Workplace Wellness Trends and How They’ve Evolved

Workplace wellness programmes are all about supporting better employee health and wellbeing.

Typical corporate programmes include medical screenings, lifestyle change interventions, resilience training, stress management, fitness programmes, social support, incentives and competitions.

Over the past year, the wellness industry has evolved hugely. Wellness and wellbeing initiatives are no longer a traditional “tick box exercise”, instead companies are adopting strategic data-driven programs.

Our research identifies several key elements driving this change globally. The industry is moving fast and so it is important that organisations keep up to date and get the most out of their wellness initiatives.

1. A bigger focus on wellness that delivers productivity 

The initial interest in wellness was sparked by increasing levels of absenteeism and presenteeism. The knock-on effect of which is an estimated €617 billion annually.

Employers are now recognising benefits beyond reduced health costs, including increased productivity, engagement and retention rates.

In fact, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states that 93% of workplace wellness return in the first year is in productivity gains, not reduced costs.

2. A multi-generational approach

There is also a strong generational shift in workplace wellness demands as we move towards a more multi-generational workforce.

Millennials are forcing organisations to acknowledge the increasing need for comprehensive wellness programmes and to react to their needs. Millennials typically have different values to others such as individuality, entrepreneurship and work-life balance. Whilst millennials are soon to make up over 50% of the workforce, Generation X & Baby Boomers are also important to acknowledge.

Generation X is more likely to be at an age where caring for family and elderly parents are important. Baby Boomers have a desire to work more remotely too. Their wellness programmes need to differ from that of their tech-savvy counterparts. Some suggestions include greater screening of health biomarkers and education around preventative care.

3. New working models

The way of work is changing. It is predicted that by 2020 almost 40% of the US workforce will be contingent workers confronted with more economic uncertainty, insecurity, poor pay scales and a lack

of benefits compared to a permanent position. With this comes a new host of work-related health problems. Job stress has long been an acknowledged contributor to workplace wellness and unfortunately, rates of stress are on the rise.

The Economic and Social Research Institute found that job stress among employees has doubled from 8% in 2010 to 17% in 2015 in Ireland. Furthermore, Ireland is not alone in this rise, countries such as Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium, the UK and Spain see a continued rise year on year.

20 years ago, job titles such as Data Analyst, Content Moderator or Software Engineer didn’t exist. How technology and newly developed roles impact our health is very unknown at this point. As we move into an era rife with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cutting-edge technologies.

New roles will emerge requiring organisations to not only embrace change in their approach to employee health and wellbeing but also place a higher focus on the return on the value of wellness programmes. Organisations will need to take into consideration the differences in employee wellness across different industries and roles.

4. Technology and data-driven wellness

Technology is now a big part of corporate wellness. More and more companies are using wearable, apps, software platforms, online employee feedback, screening and surveys to garner actionable insights into wellness programs.

These can also help employees make better decisions about their health. However, it’s important to remember a wellness website or application should be used to manage and deliver wellness programs, not to act as a wellness programme in itself.

Business leader Peter Drucker once said, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and this stands true today. Organisations and vendors should be leveraging valuable data to quantify programme effectiveness, its impact on productivity, healthcare costs and engagement.

Although the use of data to drive and develop wellness programmes is on the rise, according to Optum, only 42% of employers claim to be highly effective at using data and analytics to make decisions about their employee health management strategy.

What’s next for corporate wellness?

The wellness paradigm is shifting and evolving into a multibillion-dollar industry driven by a greater focus on the return on value, the impact of new working models, a growing multi-generational workforce and the need to use technology and data effectively.

In the future, successful programmes will include a combination of health risk assessments and biometric results married with personalised design, multiple education tools, rewards and incentives to promote behavioural change and gamification to promote engagement.

This together with smart use of data will drive changing technologies and service offerings for wellness programmes in the future.

If you would like to learn more about how you and your organisation can take a more strategic approach to wellness, we invite you to attend our next event “Purposeful Leadership”.

This event seeks to question and understand the role of the leader and how purposeful leadership impacts an organisation’s purpose, people and planet.

If you are a senior leader in an organisation and would like to attend, please email hello@futureofwork.ie