New and innovative digital tools: At HSA Bank, we’ve utilized digital tools like Teams and virtual whiteboards throughout the pandemic. We’ve counseled customers on many more tools for both internal and external use. As someone who conducts deep research into digital tools for customers, I am constantly amazed by new technology in the marketplace. I’m optimistic that technology is driving digital tools and resources that will comprehensively meet the needs of remote workers and employers in the future.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Chad Wilkins.

Chad Wilkins is the Executive Vice President of Webster Bank and President of HSA Bank, where he is responsible for leading the organization and its people toward sustainable growth well into the future. Chad joined HSA Bank in 2014, bringing with him more than twenty-five years of experience in the banking and health insurance industries. Chad has a consistent history of achievement in areas including sales, leadership, relationship management, product management, P&L leadership and employee engagement through his role as President of the Wilkins Group, his own consulting practice specializing in healthcare and financial services. Chad previously served as CEO of Optum Health Financial Services and Senior Vice President of Commercial Large Markets at U.S. Bank, where he honed his background of managing multimillion dollar deals and aggressive growth targets to deliver revenue and profit improvement.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

Growing up as the youngest of six kids shaped me in both a personal and professional way and gave me the unique perspective of being extremely observant of those around me. I found that you could learn a lot not only from your own wins and losses but also from the wins and losses of others. This shaped how I look at and navigate the world. On the professional side, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of fast-growing markets and businesses. When you’re a part of a high-growth business, you get to pursue stretch opportunities. From the beginning of my career, I’ve had the chance to step up, go above and beyond the call, and find new opportunities that are outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been fortunate to find that much of my success in my career has stemmed from working at companies that offer a lot of opportunities. Serving as the President of HSA Bank, I’ve found the health benefits space fosters high growth and innovative opportunities for professional development. I made the leap to healthcare financial services 15 years ago and have stayed because it’s an extremely high-growth field. Across all of my work experience, I’ve found that I always learn the most and have the most success when I pay close attention to those around me.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

Work and the workplace are irrevocably changed as a result of the pandemic. When I look back to where HSA Bank was before the pandemic, we were just starting to focus our attention on finding ways to be more flexible in the workplace with initiatives like work from home and geographic hiring flexibility. Up until this point, we found it really challenging to bypass the barriers to remote work. When the pandemic hit, we quickly figured these challenges out. My team and I talked a lot about how when you have a big challenge in front of you, it’s best to view it as something you have to achieve. When you feel you have to do something, you figure it out and realize that it wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be. Now, HSA Bank prides itself on its work-from-home flexibility as a competitive advantage.

While the flexibility of a hybrid and remote work environment is here to stay, looking to the next 10–15 years, HSA Bank is focusing on providing flexibility while driving performance and maintaining our culture. We are also investing resources in the effort to create workplaces from a virtual and in-person standpoint that foster teamwork and collaboration, all while managing the business and leading people to achieve goals and objectives. Maintaining business goals and personal connections while still being flexible is a difficult thing to achieve, but I believe our culture of operational excellence and continuous improvement has helped us find the right balance. The bottom line is that companies that find the right balance will have happier employees and drive greater performance.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

A lot of employers are waiting to see what the future will hold instead of taking action when planning for the future. It’s obvious that expectations around the current and future work environment have changed. It’s easy for employers to default to reluctance when making company-wide decisions on work-from-home policies and wait for employees to be assertive and tell you their preferences. However, the true key to future-proofing your organization is being clear in your communications and transparent on how the workplace will operate going forward to ensure business goals are being met. You must support employees in a remote environment, but also foster a two-way conversation to voice the expectations of your company. If not, employees may receive mixed signals and you may be left wondering what the preferences of your employees are — both of which lead to unhappy employees and ineffective work policies.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

The gap that already exists between employees’ understanding of their benefits and healthcare options has widened amid the virtual work environment. Rolling out new benefits virtually can confuse employees if employers don’t take care. To close this gap, employers must think outside the box to educate their employees. This means getting the right tools and resources to the right people and creating opportunities for questions and discussions to aid employees in the process of making the most of their benefits and finding out what works for them. For example, HSA Bank releases an open enrollment roadmap every year walking through employer strategy and considering the current macro environment and labor trends. Employers should capitalize on readily available resources like the roadmap that guide them on ways to educate employees on what benefits work best for them.

To close this gap, employers will also have to dedicate more time to planning ahead and developing well-designed communication plans. This will allow employees to feel more a part of the company and have a clear understanding of compensation, benefits, work culture, etc. It’s clear that today this is an underserved need. According to HSA Bank’s 2022 Health & Wealth Index, only 12% of the 2,000 individuals surveyed were optimally engaged with their health benefits. That means that the other 88% of individuals don’t actively take steps to maintain or improve their physical health and health-related finances.

Our goal is to help employers assist employees who are less-than-optimally-engaged-individuals to close the gap by helping them navigate the healthcare space and save for the future.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

It’s pretty clear that most employees like having the option to work from home but also like being able to connect in person with their co-workers. It is important to have a conversation with employees about what they need to succeed. A lasting impact on the future of work from the pandemic is that companies are continually looking for new ways to be flexible. For instance, instead of having permanent workstations, companies are leveraging flexible workspaces and looking for new tools to aid collaboration in virtual and hybrid meetings.

A positive outcome of the global work-from-home “experiment” was the discovery that virtual communications can seamlessly connect more people than traditional in-person meetings. Before the pandemic, many companies, including HSA Bank, would fly people all around the world for conferences and meetings. Now, the workplace is becoming more accessible as individuals around the world can join a meeting at any time with a click of a button.

Using open enrollment as an example, a hybrid work model saw us recommending strategies such as creating a living FAQ document and promoting digital benefits calculators to ensure employees weren’t disadvantaged by this work model.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

One of the most obvious changes to the workplace resulting from the pandemic is the transition to work from home. As many Americans have adjusted to a more flexible work environment, companies are finding that it’s tough to get people back in the office. Especially for workers with young family members, as it’s easier to make arrangements and manage a family with a consistent schedule. Creating spaces that are more flexible and allow for greater collaboration is needed. As well as more consistency of expectations and opportunities to meet and collaborate with colleagues.

Another positive societal shift that’s emerged is a focus on compensation and benefit equity in the workplace. In order to attract and retain top talent, employers can work to ensure that resources and benefits are distributed equitably. That means distributing fairly across their entire employee population including are like matching contributions, and premiums. An increased focus on this equity from both employees and employers is a net positive and a societal change that is shaping the future of work.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

The tools that are being developed to close the gap. In the traditional work environment, we were able to lean over and ask people across the aisle for guidance or opinions. Now, it’s not as easy to come across these collaborative moments with colleagues. However, I’m encouraged by how many communication tools have popped up over the past year in the virtual world. Moving forward, to afford more collaboration as managers and leaders, we have to be very intentional about making sure that this communication between coworkers still happens. I’m optimistic that moving forward, innovation and learning around digital collaboration will keep effective work viable in a remote or hybrid environment.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

The HSA Bank 2022 Health & Wealth Index found that Generation Z and millennials are significantly more motivated to pursue mental wellness support than their older counterparts. Despite this increased focus among younger generations, only 36% of all respondents obtained mental healthcare in the past year, either in person or by telehealth.

Education from employers and company leaders is key to assisting employees in the journey to better support their mental well-being. Employers need to be vocal when teaching employees about the costs of healthcare services, and how employees can save for mental healthcare services. Some of the tools that HSA Bank counsels employers on our plan comparison tools, retirement savings tools and transparency tools. No matter which tools your company utilizes, as younger generations who are making up an increasing chunk of the workforce continue to be more plugged into their mental wellness, employers must match this demand for education. At the end of the day, better education tactics will help employees be confident in making the right choices with their benefits, especially those that support mental health.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

It’s crucial for employers to think about the cultural aspects of creating an environment where you can drive teamwork and collaboration with well-designed benefits that foster flexibility and work-life balance. Employers need to empower their employees to plan and save for the future–and demonstrate that they’re supporting employees through all stages and cycles of life with benefits. This importance will only continue to grow as younger generations are showing an increased interest in their health and wellness.

According to HSA Bank’s 2022 Health & Wealth Index, more than half of Gen Z respondents are likely to change employers for improved benefits. Looking forward, employers that will win the war for talent are those that value transparent communication with employees and focus on providing benefits that meet all the diverse needs of their employees.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

1. Work from home flexibility: While we may be emerging from the height of the pandemic, workers expect to continue experiencing the benefit of increased flexibility that remote and hybrid work brings. More and more employees are selecting jobs based on options to be fully remote or geographically flexible. HSA Bank’s 2022 Health & Wealth Index found that more than three-fourths of respondents made key lifestyle changes in the past year to improve their personal health. Individuals have discovered the power of workplace flexibility over the past year, which can include the ability to spend more time with family or on personal wellness. Now that they’ve had a taste of this lifestyle, many employees will demand this flexibility moving forward.

2. New and innovative digital tools: At HSA Bank, we’ve utilized digital tools like Teams and virtual whiteboards throughout the pandemic. We’ve counseled customers on many more tools for both internal and external use. As someone who conducts deep research into digital tools for customers, I am constantly amazed by new technology in the marketplace. I’m optimistic that technology is driving digital tools and resources that will comprehensively meet the needs of remote workers and employers in the future.

3. Benefits education: As I discussed earlier, remote and hybrid work isn’t going anywhere, so employers must get crafty when communicating intricate topics like health benefits. According to HSA Bank’s 2022 Health & Wealth Index, 48% of respondents accessed healthcare through telehealth services over the past year. Telehealth is a service that will continue to grow in the future. The pandemic pushed many individuals over the barrier of uncertainty to start leveraging telehealth, and now many will continue virtual appointments for concerns that don’t need to be addressed in a doctor’s office. With growing tools like telehealth, effective education will be the key to helping individuals find what benefits work best for their needs.

4. Saving for the future: One-third of HSA Bank’s 2022 Health & Wealth Index respondents expressed uncertainty in being able to cover healthcare costs in the near term or in their future retirement years. More than half (52%) of respondents indicated they rarely or never save for future medical expenses. Despite the current inflationary period and looming recession, consumers must prioritize saving for retirement and medical expenses to build a more stable, healthy future.

5. Maintaining culture: As we emerge from the pandemic, remote and hybrid work is shifting from something that companies had to do to something that companies want to do. This shift is bringing an increased focus and investment in digital methods to maintain culture. At HSA Bank, my team and I have realized that we must be more intentional and disciplined to make sure that employees know the products and services we provide, what their role is within the strategy and execution of a project, how we measure progress, and how we’re tracking toward success.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“Seize the day.” I have a bias for action. It’s important to always do your research and think things through, but I would rather take a step down the path and begin to move in a certain direction. Once you start moving, you can refine your path as you go. Things move fast in today’s world so if you stand still to fully analyze something, you might have the wrong answer by the time you actually take action.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Because of his many ideas, complications, and innovations, I’d love to have a meal with Elon Musk. While he is far from a perfect character, I think that the things he’s accomplished in his career are amazing. From a car manufacturing firm to a space exploration company, Elon inserts himself at the forefront of many high-growth industries and projects, something that I also aspire to do throughout my life.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

They can find me on LinkedIn or if they’d like to learn more about HSA Bank’s products and services, they can visit:

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.