Wellness is unique to each employee within a workforce, so how can employers invest in a well-being benefit that won’t fall flat.
Over the past several years, America’s workers have gone through multiple transitions, both professionally and at home. With this has come a need for employers to recognize the mental and physical toll that’s taken, and offer ways for their employees to seek relief. A study by the American Institute of Stress revealed that 94% of people report feeling stressed at work, and 63% say they are ready to quit their job to avoid stress they deem work-related.
To counter this, nine out of 10 global organizations offer some type of wellness benefit, according to digital mental health platform WellSet. However, as workforces are more diverse and spread out than ever, a solution that appeals to all has been difficult to find. Seeing a need, WellSet established a digital platform that gives employees access to thousands of live and on-demand group classes spanning more than 20 wellness practices – all in one place.
“It can be really hard for people to carve out time for their own self-care,” says WellSet co-founder and CEO Tegan Bukowski. “Our mission was to make preventative holistic care more accessible for more people. It’s about creating something that people actually want to use, and there’s the added benefit of being able to do it together.”
Health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield agrees, and added WellSet not only to their not-for-profit health plan CareFirst, but as a new benefit option for CareFirst employees as well. In addition, members have the option to invite up to three dependents who get the same unlimited access to the platform’s classes.
“We have a lot of faith that the integration of these nontraditional healthcare opportunities will really improve the overall well-being of our employees,” says Emily Durfee, director of strategy and portfolio acceleration at CareFirst’s Healthworx. “It’s a well- curated platform, and we’re really excited about how the new packaging can make it more accessible to everyone, including the millions of members that CareFirst serves.”
Founded prior to the COVID pandemic, WellSet found themselves a hub for practitioners whose practices were forced to go virtual – 20,000 of them applied to be on their platform – and class offerings evolved from individual to group sessions to help members save money. Classes include yoga, meditation, guided journaling and nutrition, among many others.
As employers have incorporated WellSet into their benefits packages, average utilization is at 45%, Bukowski says, though some teams have reported up to 90% employee participation, and it has been embraced as part of their workplace culture.
“It creates a virtual space where they can all gather,” she says. “Some employers are carving out mindfulness hours where [employees] all come to class at the same time. On an individual level, the classes are helpful for people transitioning into a more peaceful, less anxious home life at the end of the day.”
Traditional mental health benefits are an important part of any healthcare package, but with time and affordability hindrances, getting as much support as people may need is not always an option. Self-care is a great way for people to fill in the gaps, and employers who include this are saying, ‘We want to support you; let’s do this together,’ Bukowski says.
“When you’re thinking about offering a mental health benefit, it has to go beyond talk therapy,” she says. “All of our practices are science-backed, evidence-based mental and emotional health practices that a therapist would tell you to do between sessions. Things like breath work, mindfulness exercises, EFT tapping – these are things you can do every single day.”
With 90% of participants reporting they leave class feeling less anxious, the impact of these health practices can go a long way in helping employees not just manage burnout and stress, but get ahead of it.
“Traditionally the healthcare system is meant to take care of sick people,” Durfee says. “What’s really exciting about where healthcare is going is that we are trying to prevent people from getting sick, and that includes a lot of additional opportunities, including holistic support.”