Top Ten Expert Tips for Workplace Health in 2023
At our employer briefing last week, we asked our panel of experts to anticipate emerging trends in workplace health for 2023. Here are their top 10 recommendations to help you prepare for the new year:
Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator
- Help workers understand the current risks of COVID-19 and flu — and make it easy and convenient for them to get protected. COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are up about 56% over the last two weeks, and we’re in the middle of the worst flu season in a decade. Both of those viruses can cause a person to feel miserable and miss a week or more of work. Offering the flu shot and the updated COVID-19 booster together on-site “makes an enormous difference” in getting workers to follow through on their intention to get vaccinated and boosted.
- Let employees know the new COVID-19 booster works, even against the very latest variants. The updated booster was specially formulated for the Omicron BA.5 variant. The latest subvariants now circulating in the U.S. are closely related to BA.5, so “the new booster is holding up very well at preventing serious illness and reducing the risk of infection.” The new booster cuts your risk of getting COVID-19 by about half, and emerging data suggest it can cut your risk of hospitalization and death by 80-90%.
- Encourage employees to get vaccinated or boosted — while it’s still free. The federal government’s public health emergency for COVID-19 is likely to be lifted sometime next year, at which point testing and vaccination costs will be covered by insurers, not the government. This change could especially affect workers without insurance, raising the urgency for them to catch up on their boosters now.
- Cultivate trust by being transparent. Lean in on the things we do know: “Your chances of getting COVID-19 are cut by about half with the new booster.” Be open about the limits: “While there is a chance of getting COVID-19 even if you’re boosted, staying up to date on booster shots is especially effective at preventing serious illness.” And be clear about what we don’t know: “There is still a lot we are learning about long COVID, but people who are up to date on their boosters have a dramatically lower risk of long COVID.”
Dr. Claire Novorol, Co-founder & Chief Medical Officer, Ada Health
- Identify health issues early. Ada’s AI-powered software can identify real-time trends in the health conditions Americans are experiencing, based on the symptoms they report. Right now, the top three health trends on the platform fall into three categories: the respiratory “tripledemic,” mental health challenges and musculoskeletal disorders. Whether you’re connecting with employees one-on-one or using a software platform like Ada to make referrals to a doctor, early management of symptoms is key for all three of these trending conditions.
Tracy Watts, Senior Partner and U.S. Leader for Healthcare Policy, Mercer
- Offer a broad array of benefits so everyone gets what they need. Mercer’s latest survey of 4,000 workers has revealed a shift in employees’ thinking that prioritizes well-being. To stay competitive in the market for talent, employers are shifting to offer a wide range of benefits and programs so that there’s something for everyone and more choices for employees.
- Respond to financial stress and burnout. In just one year, “covering monthly expenses” has risen from #9 to #1 on the list of employees’ worries. Second on the list is the ability to retire, just ahead of work-life balance. Make sure you’re listening to the needs of your people and connecting them with the appropriate benefits. (Here are six tips from our experts for managing financial anxiety in your teams.)
- Seek better value, not slimmer benefits to deal with rising costs. To maintain the level of benefits employees expect — and need to thrive — employers should look to value-based care, virtual care, digital health and similar measures in the face of rising costs for benefits.
Amira Barger, Executive Vice President, Health Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Communications, Edelman
- Lean into the societal issues that affect your employees. “What’s personal is professional. When we refuse to address the issues that impact our people, even if they seem outside the scope of business, we are signaling, or rather outright telling our people, ‘Your needs aren’t important, only your productivity is.’ And that's not the case. We have to engage in societal issues because they’re business issues, and our employees and consumers expect it.”
- Communicate early and often about available resources. Don’t assume your teams already know about the mental health benefits that could help them. And remind them about employee assistance program offerings. “Financial counseling, childcare, adoption assistance, mental health services, counseling for substance use, or even grief counseling — these help to make up who we are as whole people, and they are the factors that impact our health outcomes.”
You can watch the full presentation on Emerging Workplace Health Trends for 2023 anytime on-demand.