5 Ways Employee Healthcare Benefits Can Do Wonders for an Organization Looking at it from the employer perspective, there's much to be gained from a robust employee healthcare benefits programme

By Kiran Kalakuntala

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From catered meals and yoga classes at work to free health check-ups and virtual doctor consultations, organisations today are raising the bar when it comes to employee benefits. While fancy perks like biweekly chair massages and weekend parties may grab eyeballs, the real game-changers are the healthcare benefits that companies offer their employees.

A Harvard Review Study gave 2,000 US workers a list of 17 employee benefits and asked them how heavily they would weigh the options when deciding between a high-paying job and a lower-paying job with more perks. Better health, dental, and vision insurance topped the list, with 88 per cent respondents considering it among the most important criteria when choosing a job.

Looking at it from the employer perspective, there's much to be gained from a robust employee healthcare benefits programme. Especially in the age of technology and data science that help make employee benefits spend smarter and more cost-effective. Here's looking at five ways of doing it right:

Keep it Personal

An interesting research by economists at the University of Warwick in England shows that there is, indeed, a positive correlation between happy employees and increased productivity at work. In other words, it makes perfect business sense for enterprises to invest in the happiness and wellbeing of their employees.

What ails the average Indian professional? Stress? Lifestyle diseases? Escalating healthcare costs? An ideal employee healthcare benefits programme must address these questions and offer customised solutions to every employee. One size cannot fit all. It's advisable to curate healthcare packages that cater to the lifestyles, genetic makeup and health risks of each individual. One may want a weight management plan, while another could need counselling and therapy. The good news is that technology, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), makes this an easy proposition today.

Predict in Time

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, at least $193 billion are lost each year due to major mental illnesses among the working population. Untreated depression in the workforce, says a study, costs companies $44 billion in lost productivity. We don't have the official numbers for India, but they are bound to be huge. Now imagine, if we were to add all our lifestyle ailments and chronic health conditions to the mix! That's a lot of money gone astray.

The key, with most health problems, is early diagnosis and intervention. It makes good business sense for companies to offer comprehensive employee health benefits that help predict the risks, thereby reducing costs and incidents of illness in employees. It's time to start thinking beyond the annual health check-ups. Deep analytics can work wonders for the businesses' bottom line.

Focus on Prevention

A report published by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations suggests that a well-designed employee wellness programme can lead to 25 per cent reduction in health plan costs, sick leave, disability pay and worker's compensation. Incidentally, 98 per cent of employees who have undergone preventive health check-ups found them beneficial in terms of higher productivity at work and better quality of life.

The most effective strategy for good health, unarguably, is preventative care. Can a gym at work ensure that employees stay fit? Can nutritious fare in the cafeteria keep junk food at bay? Can ergonomically-sound workstations prevent poor posture? The answers may differ for different organisations, and the challenge is to find what works best for you. The idea of a good employee healthcare benefits programme is to promote healthy living - regular exercise, good nutrition, preventive medical care. All companies want healthy employees, who are more present and productive at work. However, not many realise that it takes conscious efforts to make that happen.

Show That You Care

The average person, studies claim, spends 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. How can companies help employees make that time more worthwhile? While monetary returns are important, recruitment site Glassdoor reports that nearly 80 per cent employees say that they would opt for better benefits over a pay raise.

So, a good employee benefits programme needs to venture beyond the conventional economics of healthcare to a more holistic and humane approach. Employees like to know that their employer cares for them. A 24X7 medical consultation service or web-chat interface that answers healthcare queries in real-time can go a long way in boosting employee morale and retention. That's no mean task in today's competitive job market.

Embrace Technology

These are exciting times when robots (in clinics and operation theatres), 3D printers (for replacement of organs and tissues) and precision medicine (based on the patient's genetic profile) are revolutionising healthcare. Indian companies – big and small - need to embrace this hi-tech evolution, powered by AI and data science, to offer tailor-made employee healthcare benefits to its diverse workforce.

Today, there are health-tech companies that specialise in bringing together the best of healthcare and technology for corporate India. In the long run, experts concur, businesses that offer employees the benefits they value will witness increased profitability, competitiveness, as well as physically and emotionally healthy employees. It's about time the Indian corporate sector develops a strategic approach to becoming more efficient in their employee benefits spend.

Kiran Kalakuntala

Founder & CEO, eKincare

Kiran K Kalakuntla is a seasoned product marketing professional with an outstanding track record of designing, developing and bringing complex technologies to market including world’s first 3D smartphone.

With a decade of a successful marketing career in North America to his credit, Kiran hit upon the idea of starting eKincare during his stay in the US when he found it difficult to get access to any information on his parent’s health who were in India.

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