The health and wellness of our nation remain at the forefront of media headlines, medical reports, and dominates today’s virtual coffee clubs and meeting topics. It’s never been more relevant to address the importance of employee health than now amidst a global pandemic. The concept of employee wellness is often challenged by organizational ignorance driven by an insatiable appetite for imminence. How does this translate? Employers balk at the idea of investing in preventative (positive lifestyle behavior modification) programs for fear the ROI (return on investment) won’t be realized immediately. The problem with this rationale is that it’s not rational! Unfortunately, many organizations (small, medium and large) look to ‘wellness’ when a crisis arises – claims analysis reveals a dramatic increase in catastrophic claims or a costly population health trend emerges. Executive leadership sounds the alarm, and HR and Benefits departments are often tasked with having to “fix” these problems with little or no knowledge of how to even begin.

The good news is that public health is a hot button issue now, and people have been forced to re-examine their physical health and wellness in ways never imagined.

The good news is that public health is a hot button issue now, and people have been forced to re-examine their physical health and wellness in ways never imagined

Lifestyles dramatically altered, physical distancing guidelines implemented, and all phases of social interaction, professional as well as personal, literally changing overnight as we meet COVID19. Every Internet search engine now overwhelmed with searches relating to ‘boosting one’s immune system’ or ‘identifying COVID19 symptoms’ has become a sign of this wildly unpredictable and turbulent climate. The bad news is that the severe mental health complications have taken a back seat to the more apparent symptoms. As research supports, one’s mental health directly correlates to their physical health, and as such, more attention should be given to ALL symptoms.

Organizations have a social responsibility to preserve and protect the wellness of their employees.

One might even assume that leadership would elect to recognize the value of its employees by offering an employee wellness benefit that encourages healthy lifestyle behaviors. Why? Simple, employees who feel valued are loyal. Given most employees work 12-14 hours a day (perhaps even more now that many are working ‘remotely’ due to the pandemic), it’s paramount to provide access to comprehensive wellness resources aimed at improving their quality of life.

At BankUnited, we recognized this in 2014 and implemented a companywide employee wellness program designed with their comprehensive health and wellness needs in mind. To date, we have seen substantial increases in engagement which correlates to lower medical claims across the board. BankUnited’s Employee Wellness Program was awarded the South Florida Business Journal’s “2020 Healthiest South Florida Employer”. For organizations considering the implementation of an employee wellness program, I encourage you to reach out to me for details on how you can get started.