There are plenty of new ways HR managers are thinking about workplace wellness in 2020. This is leading to new products, new technologies and new ways of thinking about employee benefits. Younger generations of workers are entering the job market and replacing retiring baby boomers, causing a shift in the demand for certain workplace wellness benefits and perks. HR managers face the challenge of adapting and finding new ways to keep employees happy, engaged and in the building.
There are three employee wellness benefits shifts in particular that could be big in 2020. We’ll examine why these changes are underway, as well as where they’re taking the duties of HR managers and departments over the next decade.
Corporate Social Responsibility (a.k.a. CSR)
CSR has long been an important way for employers to give workers the opportunity to give back to communities and support causes they believe in. Many younger workers these days feel a sense of responsibility to be a positive force in some way or another. Offering ways employees can contribute to causes they believe in can add further meaning to the work they do. Some may already volunteer outside of work but not everyone has the time or means to undertake charitable projects. When undertaken in the workplace, CSR efforts can also serve a team-building function.
Trends are already leaning in this direction, especially in how companies are tackling employees’ environmental concerns. Companies are sending employees on ‘nature tourism’ and environmental volunteering trips more often than before. A study by CR Worldwide found that 56% of corporate incentive trips tracked were related to nature tourism in 2019 compared to 15% in 2018. Recycling and energy-saving measures are also saving companies money and keeping workers happy.
The health of workers’ bones, joints and muscles seems highly specialized. But wellness programs focused on preventing the negative health consequences of sitting for 40 hours a week are gaining prominence. Progressively scarier health studies are coming out condemning the constant sedentary behavior found in most offices. They say “sitting is the new smoking,” but at least smokers got up from their desks (frequently). This change is inspiring employers to add resources to health and wellness portals, as well as altering the office environment in other ways.
There’s a rising trend for providing wellness portals with videos of recommended exercises that can be done in the workplace. Standing desks and back braces reduce the risk of injury and chronic conditions from sitting (with poor posture) for too long. Fitness apps and wearables send gentle reminders to get up and move every hour. (Many of the fitness apps can be used for internal competitions or goal setting to boost engagement and team building.) Wellness programs can include remote sessions with physical therapists working one on one to reduce pain and improve musculoskeletal health.
Employee mental health has been gaining attention as a major area needing improvement for the last few years. Many companies have responded by expanding health benefits that give workers access to therapists and other specialists. Some provide mindfulness courses and in-person wellness coaching. Others have re-thought time-off benefits, workspaces, modes of communication, and other factors that can improve mental wellbeing.
Probably the biggest productivity killer is stress and the side effects that come with it. By now, we know the health hazards of constant mental stress: high blood pressure, weakened immune systems and ulcers to name a few. Stress and overwork also lead to burnout, which can cause employees to leave in droves if not properly managed. Luckily, those same apps that get workers moving often include features to promote relaxation and meditation.
Younger generations of employees more readily recognize the importance of taking care of personal mental health, so demands for better mental health benefits aren’t going to go away. In fact, a ClassPass survey found that 88% of employee respondents said they’d be more likely to recommend employers that support their mental health.
Supporting Your Employees
The good news for employers is that the market for giving employees access to these programs is constantly expanding. New technologies make it possible for remote employees to enroll in many wellness benefits and prices are dropping. With a little technology and creativity, you can construct a robust workplace-wellness system that increases ROI over time.