The New Year will bring in some exciting corporate wellness trends for 2018. For employers that want to lead the pack in employee health and well-being, some of the newest trends might help you take your employee wellness program up a notch. If you’re wondering what’s next for the ever-evolving wellness industry, take a look below for some workplace wellness trends can you expect to see in 2018.

A Shift in the Focus of Wellness Programs

When corporate wellness programs first took off, the focus was primarily on smoking cessation or weight loss goals. Current wellness programs have come a long way since then – and program offerings have expanded to focus on more than just the physical aspect of health. Employers are now using corporate wellness programs to increase employee engagement and to become an employer of choice. Companies are doing this by combining more traditional well-being efforts with career development efforts.

Wellness goals and career development can be combined to create a more positive work environment and successful employees. This idea of collective well-being will not only help support a healthy workforce but will increase a company’s reputation of caring for its employees. Wellness initiatives will begin to include aspects such as learning and development classes, employee recognition and workplace design. For companies looking to increase recruitment and retention efforts, shifting a focus to include collective well-being will help keep current employees happy as well as attract new talent.

More Personalized Experiences

Employees want personalized experiences in their corporate wellness programs. Wellness isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Wellness initiatives that are important to one employee might not be as important to another. Every employee’s journey to a healthier lifestyle is unique, and it should be treated as such. To create a more personalized experience for employees, employers will continue to use more digital platforms to host their wellness programs.

Using these types of platforms will help employers determine specific wellness goals and activities for each employee based on their current health status, interests and preferences. For example, data can be easily collected through integrating fitness trackers with a wellness portal. This technology can be used to help connect employees with similar health and wellness goals as well as support and reward individual progress. Employers can expect to see higher participation rates with a more personalized approach to employee wellness.

Emphasis on Mental health programs are becoming more popular now than ever. While mental health remained a stigma in the workplace for many years, more employers are now embracing mental health education as a part of their workplace wellness programs. With employees experiencing physical, psychological or behavioural symptoms of poor mental health, it’s essential to break the stigma of mental illness in the workplace.

Many employers are leading the way by emphasizing the importance of mental health in wellness programs and including wellness objectives to help promote healthy mental well-being. Expect to see more employers promoting the use of mental health days, providing assistance or coverage for therapy or counselling services and encouraging employees to practice self-care.

Keeping Wellness Simple

This upcoming year, more workplace wellness programs will be switching to a “less is more” approach. One possible reason for employers not seeing the participation levels they want in their wellness programs is because the program is too complicated. Employees desire simple, uncomplicated wellness tasks and objectives – most likely because they already have enough on their plates. The last thing employers want to do is stress out employees even more by asking them to complete complicated tasks.

Workplace wellness programs can be simplified by focusing on five key factors that contribute to a successful wellness program: accessibility, communication, health assessments, screenings, and health education. By keeping employee wellness simple, employers can expect higher participation rates and less confusion surrounding wellness initiatives.

Focus on Sleep

Employers have been discovering the importance of a good night’s sleep. Well-rested employees ultimately perform better. Unfortunately many full-time American employees are sleep deprived – and it’s impacting their work. A 2016 study from RAND Corporation estimated that sleep deprivation costs U.S. employers roughly $411 billion annually. RAND also found that sleep deprivation leads to lower productivity levels, along with a higher risk of mortality.

Expect to see more employers educating employees about the harmful effects of sleep deprivation, and even adding some sleep challenges to their wellness program. Some top companies have already made adjustments to help employees get enough rest by adding on-site nap rooms and sleep pods. Flexible hours can also help employees catch up on some valuable rest.

AI and Wellness

It looks like AI might be finding its way into corporate wellness this upcoming year. Some experts are predicting that AI software will become a prominent feature of HR and wellness, as it can be used to identify trends and make accurate forecasts for the future. Employers can use this technology to collect and analyze huge amounts of data to improve their wellness initiatives. AI software will be able to provide better personalization and rapid responses for employees.

Virtual healthcare providers are another exciting prospect for employers embracing AI software. Employers could potentially use AI powered chatbots to assist employees with questions regarding nutrition, disease management and overall healthy lifestyle management. These chatbots will be available 24/7 on any mobile device – making wellness even more convenient for employees.

Healthy Vending Machines

Vending machines might just be making a comeback in 2018. While traditional vending machines serving up soda, candy and greasy chips have made their way out of most health-conscious companies, a new type of vending machine is making its way in. Healthy vending machines are stocked with nutritious snacks like mixed nuts, dried fruit, fresh veggies, hummus, and healthy drinks. Investing in a healthy vending machine could be a great way to contribute to a healthy workplace culture. Employees will be much more likely to reach for healthy foods when they are readily available in a company kitchen or break room.

Wellness Mergers

As the wellness industry continues to grow, we’ve seen a big change in the industry: wellness mergers. Wellness providers are beginning to merge with one another to become larger and more comprehensive. Large wellness providers will be merging with small wellness vendors that provide more niche solutions. These mergers aim to expand their reach as well as provide clients with a wider array of employee wellness solutions. Clients might benefit from these mergers from more competitive pricing, along with the ease of working with one wellness provider rather than multiple vendors.

This upcoming year should prove to be an exciting year for workplace wellness. With companies shifting their focus to collective well-being, providing personalized experiences, embracing AI, and continuing to support holistic wellness aspects, 2018 might be the best year for employee wellness yet. Make it a New Year’s resolution to incorporate some of these new wellness trends into your current wellness program to keep things fresh, exciting and relevant for employees.

By Alan Kohll, as published in Forbes on 13th December 2017

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