Sammy is the Founder and CEO of YuLife, the lifestyle insurance company providing life insurance, wellbeing, and rewards in one simple app.

Following his own difficult bout with Covid-19 — whose severity he attributed to his diet and exercise habits — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is extolling the virtues of healthier eating and personal fitness by pledging £100 million to incentivize the National Health Service to expand prescriptions of diet and fitness apps.

From my perspective, such actions can go a long way toward improving personal well-being, but the mission of improving individuals’ health can’t be accomplished by care providers and public health authorities alone.

Workplaces also have a key role to play. Not only do employers have an outsized influence on their employees’ ability to manage their physical and mental health, but today’s employees increasingly expect their workplaces to offer added value on this front. A recent global survey of 4,000 employees found that 63% want their employers to spend more on health and well-being initiatives. Employers who do so stand to gain big in terms of employee satisfaction and loyalty.

But how should employers go about promoting employee well-being? Through founding my own well-being and life insurance app for companies, I’ve found the answer can lie in creating effective wellness programs that encourage employee participation. This way, employers can demonstrate their commitment to a healthier workforce in a way that drives meaningful results.

Well-Being And The Workplace: Gaps And Opportunities

Given that most working adults spend at least a plurality of their waking hours at work, I believe workplaces can play a central role in individuals’ well-being.

Moreover, one’s workplace habits and sense of well-being clearly bleed over into how one behaves and feels when not working, particularly in these times of remote and hybrid work when the lines are more blurred than ever. If someone feels stressed or burned out in their role, they can’t simply flip a switch and avoid feeling anxious or preoccupied outside of work. My company recently partnered with YouGov on a survey that found 50% of U.K. employees haven’t felt supported during remote work, and 1 in 4 believe their employers haven’t looked after their well-being during the pandemic. This shows me there’s undoubtedly room for employers to do more.

Employees whose workplaces encourage them to adopt and maintain healthy habits — such as mindfulness exercises, taking regular long walks or repeating short bursts of activity throughout the day — have been found to be healthier and more productive. That means there could be a real return on investment for employers as well. A 2010 study by scholars at Harvard found that each dollar devoted to employee wellness saves $3.27 in medical costs, while absenteeism costs decline by $2.73.

What Employers Can Do

As the ongoing pandemic underscores the importance of improving individuals’ mental and physical health, workplaces can support public health services by starting with simple steps: holding walking meetings, mindfulness breaks, sleep workshops and the like.

Primary care consultations, general practitioner visits and mental health provision — including access to therapists and counselors — are no longer beyond the reach of many businesses, including small businesses that previously couldn’t offer these add-ons.

The more fields workplaces can take into their own hands, I believe the more public healthcare facilities will be able to focus on the most pressing and urgent cases that require medical attention, which is especially vital in moments of crisis like the present.

However, incorporating an element of reward is crucial. Take the case of LumiHealth, an app that was introduced in Singapore and launched in partnership with Apple in 2020. The first project of its kind, LumiHealth, enables Singaporeans to enroll in personalized health programs through a specialist app and Apple Watches. Users receive rewards in the form of online shopping vouchers in exchange for a range of healthy activities, such as exercise, nutritious eating, mindfulness and better sleeping.

Behind LumiHealth lies a straightforward rationale: If individuals are going to make meaningful, lasting changes to their habits, they should receive positive incentives and encouragement to do so. Scolding and other forms of negative health messaging can backfire, whereas rewarding healthy behaviors can beget more healthy behaviors, thus creating a virtuous circle.

It’s one thing to offer well-being programs; it’s quite another to design one that employees will actually want to participate in. Gamifying the well-being experience not only helps promote healthier living but also makes it more fun.

Gamification should always be seen as a means to the end of a healthier workforce — not as an end in itself. The goal is to inspire employees to make positive behavioral changes. Positive, encouraging messages and gamified structures can help keep employees engaged and motivated, particularly in the first few weeks of a wellness program that might be especially challenging for those unaccustomed to healthy behaviors.

From discounts for spa sessions, yoga classes or healthy restaurants to charity donations or small but meaningful financial rewards for sustained healthy behaviors, employers have plenty of figurative carrots to dangle to get their employees to eat their literal carrots.

For their part, governments can reinforce private initiatives by offering rewards — financial or otherwise — to private organizations that meet one of a range of criteria for promoting employee health and well-being. After all, tangible rewards hold the key to behavioral change, and the same is true at the enterprise level.


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