Consumers now expect a personalized brand experience that extends to their ongoing care.

As of 2021, it will be widely recognized that the workplace – and what employees expect of it – has changed forever. We can expect larger consumer-centric healthcare trends such as telehealth and patient-centric care to move onto employee wish lists. As companies determine how remote and hybrid models will employ employees from home for the foreseeable future, the lines between work and home are becoming increasingly blurred, and employees are looking to their employers for resources that go beyond traditional service offerings.

While COVID has been a catalyst for telemedicine, other major forces coming together will change the way we consume health and wellness in the future. Offering virtual care has become a fundamental expectation and may prove to be the easiest piece of the puzzle for employers to complete. Gen Z employees are also changing the dynamics of the health system as they join the workforce and will play a critical role for employers and service providers.

Related topics: Employees raise expectations for employer-paid benefits during a pandemic

In the future, performance professionals will have to be prepared for these changes. For the first time, Mental Wellness was defined as a separate market ($ 121 billion). Meanwhile, younger workers are expressing that they want more convenience than just virtual care as they keep an eye on non-traditional care like retail clinics and digital engagement tools. Millennials and Gen Z are a skilled, resourceful generation, which is reflected in their control over their own health.

In our work with hundreds of health and wellness providers as well as the consumers on our platform, we have noticed an increasing interest in 360-degree care and holistic wellness. Holistic wellbeing is not a buzzword: it is the idea that mental, physical, and mental health are all equally important elements of health care.

Providers are no longer just doctors. Younger employees have moved beyond a doctor-only approach to a digital-first attitude focused on convenience and preventive health. They include health counselors, nutritionists, life coaches and counselors, and form a personalized group of people who can help with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Consumers now expect a personalized brand experience that extends to their ongoing care. As a service provider, understanding this change in mentality is key to choosing the right products and services to remain a competitive employer – especially when workers are grappling with the physical and psychological effects of a move to remote work.

As an employer, what are the next steps to drive health and welfare services into the future and ensure that what you offer is aligned with what employees really need? Let’s start with the needs that employees are already expressing. There are some concrete steps companies can take now to better serve their workforce.

Add mental wellbeing resources to help employees deal with everyday challenges

Stress, fatigue and burnout have always been a problem for companies. Work stress costs American businesses more than $ 300 billion annually in health care costs, absenteeism, and poor performance, and 40% of employee turnover is caused by stress. These issues have taken center stage during the pandemic and affect work, family and social life, which, by the way, clashed last year.

The pandemic has catapulted a cultural shift that has already gained momentum: Both individuals and businesses are realizing that a holistic approach to health is required to address these issues. This approach can also have a significant impact on the bottom line. Aetna estimates that approximately $ 2,000 per employee has been saved in health care costs and approximately $ 3,000 per employee has been gained in productivity since the mindfulness program was launched. In addition to mindfulness, companies have long funded initiatives in other approaches such as meditation, yoga, and even sleep to help alleviate the effects of stress.

But now it’s time for employers to get even more proactive with mental wellness offerings. The pursuit of mental wellbeing is an active process, according to the Global Wellness Institute, that helps increase resilience, connect with others, thrive, and function. Successful employers will understand this process, recognize the importance of mental wellbeing, and provide – and encourage – employees the right resources to proactively embrace these benefits.

Meet consumer need for convenience and virtual care

The transition to virtual care has accelerated over the past year, but it’s not the only element employees look for when thinking of healthcare convenience. We look at younger employees who grew up online looking at the world from their smartphones, who are used to instant delivery, online ordering, and most of their business online. Health care is no different. Millennials are more likely to use apps to plan, view medical records, and pay bills, and are more receptive to telemedicine than previous generations.

As employees expand their wellness programs, they need to think critically about how they offer programs as more Gen Z employees join the workforce. Not only the range of programs will play a role, the technological infrastructure, user friendliness and accessibility will also play a major role in terms of acceptance.

Empower employees to take control of their own health

Advances in technology offer individuals an incredible opportunity to become more committed to their own health care. You can track and monitor your health through apps, smartphones and wearables. You can order test kits online for insights into genetic data, food sensitivities, hormones, and other potential health problems. From these tests, they can find a wide range of trainers and interventions that will enable them to take proactive steps to correct the course, stay healthy, or simply serve as a personal guide. They can even access compound pharmacies online and have personalized medication delivered to their doors.

Virtual, patient-centered and tailored health care is no longer “the future of health”. The demand for it – and the tools, technology, resources, and practitioners to operate it – is here. The pandemic exacerbated technology adoption, forcing the majority of the market to adopt this new technology-centric approach to care.

Patients have already started using digital self-management tools. 51% of Gen Z patients report using a wearable or digital app to manage their health, and 53% use virtual nurses to monitor health conditions, medications, and other therapies. These tools are now a staple for daily employee health and fitness. Employers should take advantage of this shift and ensure that their performance products and service offerings take them into account.

Offer flexible and innovative care options

Employers can differentiate with versatile and innovative self-care and wellness programs. Millennials and Gen Z spend more money on self-care and wellness than any other generation. Having a workforce that prioritizes their physical and mental health outcomes and self-sufficiency is good news, as preventative health measures can significantly reduce long-term costs. It is now up to employers to choose innovative programs that allow individuals to choose between their interventions and the type of care they provide. Flexibility is the key.

Employers who are always one step ahead of this shift and offer the benefits their employees are looking for deserve their loyalty, deal better with disruptive forces, and ensure a more coherent and resilient workforce.

Riley Rees is the founder of Sofia Health, an online health and wellness marketplace that offers 360-degree care services and products for the whole person.

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