The key to wellness is offering employees holistic support

Discovery's experts say it’s up to employers to find solutions that best support their staff.

The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly influenced how companies operate, their commercial viability, their ability to support their people, and more. The question that now faces all employers is this: are you offering your employees enough holistic support to survive – if not thrive?

As some employers have found out the hard way this year, the strength and fortitude of your workforce can tip the scales on your company’s success or collapse. 

Seemingly overnight, businesses both large and small have found themselves navigating an extraordinary operating environment in which management teams are expected to deal not only with the personal impact of Covid-19 but also the overwhelming impact on their company and staff. 

“The pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, the likes of which we have never seen. Ways of doing business are evolving and the market is becoming more competitive in a post-Corona world – making the acquisition and retention of key staff especially critical,” notes Nonkululeko Pitje, head of Healthy Company at Discovery. 

“Many workers have been thrust into new and often stressful ways of working – and it’s up to employers to find solutions that best support their staff.”

An integrated approach is required 

“Our scenario planning capabilities show how important it is to actively plan around employee retention and hiring,” says Nonkululeko. “It’s especially important for companies to realise that standalone solutions – like encouraging remote working, distributing health information, or providing PPE equipment – have very limited impact when offered in isolation.” 

The virus and the resulting economic fallout have affected people and their families in many interconnected ways, she explains. 

“Employees need to be equipped to navigate the additional stressors and complexities of working effectively during a pandemic, before issues like financial insecurity, physical and psychological health, poor time management or a lack of accountability, family demands or harmful lifestyle behaviours derail their wellbeing and productivity.”

This calls for an integrated, holistic approach that caters to the many aspects of employee wellbeing, including, for example:

  • Ongoing Covid-19 screening and prevention: This could include access to credible information, support services and app- and website-based pre-screening tools to screen employees for Covid-19 symptoms. 
  • Health screening and prevention tools: This could include physical health checks for common chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as access to wellness specialists like dieticians, biokineticists or doctors for at-risk members.
  • Mental wellbeing tools: This could include an array of tools that support employees’ overall mental health, such as access to counsellors, helplines, legal advice, mindfulness apps, and life coaches.

Perhaps one of the most valuable forms of support that employers can offer is financial wellbeing support, says Guy Chennells, head of Employee Benefits Products at Discovery. 

He believes that while access to budgeting tools and financial advice can go a long way in helping employees manage their finances better, behavioural incentives and tailored employee solutions are especially effective. 

Incentivising healthy financial choices

“In times like these, when so many changes are outside of our control, it’s especially important to focus on those factors we can do something about,” says Guy. “For example, Discovery’s employee benefit solutions drive healthy savings behaviour by motivating employees to save more, for longer, and manage their health and wellness. When they do this, we are able to reward their behaviour by adding boosts to their retirement savings.”

“This has a two-fold effect – in the present, it motivates people to make smart lifestyle and financial choices, which empowers them with the knowledge that their actions matter. It also results in physical health benefits, mental resilience and improved retirement outcomes that will hold them in good stead in the future.” 

Guy is not only focused on the direct benefit of better health and financial decisions but on changing each person’s trajectory so that they can get on track to the retirement outcome they want, regardless of where they are today.

One employee at a time

“For example, we offer customisable pension and provident retirement fund solutions under an umbrella fund arrangement that encourage employees to reach their retirement goals with unique rewards, benefits and digital engagement. This provides people with their own personalised contribution plans to close their retirement savings gaps, where the contribution increases only take place to coincide with future salary increases. 

This is more relevant than ever as Covid has put a dent into many peoples’ plans and they need a responsive, personalised plan to get them back on track.”

“Giving your employees the choice to automate contribution increases to align with their salary increases puts the power in their hands by making it easier for them to save towards their futures and respond effectively to the curveballs of life,” Guy adds. 

“Forward-thinking financial choices like this, made by millions of employees around South Africa, will play an essential role in building a more resilient and economically secure nation for us all. All employers have a role to play in this kind of nation-building, so it’s worth equipping your business for the task.”