We are in the fast-paced age of technology and Health & Benefits is having to transform and evolve at an alarming pace to keep up. 

The way in which we work has dramatically changed in the last five years, not least thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Flexible working, remote working, hybrid working, working from home, co-working spaces, mental health awareness… (the list goes on) have become more and more commonplace in our everyday business language.  In this ever-changing work landscape companies are finding it crucial to adapt their Health & Benefits programmes and wellness offerings to fit with the ever-evolving requirements of today’s employees. 

This article will explore the impact of new ways of working regarding Health & Benefits and discuss ways in which companies can adapt their wellbeing programmes to attract and retain the best talent.  We will also look at how organisations can anticipate future trends and developments and manage the risks associated with these new working methods.

How we work today

In today’s world we have a vast array of choices as to where we work and how we work. With those come new concerns and risks when it comes to our employees’ mental health.

Remote working has become the new norm for many.  However, while it has benefits, such as increased flexibility and improved work-life balance, it can also negatively impact employees’ mental and physical health. According to a study by the World Health Organization, remote workers have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and burnout due to the lack of social interaction and the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life.  To mitigate the negative impacts of remote working, organisations can provide employees with mental health support, ergonomic equipment, and technology to help them work more efficiently from their chosen location. Additionally, as within the office environment, employers can encourage employees to take regular breaks, establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, and ensure they have access to adequate healthcare coverage.

Flexible working hours have become a popular request as employees seek a better work-life balance, working around their families or other commitments.  However, organisations using flexible working as an attractive tool to retain employees need to be aware of how to help employees manage their hours effectively to prevent overwhelm and stress.  Organisations must establish clear guidelines and policies to ensure flexible working hours do not negatively impact employees’ health, making it clear what the legal maximum working hours are, that breaks need to be taken regularly, and what their expectations are around an employee’s availability.

Hybrid working combines in-office and remote working to offer flexibility and support to employees. It proves a popular choice for employees because they typically enjoy more autonomy and a better work-life balance.  Employers adopting this model have noticed their employees are more engaged meaning the company benefits by building a more productive, healthy, stable workforce. 

However, with this new blended working comes unique challenges.  For example, employees may feel disconnected from their colleagues, and there may be a need for more collaboration and communication, leading to decreased productivity.  Organisations must establish clear communication channels to mitigate the negative impacts of hybrid working and ensure employees have access to the technology and resources they need to work effectively. Employers should also encourage regular communication and collaboration to ensure that employees feel connected to their colleagues.

The Transformation of Health & Benefits

We are in the fast-paced age of technology and Health & Benefits is having to transform and evolve at an alarming pace to keep up.  There are numerous ways Health & Benefits is supporting these new ways of working. We see significant changes in the way remuneration and benefits are structured. Benefits are becoming more diverse, and packages are more voluminous. They are geared to every age, lifestyle, and need. They range from the well-known additional health and pension benefits to household help or childcare, to experiences, more free time in the form of extra days or unpaid leave, free personal days, or a 4-day working week.

Overall, the transformation business model for Health & Benefits is a process of continuous improvement requiring ongoing feedback, analysis, and refinement to deliver maximum value to both employees and employers.

This process involves several key steps, including:

  • Identifying employee needs and preferences: Employers must first understand the needs and preferences of their employees to design relevant and effective benefits programmes. This may involve conducting surveys, focus groups, or other forms of employee feedback to gather insights.
  • Designing personalised benefits packages: Once employers have a better understanding of employee needs and preferences, they can design benefits programmes tailored to individual employees. This may include a range of wellbeing programmes, financial incentives, and other value-based benefits.
  • Leveraging technology, data analytics and delivering insights: Employers can use technology and data analytics to better understand employee needs and preferences and deliver insights to track employee engagement and outcomes. This can help employers identify areas for improvement and refine their Health & Benefits offerings over time.
  • Fostering a culture of wellbeing: Employers must foster a culture of wellbeing within their organisations by promoting healthy(ier) behaviours and providing a supportive environment for employees to achieve their health and wellbeing goals.
  • Education: In a fast-moving world, adapting to changes can be difficult for employees, especially considering a multi-generational and multi-cultural workforce. Employers should take the initiative in creating educational programmes, with a focus on health awareness and healthy lifestyles, as well as  on digital skills enabling access to care.

Digital health: The rise of telemedicine solutions

From mobile digital health apps to smart watches, many employees are already utilising the tools of the digital age to monitor and manage their own health and wellbeing.  They are already tracking their health metrics, such as blood pressure or blood glucose levels, and have access to real-time feedback to help them manage their overall health or pre-existing conditions.

Employers should be tapping into this trend, making the most of a broad range of technologies and tools designed to improve healthcare delivery, patient outcomes, and the overall patient experience.  It is undeniable that digital health solutions should be a part of your Health & Benefits package, whether that be additional coverage for group health insurance or a standalone product.

Telemedicine is perhaps one of the newest digital offerings in Health & Benefits.  It improves patient access to care, and accessible pathways focusing more on preventative care.  For example, it enables patients to receive care remotely, which is particularly important for those who cannot travel to a healthcare facility. This can include those living in rural areas, suffering with mobility issues, or who are immunocompromised and at higher risk of infection.

Other offerings for your Health & Benefits arsenal

As quickly as employees’ requirements change so does the plethora of Health & Benefits options available for employers to offer their workforce.  The war for talent is fierce, especially in sectors such as IT.  Having additional products in your repertory might just win you the recruiting contest.

Mental health products – Historically mental health might not have received as much emphasis in some Central and Eastern European countries as in others. However, there is a growing recognition of its importance. Progressive employers are integrating mental health support and counselling services into their benefits packages.

Flexible benefits systems – Some companies are offering flexible benefits systems where employees can choose the benefits that are most relevant to their personal circumstances with options to change these as their circumstances change.

Wellness programmes and work-life balance – Employers are increasingly offering a broader range of wellbeing programmes and incentives to encourage employees to play an active part in managing their health. This includes things like gym memberships, healthy meal options, and financial incentives for meeting health goals.

Future trends and developments

Looking ahead, emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and automation, will continue to shape the future of work. This will require organisations to adapt their policies and practices to support these changes and ensure their employees have the necessary resources and support to succeed in this new environment.  For example, organisations may need to invest in training and development programmes to ensure employees have the necessary skills to succeed in a more technology-driven workplace.

As organizations continue to navigate this new reality, it is essential to consider the benefits and risks of these new ways of working. We are giving our employees the opportunity for an excellent work-life balance meaning improved productivity, and cost savings for the organisation. However, we are exposing them to new mental health risks such as feeling isolated because they are having reduced face-to-face interaction, which may hinder communication and collaboration; as well as to older more familiar risks such as burnout but with the lack of supervision you get in an office.

Organisations must be prepared to support their employees in the latest and emerging ways of working while managing the associated risks. They need to consider factors such as the availability of appropriate equipment, connectivity, and access to virtual collaboration tools. They must also provide support for their employees’ physical and mental health, including ergonomic workspaces, mental health resources, and access to healthcare.  Those who don’t take these factors into account, will be opening themselves up to a whole new can of  employee mental health worms, talent retention issues and much more.

Preslava Gencheva joins GrECo

Preslava Gencheva

Deputy Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits

Preslava Gencheva joins GrECo

Danijela Jurcic

Head of Health & Benefits, GrECo Croatia

Gabriele Andratschke

Head of Group Human Resources

T +43 664 962 39 18

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