Workplace wellness programs recently began gaining more momentum, as companies work to reinforce a healthy work culture to boost productivity, satisfaction, and predominantly, employee retention.
Organizations are facing a new wave of workplace wellness trends as employers look to bolster their employee experience programs and battle increased employee burnout. The changing dynamics prompted major reforms to enforce positive company culture for employees to thrive, and for management to reduce employee turnover.
Employee “well-being” is the keyword coming into 2024. With more workplaces offering remote flexibility, which leads to widened talent pools, top workplaces will have to offer attractive employee experiences like wellness benefits and programming to attract top talent.
Millennials and Gen Zs share different workplace values and norms from previous generations, prioritizing mental wellbeing, equality, and opportunities, which explains the recent job fluctuations. In response, organizations are seeking ways to improve the employee experience and take a holistic approach to foster a strong workplace culture.
Workplace wellness focuses on enhancing different aspects of working life, from an organization’s environment and having a sense of belonging, to company policies and opportunities abetting the quality and consistency of work. The four primary pillars known as the backbone of corporate wellness programs explore the physical, social, emotional, and financial prospects of one’s health and wellbeing. Companies implementing such a model can effectively reinforce a thriving workforce for increased employee productivity, engagement, and hence, profitability.
As we come into 2024, here are 14 wellness trends you can incorporate into your corporate employee wellbeing programs.
Focus on prevention
This one should be on top of every organization’s list of workplace wellness trends to implement. Rather than only offering employees a range of wellness benefits reactively, companies should focus on prevention.
When done well, prevention results in employees who are well in the broadest sense of the word. Physically, mentally, and even financially they are healthy and, by extension, happy.
Prevention, therefore, should be the starting point for employee wellbeing.
Organizations should strive to create a work environment where employees don’t find themselves working under so much stress to begin with.
There are countless preventative benefits employers can offer their people. Here’s just a small selection:
- Train managers to identify (mental) health challenges
- Adaptive workplace design (see also below)
- Regular health check-ups
- Ways to encourage people to be more active such as offering standing desks or activity trackers to raise awareness of physical activity
- Workshops and/or counseling about for example healthy eating, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol use, etc.
- Know Your Numbers programs in accordance with benefits packages encourage voluntary health screenings to review their total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure, weight, and body mass index (BMI).
Managers play an important role when it comes to prevention.
After all, they are the ones able to check in with their team members regularly to ask them how they are doing, both mentally and physically. As such, they are probably also the first ones to notice when one of their people isn’t feeling well – and to help them take action straight away.
Want to promote employee wellbeing but not sure where to start? Download our Employee Wellbeing Checklist for a quick list of ways you can get started today!
Mental health support
Many workers are still feeling the effects of intense stress because of the 2020 pandemic. With abrupt layoffs, inconsistent hours, and quickly adapting to work-from-home models, workers and employers faced immense pressure, work-induced stress and anxiety, burnout, and a lingering sense of uncertainty for the future.
The deteriorating state of the labor market pushed companies to rethink long-term solutions for the wellbeing of their employees, and not just their physical health. Some of the major methods incorporated were introducing inclusive work culture, open communication, and most importantly, mental health benefits and policies. Implementing employee wellness initiatives brings numerous benefits, including reduced healthcare costs, a stable work environment, increased productivity and morale, and lower absenteeism.
Managers can determine employee mental health needs, and adjust wellness strategies to better suit their wellbeing goals. Hosting mental health events and seminars to promote self-care during work hours is another way to start a conversation within your organization.
Even before the pandemic struck, the vast majority of especially Gen Z and Millennial employees – respectively 91% and 85% – already said that employers should have a mental health work policy in place, according to a survey commissioned by Zapier.
There are workplace wellness apps for virtually everything. Solutions vary from single apps to entire workplace wellness platforms that cover physical and mental health.
- Elevate. Our brain needs exercise too and that’s exactly what Elevate is here for. The app gives personalized brain training that happens in a game-like format.
- Power Nap App. As a result of stress, insomnia may be on the rise. This app lets employees enjoy ‘the power of the power nap.’ It lets users set a timer for up to 30 minutes, provides relaxing sounds to fall asleep to, and has various alarm sounds that are pleasant to wake up to.
- Health and wellbeing platforms such as Wellspace and Wellable.
This approach to happier, healthier employees focus on body, mind, social, and spirit. It is about recognizing that they are interconnected, and all have an influence on one another.
In the workplace, this translates to yoga classes, breathwork training, or even mental health consultations or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), all set up for employees to improve their wellbeing and happiness.
By viewing employee wellbeing as much more than simply “checking in” with colleagues, and undertaking holistic treatments like meditation and yoga, so much more can be achieved when it comes to health and happiness.
Employers who encourage their team to take up mindfulness practices and holistic activities can create a culture of health and openness to outside-the-box wellbeing strategies that ultimately lead to improved employee engagement and retention.
If you’re a Human Resources professional or leader, perhaps begin asking questions to your employees on the following topics (this way, you can create a clear strategy of holistic wellbeing in the workplace):
- Diet and nutrition
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Mood tracking
Increase workplace flexibility
Witnessing the modern evolution of work, companies are attempting to find a “new normal” as they reevaluate their organizational structure and strategies, stepping into the post-pandemic future. Many businesses consider flexibility as an essential component to reinstate in the modern workplace, while others still struggle with the notion. However, one thing is certain- traditional practices will not work anymore.
“We have three hub offices, but for the most part all of our employees are remote,” said Seth Bartholomew, Head of Employee Experience at Chronosphere. Seth spoke to Cooleaf co-founder John Duisberg on Cooleaf’s podcast The Great Retention:
“We define ourselves as a remote-first company. When I started, I never felt disconnected. The people organization was very good at reaching out. It’s a very welcoming environment, and it’s a value’s driven culture,” Seth added.
“There are benefits to being remote, especially from a diversity standpoint— we’re tapping into talent that we wouldn’t have previously. But it is hard to replicate that in-person connection, consistently. So we give options. People can work how they work best, but we do offer opportunities to bring teams together.”
A growing percentage of employees have expressed their preference for flexible work and work-from-home arrangements. According to the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, 32% of the workers surveyed preferred to work from anywhere, 29% suggested working remotely full-time, while 23% chose a hybrid work arrangement.
While flexible work supports an improved work-life balance, it brings in additional benefits for a company: empowering employees with workplace autonomy, improving employee productivity and creativity, providing a sense of satisfaction, and fostering a healthy workplace.
Financial wellness education
Employee financial wellness has been on the agenda of employers for a while now. Financial wellness refers to a person’s overall financial health and the absence of money-related stress.
According to SHRM, financial stress results in a 34% increase in absenteeism and tardiness. Employees who worry about their finances also miss almost twice as many days per year compared to their colleagues who are money-worry-free.
All in all, companies lose a lot of money due to their employees’ financial stress. In the US alone, businesses miss out on $500 billion a year because of this. So why not implement benefits that help relieve this stress?
Financial wellness benefits can range from a couple of standalone perks to a complete financial wellness program, or anything in between.
- Workshops. A simple and relatively low-cost way to create a basic financial wellness program. You can invite regular guest speakers to run a workshop on topics such as budget planning, reducing (student) debt, or savings tactics. If you’re in a larger organization, you can also ask someone from your finance department to do a session.
- Dedicated partnerships. Build a partnership with a company that specializes in employee financial planning.
- Financial wellness tools. Options go from tools that provide on-demand financial advising to custom training and e-learning to improve people’s financial knowledge and much more. LearnLux and MySecureAdvantage are just two examples of these kinds of tools.
- Perks. Tuition fee reimbursements, contributions to employees’ student loan debt, and fertility and adoption assistance are just a few options.
Adapted workplace design
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had a big impact on everybody’s workplace.
It’s thus no surprise that “adapted workplace design” is one of the top workplace wellness trends to watch out for this year. Organizations are rethinking their workplace design to ensure the safety of their employees.
And, according to a recent study, rightly so. 68% of employees globally do not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. This number is even higher for those working remotely, namely 75%.
What’s more, nearly one in four of those remote workers (23%) said they would rather start looking for a new job than return to a workplace that didn’t implement the necessary safety measures.
Since for many people, their homes have indeed become a part of the workplace, it’s important for organizations to look at how to better – and safely – facilitate their employees’ remote workplace.
What does adaptive workplace design look like?
- Ensuring physical comfort and safety at the workplace
- Shifting to an activity-based working (ABW) environment
- Allocated budget for people to fit out a home office or coworking spaces
Family wellness programs
Family wellness programs, you say? Yes!
Family wellness is especially relevant now with a lot of parents working from home.
Familial responsibility tends to have a big impact on their health and wellness. Research shows for instance that 67% of men were likely to become more active if their partner also became active.
In other words, if an employee’s home life is healthy, happy, supportive, etc. this will positively affect their work life (and vice versa). As an added bonus, extending wellness benefits to your employees’ families shows them that you care about their wellbeing beyond the walls of the office.
Here are some of the things you can do to include family members in your employee wellness program:
- Help with childcare arrangements. For instance, a childcare referral program or in-office childcare stipends.
- Allowing flexible working arrangements. If an employee is homeschooling their child during the day, let them do their work in the evenings or early mornings, or split their working time, for example.
- Add family-friendly challenges. Think of decreasing the amount of waste the family gathers or organizing family game nights.
- Organize (online) events for families and their kids. At Spotify, for example, they organize kids’ music experiences for their employees’ kids every two weeks.
Employers are working to eliminate barriers and disparities that may prevent their staff members from seeking the healthcare they need. One way they’re doing this is by amending their employee benefits plans to cover health services through telemedicine.
That way, employees can get support from healthcare providers without worrying about time-consuming trips to the doctor’s office. Anything from general physician check-ins or therapy can be offered online.
If there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s this It has shed light on additional ways for employers to help employees work better, happier and healthier.
A one-size-fits-all approach will not achieve workplace wellness; each generation has its own values and priorities and, therefore, must be respected and approached differently. For reference, today’s workforce is composed of five different generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z.
For example, Boomers value health insurance and a retirement plan, Gen X prioritizes salary. At the same time, Millennials and Zoomers appreciate paid time off and control over when they work and from where.
Generational differences greatly impact employees’ experience in the workplace, so it’s imperative to personalize wellness in your organization.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion
As leaders navigate the "Great Resignation" and a competitive talent market, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and wellbeing are top priorities and not just industry trends.
But many leaders are treating DEI and wellbeing as two distinct initiatives, despite the fact that they are fundamentally connected. You can't improve either in isolation, and leaders who attempt to do so are probably getting both wrong.
Organizations need wellbeing strategies that are equitable and inclusive of diverse employees, as well as comprehensive DEI initiatives that deliver a consistent employee experience for everyone. At the same time, leaders need to recognize that diverse employees' experiences and needs related to wellbeing can differ dramatically. No employee can do their best work if they are struggling with their health and wellbeing -- and their needs vary.
To fully meet the needs of every employee, leaders need to synchronize their DEI and wellbeing efforts.
Encouraging walk breaks
The pandemic lead to a growing appreciation for low-impact workouts like yoga or even walking. Today with more people working from home, walking breaks or walking meetings— where you chat via phone with your coworker— are more routine. Social media trends and TikTok hashtags encourage those walk breaks, while workout class offerings like Peloton are leaning into the walking trend.
It’s social, it keeps people moving, and it can get people away from their work from home setups for a well-deserved break.
On Cooleaf, organizations host quarterly step challenges for their employees. People can earn points for hitting a daily step count. It’s one of our most popular challenges on the app!
Supporting alcohol-free or caffeine-free
We’re seeing many Millennials and Gen Zers opting for non-alcoholic or caffeine-free lifestyles as opposed to previous generations. Trends like Dry January are popular, and we’re seeing more non-alcoholic and decaf options on menus and shelves these days too.
Studies show that caffeine can make people feel more anxious or cause insomnia, and too much caffeine can raise blood pressure. Non-alcoholic drinks often have fewer calories, and going alcohol-free reduces the risk of cancers and muscle recovery.
Workplaces can show support with online challenges of their own or ensure they provide non-alcoholic or decaf options at the next get-together.
Offering strength training classes
Strength and resistance training has grown in popularity over the past few years, so much so strength training classes are continuously booked solid on the workout app Classpass. Social media really de-stigmatized perceptions of strength training, making it more accessible for everyone to try it at the gym or at home during the workday.
A few strength training benefits include:
- increase muscles
- better bone density
- stronger joint health
- improved sleep
Organizations can hop on this wellness trend and offer various workout classes in office or via Zoom. Cooleaf partners with workout program leader Les Mills so hybrid and remote teams can commit and tune in together.
Using Chatbot health assistance
The new chapter of AI is taking over how we work. In fact, according to The Great Retention’s State of Culture Report, 50% of HR leaders and business executives said they’re looking into incorporating more AI into their work. AI is influencing all industries, including Chatbots and healthcare.
Along with encouraging individuals to get up and take steps for the day or tracking their path for that run, AI integrations are growing. New generative AI technology is helping consumers with health insurance and symptoms.
Workplaces can keep an eye out for how AI impacts healthcare as a consumer, so they can incorporate new tools down the line.
Looking ahead to 2024...
This coming year, we will see much of the trends that have been bubbling up to the surface come into full action and be demanded from employees. Following a big year of change, job seekers, employees, and freelancers hold power in requesting organizations support their overall wellbeing and freedom to work how they wish.
Wellness trends are now more than nice to have for corporate environments; they are a valuable currency in attracting and retaining staff.
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