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As the competition among employers for high-profile talent increases, so does the importance of employee benefits. Why choose Company A when Company B offers the same salary but a few extra bells and whistles? These benefits include a focus on the health and wellbeing of employees. A healthy workforce can mean less stress and fewer sick employees, which translates into higher profits for the company as a whole.
Initiatives that focus on employee health may be needed more than ever. It has been reported that 63% of adults in the UK are overweight and it's not much better in the US, which is a billion-dollar health care problem. Employers recognize the need for robust health programs for team members. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, wellness benefits rose faster than any other area in 2019.
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Just like fashion, food, and music, wellness trends come and go, and some are on the rise more than others (don't expect jazz classes at the company's gym). In fact, it is not so much a new focus on the physical when it comes to employee wellbeing, but on mental, holistic and technical approaches to health.
The supply of mental health is increasing
Although technology makes many aspects of our lives easier, people are more stressed today than they were a few decades ago. This may not seem particularly surprising, but it has resulted in an increased focus not only on the physical health of employees, but also on mental health. The trend for employers to offer a wider range of mental health services appears to be increasing, as corporate mindfulness programs have increased by 11 percent and local stress management programs have increased by 13 percent.
The stigma of mental health has changed dramatically over the past few decades. While mental health issues were once taboo, individuals are encouraged more than ever to seek mental health resources without fear of judgment. This has led companies like American Express to take an active stance with their Healthy Minds program, which offers on-site advice and emotional support.
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The increase in psychological benefits does not go unnoticed either. According to a survey published by Aetna, 80 percent of respondents would give an employer who offers psychosocial benefits higher marks than one who did not.
A holistic approach to employee wellbeing
Another emerging trend to wellbeing that employers should be aware of is the holistic approach. As the workforce changes rapidly, employers must look to feel good programs that recognize a mix of work and life through a work-life balance. What does that mean exactly?
In short, this means employers need to create performance plans that take into account both the mental and physical components of a worker's life. Employees expect their employers to help with problems that may be unique to their particular life, such as: B. Debt relief, legal advice, or greater involvement in their community, in addition to mental and physical needs.
"There was this initial focus on health and fitness – physical health," Sarah Sardella, senior director, global benefits for Akamai Technologies, told the Society for Human Resource Management. "Now everyone is saying," What about financial well-being, emotional well-being, and mindfulness? "This is especially true for younger workers with Generation Z and Millennial employees who place more emphasis on holistic employer programs than older workers.
Inclusion of technology and artificial intelligence
Don't be too surprised to see tech among the number of emerging trends in employee wellbeing. Today's employees expect their employers to provide them with the latest technological tools and apps to help keep their health in check. Whether it's a device like a Fitbit to make sure you're completing the recommended 10,000 steps each day, or some form of telehealth to virtually communicate with a healthcare professional. For example, the SHRM survey found that telehealth services offered by companies to employees increased 10 percent in 2019 – and this is expected to increase in 2020 and 2021 with Covid.
Related: Is Covid-19 A Mental Health Tipping Point?
Tech is finding its way into employee wellbeing programs in a variety of ways, from virtual clinics to companies like Apple offering genetic testing to Silicon Valley employees. Unsurprisingly, many tech companies are also incorporating AI into these programs to better predict employee needs.
Peer collaboration is key to a productive team. When employees are stressed, tired or sick, this is left behind. Companies are already working to find ways to bring AI together with HR and thus reduce employee burnout. In addition to identifying employee stress, AI is also becoming a growing resource to better manage health care registrations and help employees choose the optimal health plan. This reduces the likelihood of them being overinsured, which in turn can save the company’s healthcare costs.
The bottom line is that as with any aspect of business, employee health needs should shift and managers should keep up with the changes. It is likely that these trends will become even more apparent in a post-Covid world as there is greater focus on keeping the workforce healthy.