4 employee wellness trends to pay attention to in 2018

Carol Foote
Published on 22nd January 2018
4 min read

Think you’ve ticked the employee wellbeing box by having a company wellness program in place?  Think again.

The health and wellbeing of your employees involves much more than just offering a gym membership and paying for their healthcare.

The most desirable companies to work for have taken wellbeing and expanded their programs to include a whole new range of offerings.

We’re talking financial wellbeing, mental health awareness training, wellness tech, social connectedness, and more.

As a result, these companies are attracting the top talent, and keeping them.  They care about the health and wellbeing of their workforce – something which, in turn, breeds loyalty, engagement and makes people want to stay working for these companies. Employees genuinely feel like their employer takes their wellbeing seriously.

There are also enormous business benefits for investing in your employees’ health and wellbeing; wellness programs have been shown to reduce a company’s average healthcare costs by around $360 per employee per year (RAND). That’s a return of $1.50 for every dollar invested in wellness.

If you want to become an employer of choice for both new and existing staff, here’s some wellbeing trends to consider including in your wellness programs for 2018.

Financial wellbeing

Money worries can be one of the biggest causes of stress.

53% of employees are stressed about their finances according to PwC’s 2017 employee financial wellness survey. Those who are stressed are more likely to be distracted by their finances at work, or be absent due to health issues caused by financial stress.

According to the eighth annual employer-sponsored health and well-being survey from the National Business Group on Health  and Fidelity Investments, employers are clearly recognizing this, as financial wellness programs are now the third most popular offering by companies (84%), behind physical well-being programs (95%) and emotional health programs (87%).

Many employees struggle with debt and building emergency funds, so employers are including debt management tools in their financial wellness programs. Other additions include personalized coaching sessions with a financial professional, profit share schemes, and employee savings schemes.

Who’s doing this well?

SunTrust bank recently implemented a financial wellness scheme for its more than 24,000 employees.  Participants of the scheme can attend classroom sessions, access online portals and view live streams to achieve financial goals, which can include anything from saving up for a house to planning for retirement.  Further to this, the scheme offers up to $1,000 towards employee emergency funds, as well as an extra day off work to allow employees to focus on their finances.  15,000 employees at the Atlanta based bank have now participated in the scheme, with 80% saying they feel like they have more control over their finances.  The scheme has been so successful that SunTrust now offers it to clients across the US.

Mental health awareness

Despite people in general becoming more comfortable talking about mental health issues, it still remains a difficult subject to broach in the workplace, with many employees fearing repercussions and line managers often unsure how to tackle the issue.

Mental health awareness training for managers and other staff is therefore becoming a growing trend. Courses on offer can help participants recognize and understand some of the most common signs, symptoms and behaviors of mental health conditions in the workplace. The training also gives managers the confidence to deal with staff who may be experiencing mental health problems. Encouraging the uptake of mental health days is also something that’s expected to grow this year.

Who’s doing this well?

As part of Barclays pledge to the Time to Change mental health social movement, it launched its ‘This is Me’ campaign in 2014. The aim was to break down the stigma associated with mental health at work and create an environment where employees could comfortably speak out about their own experiences of mental health.

It began with just nine colleagues sharing stories on film and online, and has since grown to include nearly 200 stories. Barclays says there has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the campaign, with improvement in trust and engagement attitudes among employees, as well as an increase in retaining talent as more employees successfully return to work after a mental health-related leave of absence.

Digital wellness tech

Employees want timely, personalized support for their wellness efforts and they expect to be able to access it all on their smartphone or tablet, whenever and wherever they are. They want it integrated with their FitBit or other wearable tech.

The choice of digital wellness platforms and mobile apps is growing, and HR managers are seeing the benefits.

Digital wellness portals can also provide more tailored, personalized health and wellbeing support for employees as they use data to set goals based on their current health status, interests and preferences. They can also easily create company-wide challenges and reward incentives.

Who’s doing it well?

BP engaged with FitBit’s group health division to implement a one million step challenge where employees who hit the mark over the course of a year were eligible for a more deductible health plan. In one year, 23,000 employees took over 23 billion steps. BP also offers a full digital wellness scheme to employees through a third party wellness provider called StayWell, which offers a variety of wellness programs to support the health needs and interests of plan participants.

Social connectedness

Social connectedness is important in the workplace because friendships among employees can promote positive business outcomes.

According to the National Business Group on Health, people who have a best friend at work have higher overall wellbeing; are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs; are better at engaging customers; and produce higher quality work.

Social connectedness can also boost employees’ mental wellbeing.

Employers can help employees develop better social connections through organized activities, job design, workplace modifications and encouraging more interaction in the workplace.

Who’s doing it well?

Online retailer Zappos has an initiative called Wellness Adventures, where a wellness coordinator will take a small group of employees from different departments offsite to do something fun away from their desks, like an hour-long golf lesson, laser tag or trampolining. It also holds basketball matches for staff, that employees from all the departments can also come and watch.

The value of wellness

Wellness programs have often been viewed as a nice extra, rather than a strategic necessity. But when workplace wellness is viewed holistically, companies can expect reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, greater employee engagement and productivity, less unscheduled paid time off, greater employee retention, increased employee satisfaction and morale, demonstrable competitive advantage, and lower healthcare costs. That’s something that’s healthy for employees, and healthy for the business.

What wellness support are you considering this year?

What really makes your people productive? We spoke to 3,500 employees across the globe to find out – and their answers may surprise you. Download the research to discover what they said.




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