The guide comes as Covid-19 disrupts many traditional on-site workplace weight-management and wellness programs. Obesity increasingly affects U.S. adults and is also costly to employers, the group noted. Nearly half of all U.S. adults are projected to be classified as obese by 2030, according to some estimates. And, taking into account medical costs as well as lost productivity, disability and workers' compensation, and absenteeism, obesity costs U.S. employers more than $73 billion annually.
Technology provides unique opportunities to support the mental health of your workplace in a scalable, cost-effective way. If you’re interested in learning more about how digital mental health tools can support your employees, see our Employer’s Guide to Digital Tools and Solutions for Mental Health, jointly developed by One Mind PsyberGuide and the Northeast Business Group on Health. The guide contains in-depth reviews of 27 different platforms for workplace mental health to allow employers to compare platforms and start to decide the best fit to meet employee needs.
The Northeast Business Group on Health has issued a new guide designed to help human resources and benefits leaders address the weight and obesity issues facing millions of employees.
The guide comes as Covid-19 disrupts many traditional on-site workplace weight-management and wellness programs. Obesity increasingly affects U.S. adults and is also costly to employers, the group noted. Nearly half of all U.S. adults are projected to be classified as obese by 2030, according to some estimates. And, taking into account medical costs as well as lost productivity, absenteeism and disability and workers' compensation, obesity costs U.S. employers more than $73 billion annually.
Because millions of employees are now working from home, an important part of the plan is remote intervention focused on healthy eating and physical activity, according to the group. That can include offering virtual healthy cooking demonstrations, promoting access to healthy meal and delivery services, offering virtual fitness classes and digital tools to promote physical activity, and offering mobile apps for managing stress.
The guide includes a list of digital weight-management tools available to employers as well as weight-management resources for employees. It also details case studies of four major employers' successful weight-management programs that relied on incentives, digital tools and virtual and on-site meetings to promote healthy weight behaviors among their employees.
"When we talk to employers, weight issues in general, including obesity, are always in the top five concerns around their workforce," said Candice Sherman, CEO of the business group.
The pandemic has only intensified that concern, Sherman said. New stressors, gym shutdowns and working from home have made managing weight more difficult for some people. And obesity has emerged as a significant risk factor for severe complications from Covid-19. —J.H.
And despite the trend toward remote work brought on by the pandemic, transportation benefits may be particularly valuable to certain segments of the workforce. A February report by the Northeast Business Group on Health found that employers can aid low-income workers with diabetes, for example, by providing transportation services or reimbursement for public transit or rideshares used to travel to appointments.
Fever screening and self-assessments are effective only when accompanied by social distancing, mask wearing and adequate workplace ventilation, said Dr. Saul Helman, a partner at consulting firm Guidehouse, which has been advising employers.
“Temperature checks and risk-assessment-type surveys have become very helpful in the first levels of screening of people before they come into an office building,” Helman said. “It’s not an ultimate layer. It’s not going to prevent every infected person from walking in.”
Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill, medical director at the Northeast Business Group on Health, agreed.
Temperature screening is “probably more reassuring than effective,” Cunningham-Hill said.
The Northeast Business Group on Health and One Mind PsyberGuide released an employer guide that provides HR and benefits leaders with information to assess and select digital mental health solutions for their employees. The guide includes two dozen mental health digital solutions and their key features, including what conditions each tool targets (stress, depression and anxiety, for example) and the types of interventions it offers (like coaching, mindfulness meditation or clinical therapy).
Consistent with a recent CDC report, fewer caregivers report their health status as excellent or very good and a greater proportion report being in fair or poor health. And according to a recent report from the Northeast Business Group on Health, employers report caregivers abandoning self-care.
Leaders cannot think of caregiver benefits as a cost center with no measurable ROI. Look at the big picture. Providing meaningful benefits impacts the health of your employees and the health care costs of the organization.
Validating Savage’s prediction, a survey from the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) found that 28% of employers who weren’t previously offering paid caregiver leave are considering doing so in 2021/2022.
The survey also found that caregiving and implementing flexible work arrangements were “at the top of benefit managers’ caregiving wish lists.”
Flexibility goes hand in hand with caregiving benefits by helping women stay in the workforce, instead of sacrificing their careers to start a family. According to a recent LinkedIn poll, more than a third of working mothers who went back to work after having kids agreed that they struggled to get hired, and 61% said it was challenging to re-enter the workforce, demonstrating just how incompatible with caregiving it is.
Employers surveyed by the Northeast Business Group on Health in late 2019 and early 2020 said they were increasingly prioritizing caregiving benefits, with 78% saying that caregiving would be an increasingly important issue over the next five years. Some employers have responded to the pandemic with new offerings targeted to caregivers, including Verizon and online education company Chegg, which announced in April that it would reward a childcare reimbursement of $500 per family for parents struggling to balance work and life.
For employers looking to add digital resources to their mental health strategy, the Northeast Business Group, working with One Mind PsyberGuide, has created a new resource, “Digital Tools and Solutions for Mental Health.” The guide includes more than two dozen digital health resources employers can employ to meet the needs of their workforce, wherever they’re currently working.
“Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionize treatment for mental health conditions,” said Dr. Mark Cunningham-Hill, Medical Director at NEBGH. “We developed this resource guide to arm employers with the information they need to make the right decision for their organization and employees. With the country now in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, the value of these tools that provide virtual solutions has increased exponentially.”