Benefits and Compensation, Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Win-Win: Improve Well-Being While Actually Decreasing Healthcare Spend

Working from home, social isolation, stressed relationships, and irregular sleeping patterns are just a few examples of how the past several months have completely uprooted American lives. The side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic encompass every aspect of our lives and will continue to change and impact the world in which we live and work.


Specifically, our overall well-being and future healthcare costs are top of mind for both consumers and employers alike, especially considering the growing impact on consumers’ mental and physical health and as healthcare costs are expected to rise in the new year.

As a result of the pandemic, 53% of Americans are reporting a decline in their mental health and well-being, 76% have gained up to 16 pounds, and nearly half of adults say they or someone in their household has postponed medical care. Therefore, employers may soon be faced with a tidal wave of future high-cost claims and thus should be doing everything they can to provide the resources employees need to get and stay healthy—mentally and physically—to limit future healthcare spending. 

An Increased Focus on Holistic Well-Being

Employee health and well-being is a priority for consumers and business leaders everywhere as a deadly virus continues to spread across the nation. At the same time, what employees want from their employer has adapted to reflect what they truly need to be successful in the current climate.

This includes caregiving support, grocery delivery, mental health support, fitness apps, and much more. Consequently, employers are tasked with providing these tools and resources to ensure employees can stay mentally and physically healthy during one of the most challenging times in modern history.

The “Quarantine 15” may jokingly refer to the weight gained during the pandemic, but the truth is that many Americans are struggling to remain fit while spending the majority of their time at home. While weight is an important factor in a person’s health, holistic well-being is much more than the number on the scale. It includes everything under the health and well-being umbrella: sleep, mood, mental health, and so much more.

That said, in order to limit healthcare spending, employees need to focus on the root cause of issues that result in higher claims like irregular sleep patterns, high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, poor mental health, and mood. While there are resources that target each of these concerns separately, employers often see higher engagement and can boost a program’s overall impact if they package everything in one solution, like weight management, to address a variety of employee concerns.

Limiting Healthcare Spending with Weight Management Solutions

Employees gaining weight over the pandemic should be a shared concern among employers, considering each pound of excess weight gained is estimated to cost $82 per employee, resulting in $1,312 in potential future claims costs. What’s more, employers offering weight management programs that focus on improving employees’ overall well-being through behavioral cognitive therapy and applicable, realistic lifestyle changes can see $1.4 million in gross potential savings in future claims costs.

Obesity can cause a multitude of health concerns, such as strokes, Type 2 diabetes, and breathing problems, all of which can result in higher medical bills and reliance on medications. Employers are missing a tremendous opportunity to not only improve employees’ quality of life but also save them and their businesses money on healthcare expenses in the long term.

Weight management programs measurably improve employees’ health and create related positive health habits that lead to increased physical activity, better sleep, and less stress. In fact, participants in a weight management program during the pandemic reported increased physical activity (70%), higher overall confidence, (60%) and an improved mood (58%).

Specialty benefits across the spectrum of employee needs and wants are gaining in popularity; however, they typically focus on a singular, targeted problem like fitness or mental health. By offering weight management solutions that encompass both mental and physical well-being, employees get and stay healthy, limit their own healthcare spending, and save their employer money, making it a win-win-win. 

Emily Taylor is the CFO and CHRO of Naturally Slim and has more than 20 years of finance experience, with a concentration in healthcare and technology for both private equity-owned and publicly traded companies. Before joining Naturally Slim, Taylor served as CFO of Paradigm Tax, a property tax consulting firm focused on leveraging technology to maximize customer satisfaction. Connect with Naturally Slim on Twitter.