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January 24, 2020

Working Well’s Trends to Consider for 2020

From a Yale lawsuit over workplace wellness penalties after the EEOC incentive rules were vacated, to a controversial Harvard study that raised questions about the effectiveness of wellness programs, 2019 was an interesting year for the wellness industry. These headlines call for further research and more guidance surrounding best practices and legal implications for wellness programs and may cause employers to take a closer look at their wellness strategies for 2020. Despite so much uncertainty, one thing is for sure – the wellbeing industry is changing rapidly.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen some notable trends emerging in workplace wellbeing in the wake of the shift from “wellness” to “wellbeing.” According to the Wellable 2019 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Reportemployers are investing less in:

  1. Biometric screenings;
  2. Health risk assessments;
  3. Fitness classes; and
  4. Health coaching.

There are likely several factors driving this trend. First, there is growing awareness about the holistic nature of wellbeing. Employers are focusing not only on physical health, but also more on other factors that affect overall wellbeing like emotional health, financial health and career wellbeing. The Harvard study, “Effect of a Workplace Wellness Program on Employee Health and Economic Outcomes,” published in April 2019 further demonstrates this point, showing that isolated programs focusing only on physical health factors like fitness and weight management are minimally effective. This reinforces the need for comprehensive and holistic wellbeing program design. Also, with no new incentive rules from the EEOC, employers requiring screenings, health risk assessments and physical exams to earn an incentive run the risk of being sued. As a result, many employers have chosen not to require employee participation in these elements.

The 2019 Trends Report also revealed that employers are investing more in:

  1. Financial wellbeing including 401K matching programs, educational resources, digital financial tools and retirement planning.
  2. Stress management, resilience and mental health including stronger EAP communication, educational resources, flexible work arrangements and opportunities for social engagement. In recognition of this growing trend, Working Well recently received a grant from the Duke Endowment to address healthcare worker burnout.
  3. Organizational culture including opportunities for employee growth and development (particularly leadership development); leaders modeling healthy behaviors and participating in wellbeing initiatives; and a focus on creating psychologically safe work environments. Check out Working Well’s webinar on “Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace” from May 2019.
  4. Personalization and humanization of wellbeing initiatives by restructuring incentives to provide a menu of choices (including non-clinical options) rather than a one-size-fits-all approach; providing flexible work arrangements so that employees can work when and where they perform their best; and tailoring wellbeing initiatives at the department and individual levels. In fact, 70% of employee participants cite the ability to personalize wellness programs as critical to their participation (Harvard Business Review, 2016). Working Well is hosting a webinar on February 6 at 10:30 a.m. to address this topic. Click here to register.

These trends do not mean that nutrition and fitness don’t matter or that biometric screenings and health risk assessments aren’t informative and helpful. They do, however, mean that companies are recognizing the importance of addressing financial and emotional wellbeing, organizational culture and personalization in order for their wellbeing initiative to achieve meaningful results.

Click here to view the recording of our last webinar “Wellbeing Findings and Trends: A Year in Review” which provides a deeper dive into wellbeing trends and happenings in 2019.

Upcoming Enhancements to Strategy for Wellbeing

In light of these shifts in our industry, Working Well is pleased to announce some exciting enhancements to Strategy for Wellbeing which will go live in February.

  1. A tenth dimension on Workplace Health & Safety will be added in response to the latest research and best practices.
  2. Wellness Culture will be renamed “Wellness Culture & Environment” to reflect the addition of more questions that address the built environment.
  3. Incentives & Communication will be renamed “Engagement Strategies” to reflect less focus on financial incentives and more focus on overall employee engagement.
  4. Several questions will be added to Emotional & Mental Wellbeing and Financial Wellbeing to place more emphasis on these areas.
  5. Several questions in Wellness Culture & Environment and Evaluation will be revised to provide more guidance and clarification and to better align with the latest research and best practices.