I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time when business leaders have been so enthusiastic about wanting to find new ways to engage and support the health and wellness of their employees.
There’s a real collaboration developing between employers and employees, and it’s wonderful to see. While I’m sure this year will bring many new developments in the space, there are seven major health and wellness trends we will see at the forefront.
1. Wellness programs that take a “holistic” approach
It’s number one for a reason. Attempting to address just one or two burning issues in organizations through a wellness plan or initiative usually just leads to temporary improvements. Expecting high adoption rates and meaningful health outcomes with an approach that is not broad and inclusive is just not realistic.
Instead I recommend an approach that considers the four pillars of health – physical, mental, social, and financial. You have to focus on them all, throughout the year, because neglecting even one pillar minimizes the potential impact of the model.
2. More resources for supporting mental health
Even though it’s important to address each pillar, I anticipate organizations will be paying extra attention to mental health in the years ahead. Did you know mental health is the primary condition driving both drug and disability claim increases?
If you also consider that in some organizations, 60-70% of disability costs are related to mental illness, the costs to employers are staggering.
Beyond the bottom line consideration, it’s also clear that employers are becoming increasingly conscious about creating a culture that supports an open dialogue. This allows the resources needed to support mental health to be provided to those who need them most, proactively.
By including mental health in your wellness program and providing managers with the necessary training, we can all begin to reduce the stigma around these issues.
3. Making technology a larger component of wellness programs
A challenge facing HR leaders in many areas is that the expectations of our employees are constantly being conditioned by their favorite technology, particularly when it comes to mobile apps.
So if their wellness program isn’t as intuitive as NetFlix or Uber they will get frustrated with it. That’s just the new reality, and I’m as guilty as anyone of having adopted these standards.
Fortunately, health companies are adapting quickly to meet the challenge.
We’re seeing new mobile platforms that can facilitate your employee wellness program and conduct health risk assessments, while also providing improved access to personalized health resources through channels like live-chat and telemedicine.
This trend of “virtual care” will only increase as we find ways to move more traditional health experiences online. In fact, it’s expected the virtual health market will reach $3.5 billion dollars in revenue by 2022.
4. Promoting and providing access to discounted health products and services
Many of the HR leaders we work with are coming to the same realization – if they want to control their health benefit spend they need to be investing in proactive, preventative health tools.
That’s because it’s much cheaper to keep an employee healthy and intervene early when there are signs of risk, then it is to care for them once they get sick or injured.
That’s why we’re seeing even more employers curating or offering discounted health products (ex. Wearable fitness trackers) and services (ex. Gym memberships, nutritional consultations, etc) and improving access to providers for their staff.
While I think employees will naturally appreciate these perks, the key is to ensure they are well communicated and connected to a broader health management plan.
5. Promoting a culture of health as a recruitment and retention tool
Despite continuing skepticism from some circles, I can assure you as someone who engages with employers regularly that there is a fundamental shift occurring in the importance employees are placing on the culture of an organization.
In the competition for top talent, if you’re able to boast about your employee experience and the overall culture and health of your workforce – that can become a major recruitment differentiator (particularly amongst millennials).
Employees appreciate it when their organization steps up to be a partner in their continuing health – and this causes them to develop a stronger sense of loyalty in the long-term.
6. Less focus on participation, more focus on results
While I think many organizations and HR leaders were initially satisfied with measuring the success of their wellness programs through employee participation alone, that mindset continues to evolve.
While registration numbers are a good starting point, you also want to be able to prove that your program is having a measurable impact on employee health and productivity, as well as bottom line issues like chronic disease claims and health benefit premiums.
More sophisticated data that can demonstrate these improvements and measure employee engagement is already on the way.
7. Improving employee financial literacy
Finally, look for employee wellness programs to start including more support for financial health. With five generations currently in the workforce, there’s no shortage of life stage issues impacting the lives of employees.
Everything from student loan repayment, to saving for a first home, to preparing for retirement can have a direct impact on the morale and productivity of your team members.
Additionally, let’s not forget that poor financial literacy and money issues at home can be a catalyst for anxiety and other mental health issues.
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