Benefits Strategy

Post-Pandemic Employee Health is a Major Issue For Employers Right Now

Written by Allie

Everywhere we look, employee health is in the headlines. After a brutal year and a half, employers are seeing and feeling the effects of a global health crisis on their workforce. And the results are not good.

Employers understand the impact on mental health is going to have a long tail on it. Once you’ve gotten vaccinated, mental health issues don’t go away. And once you’re back in the workplace, mental health issues don’t go away,” Sandra Kuhn, a partner at benefits consulting firm Mercer, recently told CNN.

As organizations ease back into the office, managers are reporting higher rates of depression and anxiety among staff, more inter-office frustrations, and an alarming level of employee burnout.

According to the American Institute of Stress, more than half of the 550 million working days lost annually in the U.S. from absenteeism are stress-related. These unexpected absences are estimated to cost companies over $600 per worker per year.

Diminishing employee health has also created another pressing issue for employers: high turnover.

According to the Workforce Institute 2021 Engagement and Retention report, more than half of the country’s workforce is looking for a new job in 2021.

Some of that fueled by employee health issues, but some is also due employees wanting more flexibility and refusing to work for places that do not value or support them. This surge has become a stressful and costly process for employers as they determine how to recruit, train and retain new talent to fill hundreds of open positions, the report says.

Many of those issues can be prevented, and whether those employees stay or go really depends on how leadership responds. (Worth nothing, managers are reporting higher levels of stress and burnout too.)

Our decade in the corporate wellness industry makes one thing is very clear, however: when organizations don’t invest in employee health, the result is a workplace brimming with sad, stressed-out, distracted, and unwell people.

Colleagues chatting near their desks at a modern trendy office

How wellness can help turn your company culture around

Employees who aren’t well are not able to bring their best selves to work.

We know from experience and research that poor workforce health can also lead to increased turnover or decreased employee loyalty, more absenteeism and presenteeism, and sometimes even negative brand sentiment!

Corporate wellness programs are designed to encourage healthier lifestyle choices for your workplace, and help to avoid health-related problems impacting your business. Programs that focus on a lifestyle of wellness are highly effective at turning a negative, unhealthy culture right around.

Enticing wellness benefits can also help you to hire the right people and reduce turnover. Studies have shown that employees who enroll in their company’s wellness benefits have higher job satisfaction than those who don’t, and may be 2x more likely to recommend your company as a great place to work.

Promoting a culture of wellness can also spark creativity and innovation in employees too!

Ready for a change? Here’s five things you can do to improve employee health and retain your top talent:

1. Offer an Engagement-Boosting Wellness Benefit

Employees love wellness benefits! If you’re trying to focus on improving employee health while also improving your company culture, look towards programs that are dynamic and engaging.

Programs that make people do something are more impactful than passively learning or talking about wellness. Consider offering wellness incentives to encourage employees to complete healthy activities, such as exercise, visiting the doctor, or getting a vaccine.

Pro tip: When evaluating wellness programs or vendors, ask about annual engagement rates and recurring monthly participation rates!

2. Recognize warning signs

It’s important for managers to have insight into what it means to feel anxious or depressed so they can best guide an employee to the resources that might help. People with direct reports should be trained on how to recognize signs of distress or poor employee health, and should also learn how to respond with sensitivity and discretion.

Signs to watch include any significant changes in behavior, personality, mood, productivity, or engagement. If someone is struggling, you may also notice more absences, tense or irritated behavior, or trouble concentrating.

Another way to catch potential issues is with employee surveys. Check out IncentFit’s Pulse Surveys for examples.

3. Educate about risky behaviors

Pandemic stress has changed many people’s alcohol consumption habits, especially among young women and mothers. There also has been increased drug consumption, with a record-breaking number of opioid overdose deaths reported in 2020.

While the impacts of these changes won’t be fully understand for years, it’s a good time to educate your employees about the risks of alcohol and drug abuse. Look for educational programs, workshops, or interactive health content to help employees think critically about their lifestyle choices.

4. Give extra time off

Some employers have responded to the times by pressing pause for a few days…or a whole week. Major brands like Bumble, Hootsuite, Mozilla, and LinkedIn have announced extra PTO policies, and some have even temporarily shut down operations company-wide.

One employee quoted in The Washington Post said “Having a day off when the whole company’s also off is actually the thing that makes me feel relaxed. I don’t feel guilty. It’s not piling up. I don’t feel like I’ve been slacking on emails.”

While it might be difficult for some companies to make such a big commitment, offering additional time off to rest and recover can have a positive impact on employee health and overall happiness.

5. Implement an Employee Assistance Program

An employee assistance program (EAP) is an employee benefit that assists employees with personal or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional wellbeing.

EAPs generally offer free and confidential mental health assessments, short-term counselling, referrals, and follow-up services for employees.

The work to recover from the pandemic is really just beginning. But employers who lead with empathy and prioritize wellness will get “back to normal” and recover the quickest.


We’re here to help. IncentFit specializes in employee wellness benefits that get high engagement. Talk to our team to learn more about improving employee health one day at a time.