Chances are you know a few co-workers, family members or friends who have made their New Year’s resolution all about their health and wellness. It turns out, your company’s goal for 2017 may be the same.

Corporate wellness programs have come a long way in the recent years. With growing popularity, it’s safe to say that corporate wellness programs are no longer just a “fad,” and they are here to stay. The percentage of companies with wellness programs is estimated to keep increasing, as organizations now realize they need some type of wellness initiative to stay current and competitive.

With wellness programs on the rise, creativity and innovation are flourishing to keep employee wellness initiatives fresh and exciting. So, what are some work site wellness trends we can expect to see implemented in 2017? The New Year calls for more flexibility, greater emphasis on total well-being, healthier work environments and improved technology for work site wellness.

The idea of a flexible workplace is not ground-breaking. However, many companies still struggle to make a flexible work environment a reality for their employees. Believe it or not, flexibility covers a lot of the groundwork needed for employee wellness, as it focuses on improving work-life balance.
Employees with flexible work schedules have been shown to have higher levels of job satisfaction and less absenteeism, along with reduced rates of turnover. So, how will we see this trend implemented into work site wellness?

Teleworking: The ability to work from home has become more popular with modern companies. The privilege to work from home, once earned, can be seen as a competitive perk for many full-time employees. The idea of teleworking can be beneficial for employee wellness in a multitude of ways, including reduced absenteeism, reduced stress and even increased productivity.
Flex Schedules: Flexible schedules are ideal for any employee who is raising a family or even for an employee with a long commute in the morning. Flexible hours increase employee wellness by reducing stress and building trust and autonomy in the workplace. Researchers from the University of Minnesota conducted a study showing how flexible schedules increased employees’ well-being and healthful behavior. Employees were able to get more sleep, take care of any health issues and feel more energized throughout the workday.
Unlimited PTO: Due to American culture and its norms on working hours, unlimited PTO probably sounds scary to most organizations.
However, giving employees unlimited PTO can be beneficial for a company–as it comes with more productive and loyal employees. Unlimited PTO also boosts employee wellness through relieving overworked employees and giving them more time to focus on their health and wellness.

Total Well-Being
It is becoming more and more evident to companies that wellness is more than just physical health. Work site wellness will start to see a shift in initiatives and goals to support total well-being. While total well-being can be harder for employers to monitor versus physical health, it is just as essential to cover in employee wellness. Total well-being takes into account the full spectrum of wellness, including mental, emotional and physical elements.
Mindfulness: The practice of mindfulness has been a growing trend itself. In simple terms, mindfulness focuses on “being” rather than “doing.” It’s training your mind to understand how you are feeling without making judgments. Like meditation, mindfulness works to reduce stress, calm the body and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is working its way into work site wellness, as education on the benefits of practicing mindfulness is becoming available through wellness programs.
Mental health: It’s no secret that mental health affects employees just as much–in some cases even more–than physical health. Poor mental health results in less productivity, more absenteeism and low job satisfaction. While mental health can also be hard for employers to gauge, part of the trend of total well-being involves a shift to an emphasis on educating employees on mental health and providing the resources they may need.
Financial wellness: With more employees entering the workforce with high student debts, financial wellness is more important now than ever. Offering classes and resources around financial literacy are becoming more popular in work site wellness. Employees struggling with finances have difficulty concentrating and performing tasks, so it makes good business sense for employers to provide assistance.
Stress management: The physical and mental side effects of stress have been studied for decades. Stress management is becoming more prevalent in work site wellness because of the stress that employees face while on-the-job. Corporate wellness programs are adding stress management classes and education to help employees learn how to better cope with work-related stressors.

Healthier Work Environment
Modern wellness programs focus on creating and promoting a culture of wellness. Maintaining a healthy work environment can be one of the trickier parts of a wellness program because it involves efforts from both the employer and the employee. However, when a culture of wellness is created, more employees will benefit from work site wellness–and participation is likely to increase.
Office space: Trendy offices offer plenty of space for employees. Part of creating a healthier work environment entails rethinking the physical work environment. Employees shouldn’t feel trapped at their desks. Instead, companies will start to promote walking meetings, onsite gyms, and standing desks.
Healthy habits: To create a healthy work environment, companies must provide the onsite resources that employees need to make healthy choices. Some examples include doing away with unhealthy vending machine products, encouraging employees to take the stairs or providing “healthy parking” parking spaces. With a focus on creating a healthier work environment, the efforts of work site wellness can shape the lives of their employees both inside and outside of the office.

Of course, technology trends shape almost every outlet organizations have, including their wellness programs. In efforts to remain competitive and current with wellness initiatives and perks, an increase of technology’s presence in work site wellness is inevitable. A well-crafted wellness program will adapt easily to the virtual world with the help of wearables and modern wellness portals.
Wearables: Fitness trackers and wearables have had a noticeable impact on workplace wellness and serve as an easy platform for employers to gather data and insight on their employees’ health. Wearables are not only currently a trend in work site wellness; they are trending for personal health and productivity outside of the workplace as well. According to an article published by Healthcare Trends Institute, wearable devices are booming for both Generation Z and Millennials. More and more companies will start to provide their employees with wearable devices to promote and track employee wellness.
Wellness portals: While wellness portals have been around for a while, updates in technology continue to improve their impact on wellness programs. With the growing number of employees teleworking, it’s important that wellness portals stay up-to-date and establish interconnectivity. Creating easy-to-use and easy to administer portals is crucial for wellness programs to remain current. Well-designed portals can act as a hub for work site wellness programs. Employees will be more likely to become engaged in wellness when it is at the access of their fingertips.
Forward-looking employers may already include some or all of these trends in their wellness programs. The continuation of the development of these trends is what can make your work site wellness efforts special, and more importantly, successful. While trends seem to come and go, remember that the way your company shapes your employees’ outlooks about wellness remains forever.

By Alan Kohll, as published on Forbes on 18th January 2017

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