3 Growing Employee Wellness Trends In 2017

By James Malone

There was a lot of M&A activity within the wellness industry in 2016, what employee wellness trends can we expect to see following these mergers. Here’s how some providers are innovating to promote better employee health.

1) Sleep, The New Steps

According to the CDC, 30% of American adults sleep six or fewer hours per day. The recommended 7 to 8 hours per day is the new target for health providers. The impact of sleep deprivation on employees can be detrimental to morale and motivation. The short-term effects can be damaging to productivity, mood, memory retention and decision-making.

Worryingly, a lack of sleep also increases the risk of occupational injuries. More than 40% of adults experience daytime sleepiness, severe enough to interfere with their daily activities, at least a few days each month based on surveys conducted by the NSF (1999-2004).

The long-term effects may lead to serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Better sleep habits can be encouraged through healthy sleep routines. Interestingly, by simply meeting the CDC’s recommended 7 to 8 hours per day, employers can see improvements in productivity, absenteeism and overall employee morale.

What Can Your Company Do?

  • Creating a wellness challenge or sleep tracking challenge can help employees develop a healthy sleep routine.
  • Some employers are availing of activity trackers to help employees improve sleep cycles and monitor healthy sleep patterns.
  • Encourage employees to leave work on time. Some companies are now implementing a ‘lights off’ policy, where office lights are turned off at a designated time.
  • This year, workers in France won the ‘right to disconnect’ on weekends to improve work flexibility and avoid burnout. Discouraging weekend cell phone work and email use is an increasing trend and legal obligation in some countries.
  • Implementation of flextime with suitable guidelines encourages staff to work at optimum energy times. Similarly, “remote work” often sees increased productivity over set fixed office hours.
  • Have a nap room, encourage a healthy power nap. Companies such as Google, Nike and Zappos all have designated quiet rooms for employee down time.

2) Whole Health, Not Just Physical Health

Attention is increasing around emotional, mental and psychological issues faced by employees. In treating both physical and emotional health, employers can greatly increase productivity and improve overall health outcomes.

Progressive employers are looking to providers to help create positive working environments where employees can grow, develop and ultimately thrive. The effect of a healthier environment is more engaged and committed employees, who are happy to go the extra mile.

The commitment to creating a psychologically and emotionally healthy workplace not only aids in retaining healthy employees but additionally benefits when recruiting. The success of such programs depends on how employee’s needs are addressed. Such programs need to be supported top down and should be based on employee feedback.

What Can Your Company Do?

  • Show gratitude and help employees similarly show gratitude and support for others. Fostering a positive feedback loop encourages discussion and greater co-operation.
  • Listen and take note of feedback. Whilst most companies believe they do, when in fact, they don’t. Having a form that’s filled in once a year is not enough. Employees feel good about being included in the decision-making process. Listen, listen some more and then listen harder. If you’re talking you’re doing it wrong.
  • De-stigmatize mental health issues and educate managers in early warning signs. Identify when an employee may be having personal problems and have proper procedures in place that are empathetic and supportive.
  • Foster an environment of personal development and growth. Offer a company library where employees are encouraged to read books on personal development. Offer to buy books for employees or have a company Amazon Kindle subscription offer available to employees.
  • Encourage growth. Often employees have personal projects, hobbies or are simply re training outside of work. Encourage “work related activities” to be brought into work and if appropriate offer the support of other employees. Google pioneered this approach allowing employees to spend 20% of their time on personal projects.
  • Paid parental leave for men and women.

3) Giving Back

Companies, including Microsoft and PNC Financial Services, give employees the chance to get involved in volunteering. Companies are looking to providers to help positively impact not only their employees but also the surrounding communities too.

Interestingly a recent study revealed that millennials are more interested in companies that give to charity than those that do not. Millennials are also less receptive to blatant cash rewards for wellness. By providing company-supported wellness challenges that match charitable financial incentives, employers can encourage healthy behaviors whilst also serving the community.

Millennials have a stronger focus on family and stronger communities. With increasing numbers of millennials in the workforce, offering employees the ability to donate their rewards to a local charity, offering down time or family support may yield better results than financial incentives.

What Can Your Company Do?

  • Match employee’s donations to local charities and philanthropic causes.
  • When creating a wellness challenge, facilitate donations to be made to charitable causes.
  • Inform employees of any charitable affiliation the company has. Often companies simply fail to inform employees and the information remains buried. Encourage feedback on what charities the company should be affiliated with.
  • Organize work day events, sponsored runs, walks, cake sales.
  • Paid time off for employees allocating time to charitable work. Many high-profile companies allow staff to allocate their day’s salary in addition to their labor.
  • Create a BIG charitable goal. Some organizations have built houses in remote villages in Africa, sunk wells for water or transported goods to those in need. Dream big and get employee buy in.

2017 seems to be the year where companies are being encouraged to care; for their employees, their families and their communities. Having a working environment that is nurturing to growth but flexible enough to not to affect work-life balance is ultimately the challenge faced by companies wishing to attract and retain the best talent.

Is health and happiness a priority in your company this year? Let’s see what we can do together. Are there other trends you would like to know more about? Please comment below, like and share.

By James Malone

Looking to start a wellness challenge? Contact us, and get your employees motivated and engaged in health.

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