Insights from Nancy Coletto, Senior Vice President, Central Region Practice Leader, Aon Health Solutions

Nancy is the Central Regional Practice Leader of Aon’s Health Solutions team, located in Chicago. She has spent her 30+ year career in the employee benefits business. In her current role, Nancy leads the team of consultants who work with clients to develop and align their health care and benefits strategy with their business and talent demands. She and her teams leverage tested ideas and inventiveness to solve clients’ most critical talent, health, and benefit challenges.

What is the significance of health and wellbeing on employees, especially at a time when employees have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Unfortunately, this past year saw all dimensions of wellbeing adversely impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning even greater efforts are required.

The one dimension of wellbeing most impacted during the pandemic has been mental/emotional health, with 83% of American workers experiencing negative emotions associated with poor mental health in 2020. The pandemic, racial injustice and financial pressures have had the greatest impact.6  In addition, three in four adults in the U.S. regularly feel stressed7 and 40% of employees said in a July 2020 survey that they were either burned out or coming close to it.11

Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

Employee health and wellbeing was important before 2020, but the combination of a global pandemic, social unrest and a rapidly changing economy have accelerated and elevated their importance to individuals, organizations and communities. It heightens the need for employers to focus on broad health and wellbeing initiatives.

What is the risk to employers by not focusing on wellbeing?

Employers who are not focused on addressing these wellbeing issues face major risks:

  • Workplace stress reduces employee productivity, increases absenteeism and presenteeism, increases the number of days taken off work for doctor visits and increases healthcare costs incurred by employers. Workplace stress is also linked to higher accident and injury rates and higher turnover rates, both of which increase administrative costs.10
  • Unmanaged workplace stress leads to burnout. Burnout during the pandemic is a major concern, particularly among working mothers with children under the age of 18 (28% more likely to experience burnout than working fathers).8  One in four women have considered either downshifting their careers or stepping out completely since the onset of COVID-19—as compared to one in five men.12  If women take action and actually leave, we could lose as many as two million women from the workforce. Such a massive shift would have a huge negative impact on gender diversity for decades to come.12

Employees with high levels of wellbeing are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs.1 Collectively, wellbeing and engagement are associated with higher business-unit customer loyalty, higher profitability, higher productivity and lower rates of turnover.2 Employers committed to workforce wellbeing reap these benefits.

When asked, 96% of employers agree wellbeing is an organizational responsibility, 94% agree that wellbeing drives business performance to some extent6 and 85% consider employee wellbeing to have a meaningful role in their business strategy.7 Nevertheless, only 55% of employers have a wellbeing strategy.13

 Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey, released in April, looks at the direct link between employee wellbeing and business performance. It found:

  • organizations that improve employee wellbeing by 3% see a 1% increase in customer satisfaction and retention.
  • organizations that improve employee wellbeing by 4% see a 1% increase in company profit and a 1% decrease in employee turnover.

How can wellbeing distinguish and set a company apart and open new talent opportunities?

Creating an inclusive and supportive culture can help employees thrive and feel supported. For example, the working parent was one of the most impacted cohort groups this past year due to disruption in childcare and e-learning for school-aged kids. See the below graphic from Great Place to Work’s Annual Study of the Best Workplaces for Parents™ 2020 for company differentiator highlights.

How can employers continue to support and help their employees?

Increased awareness and support for the mental health of our workforce is a clear focal point for employers coming out of the pandemic. A study from Ginger showed 63% of workers said their employers could be doing more to support their mental health during COVID-19.9 The below graphic highlights areas where employees are looking for help and support from their employers.

What resources or offerings does Aon provide to employers interested in expanding their health and wellbeing efforts?

Aon defines wellbeing as a people and performance approach that is a balance of having the appropriate resources, opportunities, and commitment needed to achieve optimal health, resilience and performance for the individual, organization, and community. Improving individual and organizational wellbeing has a direct impact on business outcomes – but it requires a strategy, not just a variety of initiatives. Aon helps our clients develop, operationalize and measure the impact of their wellbeing strategy to maximize workforce health and evaluate the impact of behavior change on the business results that really matter.

During the discovery process, Aon conducts data analysis to establish a baseline and identify opportunities for improvement for each client. Aon’s flagship discovery solutions is Integrated Analytics Intelligence (IAI), which was recognized by Business Insurance in 2020 with an Innovation Award. IAI focuses on delivering complex population health, wellbeing and business analytics to organizations. The IAI approach integrates a broad range of individually identifiable data sources to create a dynamic assessment of the health, risk and absence experience, and understand the interconnectedness across multiple business variables.

Following the discovery process, Aon assists clients in the development, delivery and evaluation of their wellbeing strategy. One size does not fit all, so we offer a variety of packaged and custom wellbeing consulting solutions to meet the needs of every client based on their objectives and budget.

To learn more about how Wellbeing fits within Aon’s overall health survey findings and benchmarks, please consult our New Better Health Survey Results.

Sources: 1. Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2003). Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes: A review of the Gallup studies. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (p. 205–224). 2. Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, 2020; 3. Ann Intern Med. Published online August 12, 2020; 4.; 5.; 6. American Worker in Crisis: A Survey Report on Mental Health in Unprecedented Times; 7. American Psychological Association Stress in America™ 2020; 8. Great Place to Work’s Annual Study of the Best Workplaces for Parents™ 2020; 9. Ginger 2020 Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health Research COVID-19 Addendum 10.; 11. Lyra 2021 Workplace Mental Health Trends Forecast; 12.  Women in the Workplace, conducted by McKinsey & Company and; 13. Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey; 14.; 15.; 16. Great Place to Work’s Annual Study of the Best Workplaces for Parents™ 2020; 17. Harris Poll survey of 2,000 U.S. adults on behalf of National Endowment for Financial Education®, April 2020