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New Year, New Approach: The Future of Wellness in 2019

New Year, New Approach: The Future of Wellness in 2019
Posted on Thursday, January 3, 2019 by Rae Shanahan
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From eating right to turning off our devices to improve sleep, health and wellness strategies are more important than ever in our hectic, always-on culture.

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Employers know that prioritizing employees’ health improves their lives, their engagement at work, and a host of other outcomes. This is why wellness programs have become a staple of American workplaces and will remain so for the foreseeable future. But like so much else in our workplaces, wellness programs — and the larger mindset about what “wellness” really means — continue to evolve.

What can you expect in 2019? Here are three trends in workplace wellness to watch for:

Mindfulness and mental health. Let’s be honest — employees are stressed on the job and burnout is a significant problem. In a recent Gallup survey, nearly two-thirds of American workers reported feeling burned out at least part of the time at work. To address this issue, and the absenteeism and turnover that it causes, employer-sponsored wellness programs will increasingly emphasize mindfulness for stress relief in 2019. This can take the form of holding yoga classes or meditation sessions onsite for employees, or it can mean making those activities available via gym memberships and fitness reimbursement programs.

Employers will also encourage breaks throughout the day, and they can ensure that inviting outdoor spaces are available — for eating, taking a walk, or just getting some fresh air and natural sunlight — all of which can improve employees’ moods and act as meditative moments. 

Financial fitness. Related to stress reduction is financial well-being, since financial issues have a negative impact on mental health and engagement at work. And employees are increasingly interested in financial fitness benefits; a recent study showed that over half of employees surveyed wanted validation for financial decisions, and 25% requested financial wellness benefits with access to unbiased counselors.

Look for employers to implement student loan repayment assistance benefits, or to increase contributions to 401(k) programs and HSAs for their employees. Providing financial counseling for issues such as debt management and savings advice will also grow in popularity. These programs reduce financial stress among existing employees, and they also attract top talent, which is increasingly important in today’s labor market.

Personalization through data. Data is everywhere, and wellness programs at work are no exception. Personalized data will play an increasing role in developing effective wellness programs, such as using data from wearables like Fitbits and smart watches to set employee goals and benchmarks. This means that someone who is just beginning an exercise regimen will have a different benchmark to work from than someone who regularly runs marathons. Personalization will therefore make wellness programs more relevant and more successful based on each employee’s needs.

And don’t worry if your organization doesn’t have a high-tech platform for wellness data — simply asking employees about what time of day they prefer to exercise, or what fruits and vegetables they enjoy, can help employers tailor their wellness programs to best reach their employees.

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