For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic brought workplace wellness to the fore in 2020 and 2021. Yet, it is also vital to recognise that a significant volume of companies were already invested in employee wellbeing. Having done so, these businesses were ideally placed to react and continue looking after their employees when it became clear we would need to work remotely where possible.
Whichever camp your business found itself in, there's no escaping that workplace wellness is an ongoing, evolving endeavour. So let's explore some of the prominent trends you should focus on and embrace in 2022.
1. A holistic approach to employee wellbeing
The “seven dimensions of wellness” are well established in academic and wellness circles. If you work with a third-party workplace wellness provider, you and your employees might already be familiar with these.
What are the seven dimensions?
For many years, workplace wellness was focused narrowly on the occupational dimension. As such, you might have developed a means of measuring job satisfaction and employee engagement, but without considering how external influences would affect these.
Now, workplace wellness should be far more holistic, considering your employees' needs across their entire lives. If anything, the occupational dimension may become the one you focus on the least. People being at peace across the other dimensions is more likely to make them healthier overall and happier in the workplace.
2. An emphasis on mental health
Mental health is the perfect example of something that many businesses were giving an increasing focus to pre-pandemic, but that has become even more significant in the past couple of years.
Businesses, in general, have gotten better at being understanding of employee mental health challenges through the years. For example, offering things like paid "mental health days" was a positive step in this regard. However, now your role as an employer is to play an active part in helping your people to maintain and improve their mental health, rather than simply being understanding and giving them the time to deal with any challenges they're facing.
Over the next 12 months and beyond, mental health challenges will come from several directions.
- Many locations are still in full-on pandemic mode. This may continue for some time despite the current Omicron variant appearing to put COVID-19 closer to becoming an endemic virus. As such, people may still be experiencing anxiety, stress, and burnout, while also potentially pursuing unhealthy habits and possibly falling into addiction.
- Many individuals will feel similar emotions if and when the world finally settles into a "new normal." So whether your business brings everyone back into the office, allows everyone to work from home, or operates a hybrid working model, you must ensure everyone has the same access to mental health support.
3. A real commitment to work-life balance
Work-life balance is another area where businesses have made improvements in recent years, but also where there is much more they can do.
Previously, assisting employees with their work-life balance might have involved little more than reassuring employees that they shouldn’t deal with emails at the weekend.
In 2022 and beyond, it will be increasingly vital to ensure you're actively helping your teams manage their work-life balance. This is true not just for employee engagement and satisfaction but also for attracting and retaining talent.
In a similar vein to helping employees with their mental health, ensuring they achieve a better work-life balance may mean looking at how and where they work, your annual leave model, and how things like commuting impact their day-to-day lives.
4. More focus on healthcare equity
The COVID-19 pandemic shone – and continues to shine – a bright light on healthcare inequity and inequality worldwide. As an employer, you must ensure that your employees enjoy equitable access to healthcare. Whether you do this by taking out a group private health plan or by another means, it’s a step that will enhance your employee benefits, increase job satisfaction, and give you a more engaged team.
You’ll also enjoy added benefits like reduced employee absence and avoid the losses such events can inflict on your bottom line.
5. Consideration of financial wellness
One of the fastest-growing trends in workplace wellness is financial wellness.
This is something else at least partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have put your employees under financial stress, particularly if you had to cut hours or put people on leave.
A considerable number of your employees are likely living paycheque to paycheque. With the cost of living spiralling in many parts of the world, their situation could be set to worsen. If your teams are coming to work or clocking in from home with worries about their financial situation, there's no way they're going to be as engaged or as productive as you want.
At the same time, financial matters are sensitive, and people often don't like discussing them. As such, make the inclusion of financial tools, resources, and advice a vital part of any workplace wellness program you develop for your teams.
6. An evolution towards dealing with causes rather than consequences
Workplace wellbeing solutions are – or should be – continuously evolving. After all, your employees’ situation and needs will change over time, so your workplace wellbeing plan should evolve to reflect that.
One permanent shift we’re seeing in workplace wellness – and something that all the other trends we've explored allude to – is a move towards helping people deal with the causes of issues rather than the consequences. Essentially, your workplace wellness program should help your employees get great at life. Instead of only helping them deal with mental health, financial, or any other issues before they arise, your program should offer your people the tools to stop problems developing in the first place.
Where is your business at in its workplace wellness journey?
The most productive way to position your business as an attractive employer and drive commercial metrics is to focus on the people who make it happen.
Whether your business is starting from scratch when it comes to workplace wellbeing or you're looking to improve and build upon an existing program, the trends we've identified here are the areas you should be focusing your efforts in the next 12 months.