of which will help keep your employees happy, healthy and engaged.

10 Ways to Win Employee Hearts and Minds When It Comes to Health and Wellness:

1. Reinforce small, positive choices that aren’t time-consuming or costly.

Consumers know they have a lot of control over their own health. But they also readily admit they’re stressed out and lack both the time and money to get and stay healthy. So encourage baby steps – several Limeade clients have had luck with color-coding cafeteria food (green = healthy choice, yellow = think twice, red = eat at your own risk). And we love this example from the study: a vending machine sticker noting that you need to walk the length of a football field to burn off one (!) M&M®.

2. Admit that stress at work exists and plays a huge role in overall health.

Stress-related issues in the workplace have been on the rise for almost 20 years. The American Psychological Association notes that chronic stress can lead to depression and, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression costs American companies $44 billion in lost productivity. So get real about stress and its impact, then find ways – flexible work arrangements, stress management programs, even on-site yoga classes – to help employees reduce it.

3. Create a culture of health.treadmill desk - State of employee healthcare: 10 ways to connect with your people

Employees get the importance of a health-oriented work culture – and they say it makes them more likely to do what’s right for them. So make it a point to support healthy activities during the workday: at Limeade, 2 on 2 basketball is a great stress-reliever and team-builder. Some LimeMates also head out for a late-day run together. And make sure leaders are role models for healthy behavior (our CEO, Henry Albrecht, is a fan of walking meetings).

4. Money talks.

Like it or not, it’s the truth. Employees are flat-out less likely to participate without a financial reward. As long as you’re chatting with them about their health goals and what’s convenient for them, throw in a few questions about incentives that get them jazzed – premium discounts, cash, gift cards?

5. Recognize health achievements.

People believe their employer encourages healthy behaviors and supports their personal health goals, but they’re not totally feeling the love for their efforts. Make it a priority to recognize employees’ progress – leaderboards, acknowledgement at team meetings, even personal kudos from the CEO.

6. Make your program relevant and convenient.

People participate in wellness programs when the programs help them achieve their personal goals and are convenient in terms of time and accessibility. Talk to employees about their health goals and what motivates them. Find out what they’re willing to commit time and energy toward. And don’t be afraid to tailor your program offerings to meet different needs.

7. Incorporate health culture into your business strategy

The best way to make health improvement a priority is to weave it into your business plans. Make it a pillar that drives other decisions throughout the company, then look at a typical workday and help employees make good choices, like healthy foods in the cafeteria and vending machines or on-site fitness equipment and classes.

8. When it comes to health plans, keep it simple.

As costs increasingly shift to the employee, they’re being asked to become educated consumers – both when shopping for a health plan and when managing their healthcare expenses. Keep your plan design simple and easy to use.

9. Honesty and a helping hand go a long way.

If you’re going to ask employees to take a larger role, you’ve got to tell them why. Be upfront about the costs to them AND to the company, as well as the reasons for changes. Provide straightforward tools and charts that outline all aspects of their health insurance. Then walk them through the process of using the plan (personas and sample scenarios are super effective) and offer tips on how to avoid common mistakes.

10. Communications: high-tech, high-touch, how-to.

Your employees represent a variety of generations and walks of life, so mix up your communication channels. Websites and email are still the big winners, but people are now more likely to use mobile apps (if you don’t have one, give it serious thought). To increase your reach, incorporate web, email, mobile, social media, texting, town halls and print into your communication strategy. As always, content is king: people most want communications that help them choose the health plan that will best meet their needs. Help them nail that and you’ll be well on your way to winning not just hearts and minds, but also healthy, engaged employees.