Updated October 16, 2019
The concept of wellness is an old one. Originating thousands of years ago, wellness describes a harmony between one’s body, mind, and spirit. Wellness gained steam in the West in the 1980s, and soon, the workplace wellness program was born.
In the 40 years since, a lot has changed. For one, wellness programs were once found primarily at enterprises. Today, they’re actually more common at startups, where 85 percent of leaders say they’re worth the investment.
Startups may not be able to afford all the bells and whistles their larger peers can, but they should be sure their wellness programs cover the following bases:
Particularly since the debut of wearables, wellness programs have begun collecting employees’ biometric information. Although most use low-touch tools like step trackers, some incentivize more invasive approaches, such as blood draws. Blood samples are needed to check biomarkers like cholesterol, glucose, and cotinine, the presence of which indicates tobacco use.
Personal data is more valuable than ever, and many of today’s workers are warier about providing it than they were 10 years ago. However, it can also be a great indicator of health and can often spur a lifestyle change when nothing else will.
In exchange for that benefit, most workers will accept a reasonable risk to their privacy. Be transparent with workers about where their data goes and who has access to it. If you’re using a vendor for all or part of the process, encourage that company to provide a presentation to your team.
In the days of Glengarry Glen Ross, burnout was seen as an inevitable part of the grind. Success in any industry required hard work, long hours, and saying “yes” to the boss, no matter the cost.
But especially since the tech boom of the 2000s, burnout has become an epidemic. As many as 44 percent of employees feel burnt out sometimes. No wonder Millennials value work-life balance above all other job characteristics.
The wellness programs of the 2020s will further that trend. Employees want to be valued for their outcomes and accomplishments, not the hours they spend at a desk. Help your team strike a healthy balance between being productive, enjoying time with their co-workers, and actually heading home at a reasonable hour.
Wellness activities during work hours are a great way to give employees a break and get their heart rate up — which can improve productivity throughout the day. Bring a fitness instructor in for a group class or insist on walking meetings for one-on-ones. (Remember, of course, to accommodate employees who aren’t able to walk for an entire meeting.)
Financial wellness has been a hot topic in recent years, and with good reason. Problems with finances are the No. 1 cause of stress for Americans. Stress can lead to serious health problems, including migraines, ulcers, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.
When someone is experiencing financial challenges, she doesn’t check that stress at the door on the way to work. Stress spills over from employees’ personal lives into their performance at work, impacting their productivity, ability to focus, and social relationships.
As important as financial fitness is to overall wellness, only 14 percent of employers have added a financial element to their wellness program. Workers want financial wellness programming, given that 63 percent of employees who have access to it take advantage of it.
A good financial wellness program should address budgeting, savings, emergency funds, paying off debt, and retirement planning. If you don’t have an in-house expert, look to external resources like Prosperity Now.
According to a study by IWG, 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, with increasing numbers exclusively working remotely. This increase in distributed workers means you need to ensure all the elements of your wellness program are accessible by all of your employees — and that means taking them online.
Although YouTube is covered in homemade exercise videos, Gixo suggests incentivizing workers to use a group exercise app with live workouts instead. Exercising with the same team of trainers effective for team bonding. It’s also far less expensive than paying for physical gym memberships and more equitable for employees, regardless of where they live.
More digital content also gives employers more opportunities to gamify activity and wellness. These programs incentivize certain behaviors and activities with points, which workers can exchange for real-world rewards like gift cards or fitness gear.
Today’s workforce cares deeply. About half of Millennials volunteer their time, resources, or both. Many companies now offer time off for volunteering or organize opportunities for employees to give back as a group.
Group volunteerism can do double duty for your community impact and wellness goals. Many volunteer activities are physical in nature, like cleaning up litter. If nutrition is important to your employees, look for opportunities to assemble healthy snack packs for your local food bank.
From incorporating the latest tech to responding to Millennials’ values of work-life balance and philanthropy, today’s wellness programs take a broader approach than those of even 10 years ago. If your wellness program only includes physical fitness, use these trends to bring it into the 21st century.