With ever-evolving technology forcing organizations to change their present working and prepare for the future, the spotlight on ensuring maximum human productivity and ensuring the ‘human’ touch has never been brighter. A critical part of this discourse is to build a workplace that promotes comprehensive wellness for employees. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest workplace wellness trends in the coming year, and decade:
Healthy workplace environment and food choices
The startup culture might have started with offices being set up in basements and garages, but it has rightly moved onto better spaces and infrastructure. There is an evident movement to build open, ventilated, and natural workplaces that have ample natural light. Studies have shown that employees are healthier and more productive in such places than in closed offices. Thus, organizations and co-working spaces are designing thoughtful workplaces by integrating natural elements and paying special attention to sound, temperature, air, and light. Such workplaces not only allow employees to move around more, but also promote collaboration and a community-culture within the organization.
Another positive movement has been about what we eat while we are in office. Slowly, but surely, employers are realizing that they need to improve access to healthier food options for their employees. This realization is reflected in the gradual shift from caffeinated beverages to natural fruit juices and from processed snacks to fresh fruits in the office pantry. As employees and employers become better aware of the impact of what they consume, a demand for better alternatives will naturally increase.
Scratching beyond the surface
An attempt to personalize employee benefits and engagement has been underway for the last few years, and this will also extend to workplace wellness practices. However, in order for it to succeed, organizations will have to invest time and effort to understand their employees individually, their motivations, and their personalities. Psychographic profiling of employees, based on their unique personality traits, can help design the most effective wellness plan that increases participation.
For instance, a simple assessment can help classify employees in one of the five categories; self-achievers, balance-seekers, priority-jugglers, direction-takers, and willful-endurers. Depending on their personality type, employees will view their health and fitness differently, and understanding these motivations can help address health concerns in the most relevant way that encourages the employee to engage. This will tailor the wellness experience for the employee and do away with the need to send mass emails or conduct organization-wide programs that do not resonate with everyone. To put it simply, organizations will understand what ‘wellness’ means for their employees, and work towards helping them achieve it. Thus, the objective will be to create tangible behavioral changes that benefit employees.
Regulating over communication
There are no two ways about the fact that employees are not able to truly disconnect from their work, even after they physically leave the office premises. The constant flow of notifications, IMs, and emails usually keeps them tied in some way or the other. And slowly, organizations are realizing that the expectation of being available 24X7 is doing more harm than good. While Amazon India’s head can be credited with being the first leader at his position to start the conversation about logging off from work, he certainly won’t be the last.
The ‘Right to Disconnect’ has been demanded from employee groups and unions for some time, and it is being seriously considered in many countries for legislature as well. Even in India, NCP leader Supriya Sule introduced the bill in Lok Sabha. Nations are considering a four-day workweek or six-hour workdays to deal with increasing employee fatigue and distress as well. Rest assured, the movement will only strengthen from here on, and employers will oblige to these demands.
Supporting employees where it really matters
As the definition of ‘wellness’ expands to focus on mental and emotional well-being, organizations will identify new areas where employees need support. Global and national developments in the last year indicate that employers will make an earnest attempt to understand the obstacles to wellness faced by their employees and make attempts to remedy them. For example, several organizations are beginning to provide financial counseling programs to their workforce to ensure that their employees experience less stress about their money and finances. Similarly, others are supporting employees in developing a long-term career development plan by helping them work on their weaknesses and better their strengths.
To help their employees undertake meaningful work, employers are also integrating social development programs with wellness initiatives. Some examples include paid time off for volunteer work, involving employees in CSR activities, organizing donation and cleanliness drives, participating in marathons and fund-raising events, etc. Furthermore, to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their employees, a few Indian organizations have extended equal benefits to same-sex partners and members of the LGBTQ+ communities as well; a gesture that not only helps undo stigma but provides actual financial and psychological support while reaffirming their identity. Thus, the concept of workplace wellness will encompass the physical, mental, socio-emotional, and financial well-being of the employee.
Naturally, the use of technology in promoting workplace wellness will increase, and employees will give more control over how they choose to participate. HR leaders and professionals will have to identify employee concerns and design innovative wellness programs that make the intended impact and go beyond being a check-list. The sluggish pace of progress in the last few years will surely pick up and reveal new challenges and also new solutions. Overall, organizations should aim to establish an engaged, productive, and motivated workforce to take on an uncertain future by changing existing management practices and putting employee wellness first.
- 2020 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report
- Emerging Employee Wellness Trends for 2020
- Employee Wellness Trends for 2020