According to new research from Edelman, U.S. workers trust employers more than they trust the country’s health system, NGOs, government and media when it comes to their health. That opens up a lot of possibilities for employers to make an impact.
That was just one of the many insights shared during our most recent employer briefing, where we had the chance to dig into new public opinion research and discuss steps that business leaders can take to invest in the health of employees and their communities.
The latest insights were presented by Lynn Hanessian, Chief Health Strategist with Edelman, and Dr. Katy Evans, Senior Program Officer with the de Beaumont Foundation, both of whom shared an actionable roadmap for U.S. business leaders. In addition, Sodexo’s Vice President for Strategic Communications, Katherine Power, shared a compelling case study that demonstrated the tangible business benefits of investments in community health.
Five themes emerged from the discussion to guide health-savvy business leaders:
- Trust pays off.
Heath-savvy business leaders can use the trust they’ve earned to make strategic investments that improve worker health and well-being, reduce health disparities and improve the community conditions that contribute to health outcomes. Doing so can improve employee retention, reduce absenteeism and reign in long-term healthcare costs.
“I think there's a real opportunity, and I think one of the things the data shows us is that unlike a lot of other institutions in American life, businesses by and large have the trust of their employees. And so there is a real opportunity here for businesses to play a different kind of role in the community because businesses are trusted spokespeople,” said Lynn Hanessian of Edelman.
- Health isn't just physical.
Hanessian also pointed to research that showed that 99% of U.S. workers understand that good health is more than just physical wellbeing. She discussed four dimensions of health that employers should consider - physical, mental, social, and community. Workers expect their employers to implement policies to prevent burnout, and they want CEOs to talk about the importance of mental health in the workplace and model healthy work-life boundaries.
Our comprehensive Workplace Mental Health Playbook offers more tips for creating a psychologically healthy workplace.
Katherine Power of Sodexo underscored the importance of belonging at work. "The difference between belonging and fitting in - belonging means you can bring your true self to work and be accepted for who you are. Fitting in is adapting who you are to fit in with the group. Two very different concepts. And if people feel like they belong … I think you can address a lot of these other trust issues in a much more authentic way.”
To hear from experts about ways to improve workplace belonging, join our next national employer briefing on July 27 at 2pm ET / 11am PT.
- Community health is the next frontier in workplace wellness.
Americans don’t just want businesses to invest in the health of their employees. More than 70 percent believe that employers should also invest in the health of their local communities. In fact, that’s more important to many people right now than activism on local and cultural issues.
“Americans, by and large, think that it’s important for businesses to invest in the communities where they operate to advance health by doing a whole range of things, providing education and job opportunities, increasing access to health care, improving air and water quality, strengthening mental health resources … and improving the affordability of and access to healthy food,” said Dr. Katy Evans of the de Beaumont Foundation.
- Impacts of climate change are top of mind.
The climate crisis is also a health crisis, and it’s impacting employees and communities in every part of the country. This week, for example, wildfire smoke from Canada has blanketed large parts of the country, raising health concerns for certain groups – including people with pre-existing respiratory conditions, children and pregnant women. Employers will inevitably need to address the health impacts of these kinds of climate events - and workers are eager for them to do so.
Read our tips to help protect your employees from wildfire smoke.
“We see a majority of Americans in this data saying that it’s important for businesses to play a role in addressing illnesses caused by water, pollution, asthma and cardiovascular disease caused by air pollution… These impacts of climate change are places where Americans really see an opportunity for business to step in and take a leadership role in mitigating the health impacts we’re seeing with climate change,” said Dr. Evans.
- Investments in healthy communities can be a win-win.
With a little creativity and the right partnership, organizations can work together to launch initiatives that are good for the health of people, good for the health of the environment and good for the health of the partners. That’s what happened with a partnership between Sodexo and New York City Health + Hospitals when they launched a plant-based meal plan, making vegetarian food the default option in 11 public hospitals. The results were impressive: 530,000 plant forward meals were served, resulting in 90% satisfaction and a 17% reduction in cost.
“One of the great things about this is that we’ve seen a carbon reduction of 36% for the hospital system as a result of switching to plant-based, just because plant-based has a much lower impact on the environment. … It's a program that's been very successful and one that we are looking to roll out in other hospitals across the country as a result,” said Power.