Kip Soteres

Stay Ahead of the Curve With 2019’s Top Health and Wellness Trends

American employees don’t just want to be healthy — they want to be well. And they’re going to great lengths to achieve wellness, even traveling abroad to reduce their stress and feel better. But wellness can start at home, or, in this case, at the office.

Promoting wellness in the workplace can increase productivity and lower health costs. To keep your office wellness programs and health initiatives moving forward, here are three of the top health and wellness trends for 2019.

1. Staying Positive

Getting motivated to stay fit and drop unhealthy habits isn’t easy. That’s part of the power of workplace wellness programs — building momentum around shared health goals. But even that isn’t always enough, which is why so many employers have introduced incentives like team challenges and prizes (and, occasionally, penalties) to help employees go the extra mile.

But 2019 may see more workplace wellness programs drop the carrot-and-stick incentive model. Why? Because experts are finding that external motivators may be less effective at achieving positive long-term health outcomes than more organically generated ones. Part of the problem is that when employees fail to meet incentive-based wellness goals, they may feel more discouraged than when they started — or even punished, if they’re facing penalties for coming up short.

This doesn’t mean that carefully planned positive incentives can’t be part of a great wellness program. As time goes on and employees become less comfortable with penalties and outcome-based rewards, though, focus on building a culture of wellness, cultivating communal morale around health goals and educating employees about the intrinsic benefits that come with healthy habits.

2. Thinking Beyond Fitness

Wellness is so much more than just physical health. In fact, it’s almost harder to come up with things that don’t factor into wellness than it is to find things that have no connection at all. If an employee doesn’t know how to manage their finances, for example, it’s likely to cause stress that can wreak its own kind of havoc on the body. Wellness programs will continue to provide more and more diverse offerings aimed at improving employees’ overall wellness.

In 2019, these efforts are expanding into areas including career health, stress and sleep management and even earth-based health through sustainability. In particular, there is growing awareness that employees facing significant levels of stress or sleep deprivation find it harder to establish and maintain healthy habits. Meeting a wellness goal, such as lowering blood pressure, becomes so much more difficult when coupled with other factors like anxiety, depression or high levels of stress.

The broader emphasis on holistic wellness has the added benefit of being more inclusive. There’s always the possibility that not every employee will be able to participate in an office bike ride or group yoga exercise. Many traditional wellness programs also fail to provide a way for remote workers to get involved. A successful wellness program, though, will offer opportunities for every employee to engage with their health.

Ask your employees what has the greatest negative effect on their wellness, and try to focus your wellness program or health initiatives on the information they need or goals they want to reach. A company’s capacity for fostering resilience in employees goes hand in hand with those employees’ ability to take full advantage of the wellness offerings provided to them.

3. Keeping It Simple

Focusing on maintaining a diverse and inclusive wellness program is great, but don’t let your program become overwhelmed. Employees might be intimidated by a program that has too many rules or moving parts, and they may be less likely to participate. Even if they’re not intimidated, a complicated program could just be more than busy employees want to add to their already full to-do lists.

Your wellness offerings are probably too complicated if you:

  • Can’t recite from memory the list of wellness offerings available to employees
  • Force employees to use more than one vendor, website and password in order to participate
  • Don’t have a single, streamlined email or phone line to field health and wellness questions
  • Require more than three steps to participate in any one of your wellness activities

Having fewer options also makes it easier to measure and assess how well different parts of your program are working. Keep things boiled down to what your employees really need, and occasionally think about eliminating less effective parts of your program and seeking out new opportunities for the program as employee demographics and interests change.

Following health and wellness trends just for the sake of following trends never works out as well as it seems like it will, and a wellness program is one thing that won’t be improved by cookie-cutter solutions. Communicate with your employees and decide which 2019 wellness trends are the most likely to benefit them. Those conversations can strengthen your wellness program, making it an asset that boosts employee engagement and a benefit that attracts and retains good talent.

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