Sammy is the Founder and CEO of YuLife, the lifestyle insurance company providing life insurance, well-being, and rewards in one simple app.
Like many things, well-being is a seemingly straightforward concept that in reality is much more complicated, nuanced and subtle. But as film director Billy Wilder once said about affecting the public with your work, “Make it obvious.” The same applies to the well-being of employees in the workplace.
In recent years, enterprises have grown increasingly aware of the intertwined relationship between financial success and mental well-being. Simply put, having a greater sense of financial security is likely to give someone a greater overall sense of happiness and prosperity.
The growing awareness of this trend is reflected in the rise of behavioral health as a focus of many organizations. More and more startups are riding this wave and striving to integrate behavioral health as a facet of their larger well-being strategy. In the first quarter of 2021, mental health startup funding reached a record $852 million — twice as much as in 2020’s first quarter. The techniques these innovators use when approaching behavioral health usually combine traditional face-to-face offerings with a digital component to supplement these interactions.
But how can businesses know what to look for when it comes to the adoption and integration of behavioral health? Through my experience as a leader who works with well-being as a part of life insurance, here are ways I have seen businesses effectively integrate behavioral health into their programs.
Promote incentives and accessibility.
Effective promotion of behavioral health in the workplace calls for a two-pronged approach, combining incentives and accessibility. In order for someone to induce positive changes within their own behavior, the steps for change must be clear, accessible and simple. As any start-up founder will tell you, the move from zero to one is often much more challenging than one to 10. The same is true for behavioral health — the process of getting started must be within reach for ordinary people.
At the same time, external positive reinforcement is critical — no matter how easy the starting steps are, people need to feel rewarded for their efforts if they’re going to maintain their focus. Nothing is more deflating than putting a lot of effort into new lifestyles or habits and not seeing a tangible outcome. In a consumer landscape shaped by social media and expectations of instant gratification, it can be all too easy for people to eschew long-term processes if there’s no immediate outcome.
The good news is that with a two-pronged approach, these challenges are easily overcome. If employees are rewarded for the adoption of good habits, their motivation to remain engaged will increase ten-fold. Businesses can support employees in taking those first simple steps by providing them with reward-led, engaging and fun methods to keep going.
Tie behavioral health with broader well-being offerings.
As mentioned earlier, promoting positive behavioral health can also have an impact on an individual’s financial well-being, and vice versa.
Take walking, for instance — the more steps you take on a monthly basis, the healthier you tend to be and the less risk you present in the eyes of an insurer, potentially leading to reduced premiums, cheaper policies and other bonuses for liability reduction.
This brand of incentivized financial well-being is also ideal for any business that offers financial products of any sort as a workplace bonus. Businesses that incentivize and encourage behavioral changes — setting step-count goals or any other trackable health metrics — can generate a positive behavioral risk score and broaden the range of add-ons they offer to their employees.
At the end of the day, engagement lies at the heart of these results. Businesses generate the most value once the majority of employees are participating. I recommend keeping an eye on employee engagement, soliciting feedback in regards to these programs and then adjusting accordingly.
Create a culture of reliability and consistency.
Every so often, stories come out about new government initiatives that aim to spur healthy changes among the public. What actually happens with these measures is that, not only does the news cycle move on quickly, but the measures are never fully implemented in the first place. This is in part due to a lack of cooperation from all players in the well-being ecosystem; without a cohesive, comprehensive effort, it is easy for these initiatives to fall apart.
Businesses should take a lesson from these government initiatives. Consistency is a core part of behavioral change, and technology can play a major role in supporting behavioral shifts. Through things like gamification and a focus on the end-user, a sense of control and personal pleasure can be infused into the process and more consistently generate outcomes.
Overall, make sure that behavioral health offerings are not reactive or sporadic, manifesting as the odd employee assistance program session or the occasional doctor’s appointment that winds up being more performative than productive.
Instead, encourage employees to be proactive and engaged. Businesses want to aim for long-term consistency and reliability. By implementing a holistic framework for behavioral health, one that champions accessibility, reliability and incentivized engagement, overall well-being stands to improve in the workplace.