In partnership with their clients, medical carriers often allocate funds or credits specifically for wellbeing initiatives and health communications that employers spend over the course of each year. Rules vary from carrier to carrier, but normally there is a pre-approval process for use of the money and a requirement to spend down the funds before the end of the plan year. Due to the pandemic, employers may need to rethink how and when to utilize their wellbeing dollars in 2020, as well as inquire about potential contingency plans in the event you cannot spend the money before the offer expires.
Employers typically utilize their wellbeing funds for activities such as onsite classes, wellbeing challenges, screenings and health fairs. Another common use of such funds is to provide employees with incentives for participating in wellbeing program activities; rewards range from fitness tracking devices to gift cards to premium discounts.
During this unique time, however, seize the opportunity to think outside the box in order to optimize wellbeing dollars to support employees’ wellbeing and reduce stress. This may include adjusting or eliminating the requirements of some aspects of incentive programs, especially with regard to activities like screenings and health assessments (i.e. medical inquires). Employees do not need added pressure, emotionally or financially; wellbeing programs should feel supportive not punitive.
Here are a few ways to spend your wellbeing funds to take care of your employees:
At-Home & Virtual Self-Care Tools
- Subscriptions for a mindfulness app or sleep aids
- At-home fitness equipment, programs or virtual personal training
- Products that improve the ergonomics of home workstations
- One-month membership to a healthy meal delivery service
- Virtual programs or coaching to help employees with tobacco cessation
- Water bottles for a hydration challenge
- Personal and home safety equipment (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, first aid kits)
- Online nutrition programs
- Journals or adult coloring books for reflection and relaxation
- Communication and training on accessing virtual health providers
Rewards for Activities that Foster Social Connection
- Prizes for wellbeing campaigns focused on self-care practices
- Books for participants of a virtual book club
- Wellbeing week, featuring online education, demonstrations, search and find activities, and fun quizzes to enhance benefits knowledge and health literacy
- Healthy selfie contest or best at-home workspace contest
- Recipe circles or cooking clubs
- Tickets to concerts/Broadway musicals on Facebook or Instagram Live
- Bingo that includes activities for self-care and/or finding silver linings
- Peer-to-peer recognition programs
- Themed “Spirit Week” days to show off via Zoom/Skype meetings
- Virtual field trips with coworkers and families to a museum or exhibit of the week
Online Learning Opportunities
- Management training focused on supporting remote employees
- Seminars on personal and professional development topics
- Assessment opportunities to enhance career wellbeing
- Classes on mental health first aid
- Classes on personal financial planning and living wills
Audit & Enhance Your Workplace for the Future
- New mothers’ room amenities
- Zen room or fitness room equipment
- Safety equipment
- Blood pressure cuffs
- Standing collaboration stations
- Aesthetic improvements, such as lighting, artwork, plants
If you are fortunate to already have a wellbeing coordinator on your payroll, at this time, they will play an even more critical role in providing information and support to employees navigating work and life challenges. If you don’t have a coordinator, talk to your carrier to determine if you are able to utilize the dollars to fund a part- or full-time position. This person doesn’t need to be onsite to keep your wellbeing efforts running, facilitate your wellbeing committee, promote activities and benefits available through the health plans and EAP, and boost workforce morale.
While you are figuring out how to make the most out of this year’s wellbeing funds, start a wish list for next year. You may have remaining funds in the fourth quarter that can be used for upcoming wellbeing campaigns. Filter your purchasing decisions through a wellbeing lens and attempt to address each of the wellbeing domains: Purpose, Financial, Social, Physical and Community. Get as much employee input as possible on what resources they find meaningful to their wellbeing journey.