Premise Health hosted its fifth Client Forum on May 12, 2020. The annual event traditionally brings Premise clients, which include benefits leaders from respected organizations across the country, to Nashville to focus on how they are transforming healthcare for their teams, but due to COVID-19, the company shifted the forum to a virtual, three-hour conference.
Premise clients include self-funded employers, labor unions, associations, and Taft-Hartley funds, in industries ranging from manufacturing and defense to financial services and entertainment.
The forum was highly attended, with attendees from across the country hearing firsthand how employers are changing how people experience healthcare. Read on for our four biggest takeaways from this year’s innovative speakers.
1. One Size Does NOT Fit All
When it comes to returning employees to the workplace, there isn’t a one size fits all approach. Every business is unique, with teams working in different sized spaces, from high rise office buildings to large manufacturing plants. Approaches to reopen campuses will look different, but one thing will hold true for all employers – a combination of strategies is the only way to keep employees as safe as possible.
Strategies to consider include offering daily screenings, providing antibody testing to track virus prevalence, designing workspaces to encourage social distancing, and continuing to provide expanded healthcare access. Some businesses may choose to phase in their employees while others may opt to alter work schedules, but anyone back in the workplace should wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
How people work has forever changed, but employee safety should remain every organizations’ number one priority.
2. Listen to Your Team Members
Employees are the most important asset a company has – they’re representing their employer on the front lines and putting in the work to create success, which is why employers need to listen to their employees and meet their needs.
For many employers, those needs in recent years have been related to behavioral health, something employers are paying attention to now more than ever given the current pandemic. Employers have found they need to offer different services to meet the needs of various employee demographics. Workers who earn less may need financial counseling and support to help them cope with stress, while new graduates entering the workforce may need services to ensure continuation of care for existing behavioral health conditions.
To help their employees get healthier and meet that need, companies are taking strides and removing barriers to care. Some of their strategies and tactics include:
- Expanding their EAP benefits and extending them to more workers (for example, to paid interns)
- Lowering copays for psychology and psychiatry services
- Offering or contributing more to health savings accounts (HSA)
- Adding behavioral health counseling to their onsite wellness centers or as a virtual care offering
Even more important, businesses are working to take away the stigma that often comes with mental health by sharing moving employee stories and offering support groups.
3. Doubling Down
Businesses of all shapes and sizes have changed policies, work schedules, and safety protocols due to COVID-19. While making these changes is critical to keep businesses running, maintaining a focus on pre-pandemic safety protocols is just as important.
To ensure the safety of its team members, one Premise client adjusted by strategically thinking through which manufacturing lines would run and crossing training any employees needed to run a line they were unfamiliar with. When running at a lower capacity than normal and changing processes, the risk of workplace injury is elevated, making it important to not lose sight of normal safety procedures.
While focusing on how to navigate COVID-19, the company hasn’t left behind what it was doing before to keep its employees safe. They’re still offering occupational health services, providing respiratory protection, and focusing on proper ergonomics – in addition to implementing new measures, like social distancing, that help reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
4. Communication – a Key Ingredient of Trust
In the current COVID-19 environment, trust is more important than ever. Employees want to know that their health and safety is a top priority for their employer, while employers need to be able to trust that their partners have their employees’ best interests in mind and are offering the highest quality solutions available. In a time where many workforces are dispersed and social distancing is encouraged, communication is one of the most important aspects of building a foundation of trust.
Meeting employees where they are is a great place to start building that trust. The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving, and new information is available every day. Many employers recognize they need to communicate this information in ways their employees can understand to make sure they’re aware of everything going on and what services are offered at this time. For a client with sites across the country, meeting people where they are will look different for corporate employees working from home versus an essential manufacturing workforce. Employers need to be prepared to overcome that challenge and tailor their communication strategies based on the unique workforce.
When working with partners, communicating regularly builds a trust that allows for an effortless relationship where everyone feels free to ask questions, respectfully disagree, and lean on one another for support during challenging times. Just like with employees, communication between partners is critical to set expectations and ensure everyone is on the same page.