While discussing corporate wellness’ benefits with local business owners throughout Maryland, the AFRO takes a look at three different businesses and the corporate wellness benefits they offer. (Photo courtesy of Unsplash/ Brandy Kennedy)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
msayles@afro.com

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), an independent health care nonprofit, 54 percent of small companies and 85 percent of large companies offered health and wellness programs to their employees in 2022. The offered programs included smoking cessation, weight management and behavioral and lifestyle coaching. 

Many people in management believe employee health is the key to corporate productivity and performance. Numerous companies are increasingly expanding or establishing employee wellness programs to support mental, physical and emotional health. 

“Especially with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have recognized the effect that employee well-being has had on the performance of their employees, and therefore, that has had an impact on their company outcomes,” said Frances Cuesta-Boone, owner of Reinvent U Spa and Wellness. “Now, more than ever, it is so important for employees to get that support for their mind, body and spirit. If an employee is healthier that means that the employer will have better outcomes.” 

Cuesta-Boone has helped companies and organizations implement employee wellness and fitness education since opening Reinvent U Spa and Wellness in 2013. Her Working 4 Wellness program includes group fitness classes, wellness coaching and stress management. 

For Cuesta-Boone, employee wellness programs are critical to boosting retention and employee engagement. But more than that, they can prevent employees from experiencing poor health outcomes. 

“Many chronic diseases are preventable. When you implement a holistic approach to a corporate wellness program, it has an influence on the way that employees understand the importance of creating healthy habits and the benefits of sticking to wellness goals,” said Cuesta-Boone. “Providing a robust corporate wellness program gives the organization the competitive edge that it’s looking for to attract and retain top talent.” 

Here’s a look at what some companies have to offer. 

Microsoft 

The technology giant’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is known as Microsoft CARES, which stands for counseling, assistance, referrals, education and support. Employees can access counseling and support for stress management, mental health resources, grief counseling and support groups. They can also utilize Headspace, a meditation app, and Happify, a cognitive behavioral therapy- and positive psychology-based app. 

Microsoft also offers RethinkCare, a program that provides specialized support and resources for parents raising children with learning, social or behavioral challenges or developmental disabilities. The company’s global well-being program is called Be Well. It allows full-time employees to participate in campaigns, classes and seminars that address physical, financial, mental and emotional health. 

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

At Carefirst BlueCross BlueShield, employees have access to several programs and benefits to support their mental and physical health. The health insurance provider’s EAP offers mental, physical, social and financial support through counseling and online resources. Employees can also utilize 7 Cups, a digital behavioral health resource that connects individuals to licensed professionals for counseling and therapy in addition to WellSet, a digital holistic health studio with classes that support individuals’ minds, bodies and emotional well-being. This year, the company also began offering Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour training course about mental health and substance-use disorders and reducing the stigmas associated with them. 

“CareFirst acknowledges that while the workplace can be a positive source of well-being for many, it can also contribute to stress, which is why we prioritize many programs to support the mental health of our workforce,” said Kim Bradley, vice president of Total Rewards for CareFirst. “We think it’s essential to be open and willing to have tough, honest conversations and act on the things we want to change because every employee should feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.” 

As it relates to physical wellness, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has onsite gyms at several of its offices and offers discounts on membership to various regional fitness centers. It allows employees and up to four of their friends or family members to use Burnalong, which has live and on-demand fitness classes from credentialed instructors. Employees can also earn up to $1,000 for participating in certain wellness activities throughout the year. 

Accenture 

Accenture has leveraged a partnership with Thrive Global, a behavior change platform, that equips employees with science-based solutions that lower stress, enhance well-being and boost productivity. Its medical plan for employees includes mental health coverage. Employees also have the opportunity to receive discounted gym memberships and participate in a wellness program that uses an app to track fitness and nutrition. The app offers cash rewards quarterly as an incentive. 

Like Microsoft, Accenture offers. Rethink Care. The information technology and consulting services company also supports parents on their fertility and adoption journeys. Employees can obtain reimbursements for adoption and surrogacy. Accenture has also established a Mental Health Ally network, in which its employees serve as ambassadors and advocates to help their colleagues manage mental health challenges. 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America corps member.