Business of Well-being

Why Inclusive Benefits Should be the Cornerstone of Your Workplace Wellness Strategy

Leslie Neitzel
Carrot Fertility
Inclusive Benefits

2021 was the year of The Great Resignation. A record-breaking 47.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs, and the numbers for 2022 are showing little relief for companies in their search to retain talent. Burnout has been cited as the number one reason employees are leaving their jobs, and it has presented itself as a hurdle that companies and HR leaders are facing, with 44% of employees saying that they are more burned out on the job. Burnout can affect not only workplace happiness and satisfaction but also have serious long-term consequences on individual health, leading to poor sleep and ultimately higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, as well as anxiety and depression.

In response, employees are reevaluating their priorities around work-life balance; 53% of employees are more likely to prioritize health and well-being over work than before the pandemic. In response, 71% of employers see medical and pharmacy benefits as key assets to combating the "talent tsunami." These benefits no longer focus just on basic health, vision, and dental but are now incorporating other important aspects of holistic health, including fertility and family-forming benefits, and mental health care. In fact, 88% of employees would switch jobs for a better fertility policy specifically.

Workplace wellness strategies help fight burnout and increase employee satisfaction only if they address deeper health concerns and ensure that everyone in the company can engage equally. And there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution that solves employee burnout; improving employee health requires a holistic, comprehensive approach. But when HR leaders provide the supportive benefits employees are looking for, we can create workplaces where employees thrive and want to stay.

Here is why inclusive benefits should be the cornerstone of your workplace wellness strategy and what to keep in mind as you work to enhance your benefits:

Healthier Workplaces Start with Diversity and Inclusion

It is a well-known fact that diverse workforces have proven to be more successful and effective. According to Deloitte, diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee, and Gartner found that inclusive teams improve team performance by up to 30 percent in high-diversity environments. In addition to improving a company's bottom line, diversity and inclusion have also been shown to boost different aspects of well-being, including physical health, coping, happiness, and feeling valued, drawing a direct correlation between diversity and healthier workplaces[8].

Benefits play an essential role in inclusivity within wellness programs, leveling the playing field and increasing pathways for people to engage with their health proactively. Wellness programs should keep in mind the opportunities and privileges that some people may have and not penalize others for not having access to those same privileges. When benefits are accessible to every employee — regardless of age, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or geography — they ensure a route for care, removing boundaries and potential roadblocks.

Age-inclusive benefits are especially important as workforces diversify; many organizations include employees that cross four or even five generations. The benefits that someone may be looking for in their 20s and 30s will look different from the support needed for employees in their 40s and 50s. It's vital to think about your entire workforce's differing needs and create equal opportunities for them to pursue health and wellness, regardless of age. For example, menopause and low testosterone are two areas of healthcare that aren't talked about in the office, but for aging employees, coverage of treatments could be the difference between them feeling ignored or invisible and feeling validated and supported. The easiest way for companies to ensure that they are supporting all employees is to select benefits that are inclusive from the start and offer a spectrum of services that appeal to multiple demographics.

Holistic Health Benefits Encourage Preventive Behaviors and Care

Just like employees can't thrive in a silo, neither can their wellness and healthcare. A standalone wellness program isn't effective if your employees aren't able to access basic healthcare needs. And by relying on only reactive healthcare, employees are missing out on strategies that could help reduce stress, increase physical activity, and improve general awareness around their well-being. Wellness programs and healthcare go hand in hand, serving as complementary pieces of the puzzle of employee care.

In addition to offering incentives for active lifestyles and healthy choices, companies should evaluate their benefits offerings to enable employees to make proactive health decisions.

This means ensuring that employees are able to access all aspects of healthcare, including mental health and fertility and family forming care as well. By providing holistic healthcare coverage, employees can be more mindful of their health across multiple verticals and could ultimately identify red flags in their health before the potential need for expensive interventions.

Adding Benefits Can Actually Help Reduce Healthcare Costs

When adding additional benefits, many employers only think about the additional upfront costs; however, companies can gain in the long run by offering comprehensive care. By providing proactive care opportunities, benefits can help improve overall outcomes and reduce long-term costs. In the same vein, a holistic approach to care prioritizes treatments that look to ensure someone is well overall instead of solving just one problem.

A great example of how additional benefits help to reduce overall costs is providing a benefit that prioritizes fertility care that encourages one healthy baby at a time. Historically, many multiple births were a result of IVF, and it's estimated that U.S. businesses spend $5.7 billion just to cover these healthcare costs. Employers spend 12 times as much on healthcare costs for premature or low-weight babies than for babies without complications. That's why it's critical to ask your prospective fertility vendors about their single embryo transfer rates — this helps provide an indication of their clinical perspective while also ultimately reducing healthcare costs.

By offering employees the opportunity, educational tools, and assistance to take control of their health and overall wellness, employers promote a healthier, more productive work environment that creates avenues to promote balance and well-being. A well-executed program, including well-rounded benefits, can support DE&I initiatives, increase employee satisfaction and retention, and reduce health care costs overall, providing a compelling opportunity to engage employees through healthy connections. By incorporating inclusive benefits into our workplace wellness strategies, we can empower all individuals on our teams to engage with their health proactively, fighting burnout and creating a healthier workforce.

Leslie Neitzel, CHRO at Carrot Fertility

Leslie Neitzel is Chief Human Resource Officer at Carrot Fertility, the leading global fertility healthcare and family-forming benefits provider for employers and health plans. In her role, Leslie oversees human resources, cultural initiatives, talent acquisition, engagement, and retention.

Leslie is passionate about building diverse and inclusive organizations that create a lasting impact. She has spent nearly 20 years in human resources, working in a variety of training and leadership roles from large corporations to high-growth startups, including Bank of America, Tribune Media, SAP SuccessFactors, ServiceMax, and Pendo.

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