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The Unexpected Benefits of Social Impact Programs on Employee Wellness

A recent study published in Industrial Relations Journal has revealed that among various workplace wellness interventions ranging from meditation and fitness apps to online coaching and financial programs social impact programs, such as volunteering, stand out as the only interventions that significantly enhance worker well-being.


Visit.org sat down with Samira Burris, Strategy Manager for DEI at WEX to discuss these findings and their implications in fostering a supportive and connected work environment.


Visit.org: What are your initial reactions to the study? 


Samira: More and more, we are finding that one size does not fit all, and offering a variety of ways to connect and stay well, especially as ways of working are changing so much across society, can be the most effective way to ensure that a diverse workforce is getting its needs met. 


Here at WEX, we provide opportunities for employees to engage in community impact – through our diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) affinity groups as well as other avenues. My personal experience is that these engagements not only positively impact the community but also illustrate the power of self-empowerment. 


Anecdotally, I have noticed that supporting local nonprofits has, in more than one instance, helped employees forge a deeper, more meaningful bond with their colleagues at all levels of the organization. I don’t think there’s anyone who would purport that a wellness app could replace the power of these relationships.


In what ways do social impact experiences help employees feel more connected to their colleagues, company, and community? 


Being a good corporate citizen is about showing up and supporting our communities as they face challenges and grow to best serve all of us. This belief has guided WEX’s approach to philanthropic support and volunteerism over many years. 


Underlying this work is a deep belief in creating communities where social equality is a priority. It is these dovetails with the community and social equality that have been so resonant with our DEIB work at WEX, and likely part of why so many members of our affinity groups have taken part in these opportunities. 


I find that it can sometimes be easier for people to be their authentic selves and to connect amid a shared social impact experience. 


Despite the recent findings, there is a lot of research that shows meditation apps, relaxation classes, and fitness videos can have a positive impact on the employee experience. How should businesses mindfully incorporate these products – if at all? 


While wellness tools aren’t a replacement for basic workplace benefits such as pay, promotions, and healthcare, many employers have begun offering employees lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) as a way to flexibly support employees with wellness needs throughout the year. While each employer designs their LSA to meet the unique needs of their workforces, they often do allow employees to spend LSA funds on relaxation classes, massage, acupuncture, even retreats or wellbeing apps. 


WEX offers LSAs to all US employees – and WEX also administers LSAs for other employers. In fact, among a subset of WEX customers, from 2022 to 2023 alone, we saw a 115% increase in the number of employers who offer an LSA to their employees. This is indicative of the importance of flexibility supporting the needs of your specific employees, giving each employee the autonomy to select which products or services would be most beneficial for their situation.


After learning about this study, do you think social impact experiences will play a bigger role in CSR, DEIB, and ESG? 


Yes. Already in 2024, WEX has been fortunate enough to be selected by Newsweek as one of America’s Greatest Workplaces for Diversity, one of 2024 America’s Greatest Workplaces for Women, and one of America's Greatest Workplaces for Mental Wellbeing


I like how our CEO, Melissa Smith, puts it: “The more diversity of thought and experience we cultivate at WEX, the stronger and more successful we are as a company.” 


It is my personal belief that as more CEOs and other leaders embrace this philosophy, the more resilient and profitable businesses will become. 


For help facilitating your company's social impact and employee wellness itinerary, contact impact@visit.org.



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