It used to be that “corporate wellness” meant reimbursing employees for gym memberships. Today, companies and organizations are getting more creative about how they’re improving employees’ well-being. For one, they’re starting to see that health directly impacts performance. Lost productivity and sick days, for example, cost employers over $500 billion a year. Organizations are also starting to recognize that wellness doesn’t just mean physical well-being, but emotional, mental and financial well-being too.
As the vice president of HR operations for one of the nation’s largest credit unions, I have been exposed to these kinds of holistic goals within the HR industry. Today, I see many businesses and institutions doing something innovative to develop targeted, effective wellness programs. They’re using health claims, surveysand other data to figure out what their employees actually need and what is driving healthcare costs.
For example, if a lot of employees are smokers, a company may opt to sponsor a smoking cessation program. If diabetes is a common condition within the organization, then itsHR leadersmay decide to create a nutrition program. Companies are also using the data to build programs that guide employees on what type of medical plans to enroll in.
Because stress is a factor in many conditions, including heart disease, depression, obesity, and gastrointestinal issues, companies are targeting stress as a major wellness initiative. Some are bringing in mindfulness experts, tai chi instructors and yoga teachers to help employees improve their mental health. They’re encouraging the practices during work hours, breaking down the work/home health divide. They are also creating programs like financial education courses that help address common sources of stress, like money management.
Other organizations are using data analytics to track their employees’ participation in programs. By creating company-wide competitions, they’re incentivizing participation and challenging employees to complete step challenges, quizzes and other tasks to earn points. These points can be used to purchase wellness items and fitness equipment off an online marketplace. Online wellness platforms help companies design and track these incentives.
During the pandemic, corporate wellness has largely shifted online, opening up a whole new approach to wellness – including COVID-19-specific wellness. Some companies have created their own pandemic sites about the benefits and resources available to employees. They are addressing the mental health toll of isolation by creating online socialization opportunities, like morning coffee meetups before work. As we approach the winter months, we’ll start to see seasonal changes impacting employees’ mental health as well. One solution to this is to partner with outside health organizations to offer online courses and seminars on things like mindfulness, managing seasonal anxiety and combating loneliness.
Microlearning experiences not only boost mental health but also increase productivity. Employee online learning platforms offer interactive exercises on topics like decision-making, creativity and handling change. Common corporate educational initiatives also include things like regular email wellness tips on topics from weight training to preventative care to the importance of flu shots.
Technology and data are the future of corporate wellness. As these offerings become more diverse and innovative, it’s important for organizations to consider a single platform or app to manage all of the resources and direct employees to the right ones. And as corporate wellness goes online, it isable to become increasingly holistic, addressing not just physical health but all aspects of health for every stage in life.