PSNC 2020: Creating a Culture of Health

A panel sponsored by Fidelity discussed building confidence when navigating the health care system.

Experts speaking on the second day of the 2020 PLANSPONSOR National Conference evaluated how employee confidence and workplace culture can increase engagement in employer benefits, and how plan sponsors can help employees.

Brian Brown, vice president of health and welfare at Fidelity, began the online panel by saying that while many employers regularly emphasize a “culture of health,” they’re often unsure how to build such an environment. Understanding what drives employee confidence can help employers prioritize the right levers to pull, he said.

A recent Fidelity survey found some aspects of the health care experience, such as healthy behaviors, preventative care and treatment, cost and quality of care, and planning for the future, increase confidence among employees. “Regardless of what employees we looked at, we found that this framework holds true for all,” said Nancy Emerson, vice president of Fidelity Health Solutions Thought Leadership.

The survey explored 200 variables and homed in on 16 key behaviors that drive employees to feel more confident, including getting quality sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, drinking enough water and getting appropriate levels of exercise. Making sure employees cover these variables will likely increase attention and engagement among workers. “If you focus on these 16, that is one way to narrow the field on helping people become better savers,” Emerson continued. “The beauty about this framework is that if you focus on some, all the dimensions are interconnected.”

The presentation also covered key benefits plan sponsors should consider for their workforce, including health savings accounts (HSAs), retiree medical care, health care retirement estimation calculators, health age scoring, work-life balance programs, behavioral health support and telemedicine. Emerson emphasized that a collection of benefits, rather than one sole feature, is more likely to aid participants. “There’s no silver bullet benefit—there isn’t one that works across all dimensions. It’s about making sure that you have a diverse set of benefits,” she said.

Lisa Berkman, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, spoke about how workplace policies influence health and well-being. Workplace policies, practices and culture have a substantial impact on the growing inequalities in health, she said. For example, changing work conditions can place the health and well-being of workers increasingly at risk, especially for low-to-mid-wage workers.

Employers aiming to increase workers’ engagement and confidence should rethink annual enrollment, Brown said. He said sponsors should space out benefit communications and create personalized messages on key benefits based on the information they already have on hand. Before the end of the year, emphasize what benefits you currently provide and assess the value of these offerings, he suggested. Review these benefits against desired outcomes, look closely at the designs and vendors of your benefits and ask yourself if you can achieve a culture of health in your plan with the current benefits offered.

Most importantly, understand your employee population, Brown said. “Take more information on your employee population and understand the stressors in their daily lives,” he added. “This can have a lasting effect on your employees. Take a hard look at your policies and procedures and the way they’re executed in their organization.”