What We’ve Learned About Employee Well-Being During COVID

Success Relies on Outdoor Activity, Optimism, Mindfulness.

Midland Mich., August 25, 2020 — Health Enhancement Systems (HES), world leader in workplace well-being campaigns, recently completed an analysis of 160 North America and UK implementations from mid-March to mid-August, the height of the pandemic. Organizations ranged from just under 200 eligible employees to more than 187,000 — corporations, health systems, health plans, educational institutions, and government agencies.

“When it became clear in mid-March that the world was changing, we didn’t know how it would affect wellness programs and participation” notes Dean Witherspoon, HES CEO. “After a short-lived slowdown, when managers hit the pause button, the interest from nearly all sectors has been impressive… we’re seeing more momentum today than at any time in our history.”

Participant populations among HES clients are highly diverse — from frontline healthcare professionals, to office staff suddenly working from home and sheltered in place to essential manufacturing employees. Participants across all work settings consistently rated programs highest when they emphasized outdoor activity, optimism, and mindfulness, followed by gratitude and connectedness.

Work of Art, an emotional well-being program launched in April, has quickly become HES’s top campaign. Introducing a new product is an anxious moment for any business. “But rolling out something as groundbreaking as a program to enhance resilience and boost happiness — in the middle of a pandemic — is especially nerve-wracking” recalls Witherspoon. “We held our breath for the first 6 weeks until participant results started streaming in.”

With over 20 organizations and 10,000 participant evaluations completed, it’s clear Work of Art is the right program for the times. “This is perfect for the situation we are all in right now. There is no way you can be left out” explains participant Olivia Gonzales, UT San Antonio. “It’s simple but motivating and encouraging to us. I loved connecting with others.”

Aggregate Work of Art data highlights include:

  • More than 100,000 emotional well-being activities recorded
  • Highest completion rates among participants with 1 or more friends in the program (70%) and those who shared 1 or more works of art in the online gallery (77%)
  • Statistically significant score increases on the Flourishing Scale, designed to measure perceptions of self-esteem, optimism, purpose, and healthy relationships.

Comparing program results in the same 2018 and 2019 periods demonstrates that overall COVID era participation, engagement, and goal completion can meet or exceed past thresholds. Across all clients and HES campaign implementations during the 5-month review window, common success factors were:

  • More frequent promotion through multiple channels. Programs that took full advantage of email, social media, wellness champion networks, and in-house communication tools generated the greatest interest regardless of work-from-home limitations.
  • Higher attention to recognition. Fully engaged managers who emphasized milestone achievements throughout campaigns saw less dropout and greater overall satisfaction.
  • Increased emphasis on recruiting friends and teammates. Completion rates improved by 20%-40% when participants connected with friends through buddy features.
  • Ongoing visibility and communication from leaders. Greatest success was seen in organizations where supervisors and top-level managers were active in the program and offered regular encouragement.

“Our clients’ experiences suggest that now, more than ever, participants are receptive… even eager to make changes to improve health and quality of life” noted Witherspoon. “There’s a pent-up demand for normalcy and desire for taking control — exactly what well-executed well-being programs offer.”

About HES

Health Enhancement Systems created the market for workplace well-being campaigns in 1994. Today, HES’s reputation for behavior change innovation has led to an impressive client lineup. The company serves some of the largest corporations, health plans, universities, health systems, and membership organizations across North America and around the world, as well as mid-market employers. With 500+ implementations each year, directly and through select industry-leading partners, HES’s singular focus allows the company to maintain market leadership and exceptional value.