Workforce Wellness: Always Critical, But Now Even More So

Betsy Bland, vice president and managing director of Workday Ventures, shares insights on how companies can improve employee well-being, prepare for a return to the workplace, and unlock workforce potential.

Betsy Bland July 21, 2020
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With the COVID-19 pandemic and importance of equality coming front and center, people all over the world face increased uncertainty and complex emotions.

The challenges run the gamut. The shift to remote work has brought new stresses with things like childcare and homeschooling, and questions as to how and when workplaces will reopen.

Our mission within Workday Ventures is to be a force multiplier for innovation by accelerating the growth of emerging enterprise software companies, including companies focused on employee wellness. We look to these early-stage ventures for insights as wellness strategies become even more prevalent in supporting employees during such a fast-changing and dynamic environment.

Supporting Positive Mental and Physical Well-being

A focus on employee wellness, now more than ever, has to include both mental and physical well-being. Given stay-at-home orders, we are heartened to see an increasing demand and embrace of virtual healthcare for both aspects of care.

In a recent interview, Stephanie Tilenius, CEO at Vida Health, shares that, “Everyone is looking for virtual mental healthcare right now.”

Vida Health, a Workday Ventures portfolio company that offers a network of digital therapists, clinicians, health coaches, certified diabetes educators, and nutritionists to companies like Boeing, Cisco, PayPal, and Visa, says it has seen 15% to 20% week-on-week increases in mental health and stress-related appointments since mid-March, and a 30% to 50% boost in new client interest.

According to Tilenius, just under one-fifth of a company’s employees typically have a mental health disorder, as evidenced on health insurance claims. In recent weeks, that number has risen to between 60% and 70%. “Everybody’s got some level of anxiety with this pandemic,” she said.

Tilenius calls the COVID-19 crisis a “wakeup call” for virtual care. Given continued desires to physically distance even as formal orders relax, virtual care becomes an increasingly convenient and effective way to deliver care. According to Vida, by month seven of using the Vida platform, participants showed an average reduction of 84% in depression scores and an average reduction of 72% in anxiety scores.

In a changing world, keeping the focus on employee concerns is even more important.

Cultivating Employee Resilience

Vida started out virtual to enable more people to get the help they need—when they need it.

That same idea underpinned another Workday Ventures’ portfolio company, BetterUp. It offers hyper-personalized and mobile, 1:1 coaching that allows employees at all levels to easily access expert professional coaching without having to travel for appointments or take big chunks of time out of their workdays.

BetterUp has also seen a rise in interest as companies seek new ways to help their employees strengthen coping and resilience skills. Coaching has proven to be an effective preventative method for employee well-being. The skills developed through coaching support greater physical and psychological health, but also better workplace outcomes, including increased productivity.

A big part of BetterUp’s success stems from having employees take pre-coaching assessments so that the coach—and the employee—can better target areas of focus. Such insight spreads beyond the individual worker. As the pandemic has gone on, and employers everywhere struggle to really know how their employees are feeling and fairing, BetterUp has continually surveyed workers to shed light on current challenges.

For instance, it found that its members grew levels of resilience by 17% amidst the pandemic while non-members experienced no improvement. The insights BetterUp’s service provides can help companies better target any assistance they might offer their employees.

BetterUp also provides expert resources via its website around topics like how to stay resilient in times of prolonged stress and overcoming loneliness in a time of isolation.

Companies have to ensure that employees come back to workplaces in a safe and informed manner. And for those not able to return to the office, provide personalized support and guidance.

Bringing Employees Safely Back to the Office

The pandemic forced companies and workers to rapidly shift to remote work. While some have already returned to their workplace, many organizations are still grappling with how to safely return people to a physical environment.

Companies cannot simply focus on the bottom line and getting people back to work in the way that they used to work. Instead, companies have to ensure that employees come back to workplaces in a safe and informed manner. And for those not able to return to the office, provide personalized support and guidance. PwC surveyed more than 1,100 American workers in May and found that workers want their companies to keep them safe when, and if, they return to workplaces they vacated for shelter-in-place.

Companies will need new tools to help them do that, and data will no doubt help that process. League, also a Workday Ventures company, recently expanded the functionality of its health benefits experience platform to provide a direct line of sight into workforce health and inform risk management strategies, healthcare cost forecasting, productivity forecasting, and return-to-work plans.

League’s newly enhanced data analytics combines anonymized population health history, real-time physical and mental health indicators, and location-based public health data. These predictive tools help enable data-driven workforce decisions at the regional site level and individual level.

Complementary to Workday’s own return to the workplace solutions and partnership with Salesforce's Work.com, League is also curating free COVID-19 related workplace resources for companies, HR leaders, and employees to return to work safely. This ranges from such things as workplace posters with tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to sample policies covering business travel.

A People-Centric Future

In a changing world, keeping the focus on employee concerns is even more important. Our investment in the people, emerging technologies, and companies that support employee well-being is key to unlocking workforce potential.

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