Culture of Health | Digital Report

Culture of Health | Digital Report

2017 Survey Report

Culture of Health


Involving employees in efforts to improve healthcare quality and value will be most effective if those actions are in sync with a larger initiative to create a culture of health throughout the organization.


Ranked third of employers’ to-do list for the next five years is a focused strategy to create a culture of health. Among large and midsized employers, 70% say this will be an important focus for their organization.



What are some of the things employers are doing now to build a culture of health?


See what Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For are doing better. 


Providing healthy food choices, prohibiting smoking anywhere on the campus, providing onsite fitness facilities – all of these are ways to practically and visibly reinforce good health habits and show that an organization that talks employees taking responsibility for their health is holding up its side of the bargain.


Toward the bottom of the list is a step that fewer employers have taken – including support for a healthy workplace culture in the company vision or mission statement.


We compared the national results against a benchmark group made up of Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For. As you might expect, the Fortune Best Companies are ahead in everything, but the difference in the percentages of employers that include healthy workplace culture in the mission statement was startling:  60% compared to just 23%. That suggests how important it is to make a strong, visible commitment to employee well-being – and how big the pay-off is.




Most employers have gotten the message that emotional and physical health are not only highly intertwined but are equally important to workforce productivity. They’re offering stress management, resiliency and mindfulness programs, and tele-therapy to make it easier for employees to get the mental healthcare they need. And because financial worries are the single biggest source of stress today (according to the APA), they are offering a range of financial tools, advice or guidance. 



Some large and midsized employers – 21% — have taken or are planning to take the step of assessing the mental health and substance abuse issues in their workforce so they can provide the services their employees need most.   

As the opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions, the importance of effective mental health and substance abuse care has never been clearer than now.





20% of employers with 20,000 or more employees have conducted an assessment of mental health and substance abuse issues in the workplace






The goal of building a culture of health is to engage employees in addressing all facets of their well-being and to empower them to act. A key to that is to personalize their interactions with health programs and make them easy to access. Technology is making personalization possible in new ways every day, and employers are getting on board with mobile apps, wearables, and even devices to transmit health measures. 


A growing number of employers are using integrated technology platforms to bring all programs together for a more seamless user experience (18%, with another 19% working towards full integration). Workforce demographic shifts are driving this trend. Today more than 1 in 3 American workers are millennials, who are accustomed to constant connectivity, on-demand everything, and never-ending innovation. So it’s not surprising that in Mercer’s supplemental survey of employers with 5,000 or more employees, 24% of employers say that mobile strategies are very important in their benefits programs now, but 60% say they will be by 2020.






Engagement strategies also need to feel personalized to be most effective, and a one-size-fits all strategy can backfire. Financial incentives have a role, they can get employees to try a program for the first time. HRA completion rates are clearly higher when a financial incentive is offered. 



But employers have recognized their limits. There was no growth in the use of participation incentives in 2017, and in fact the use of outcomes-based incentives declined from 29% to 23% of employers. Legal challenges to some employer incentive programs brought by the EEOC has probably played a part in that. 



Meanwhile, nearly half of employers say they are focused on building intrinsic motivation. This not only seems in keeping with the spirit of a culture of health, but is another way to create the kind of environment that would make someone choose one place to work over another and then stay there.




What are the benefits of investing in employee well-being? Mercer conducted an analysis to examine the relationship between a strong culture of health and employee turnover. We looked at 9 key well-being best practices, such as offering programs supporting behavioral health, making spouses eligible for well-being programs, and, perhaps most important of all, including creating a culture of health in the company vision or mission statement. 




• Offer optional (paid) well-being programs through plan or vendor

• Company vision/mission statement supports a healthy workplace culture

• Offer technology-based well-being resources (apps, devices, web-based)

• Use incentives for well-being programs

• Well-being strategy includes focus on intrinsic motivation to improve health 

• Spouses and/or children may participate in programs

• Smoker surcharge

• Have conducted analysis of employee behavioral health issues

• Provide stress management, resiliency, or mindfulness programs



Survey respondents were divided into three roughly equal groups based on the number of these best practices that they used, from fewest to average to most. Then we looked at the average turnover rate for each group. While we expected that the employers doing of the most would have lower turnover, the difference was startling.


The employers doing the most have an average turnover rate that was 11 percentage points lower than the group doing the least. 



Across industries, employees stay longer when the culture of health is stronger.