There’s no easy way around it: 2020 was a year that changed the workplace forever.
At the beginning of last year, we published our whitepaper, The Evolution of Workplace Wellness as a look back at the last century of the wellness industry. In our conclusion, we predicted some changes for the year ahead:
“We will see employers and vendors develop wellness programs that can be run remotely or with distributed teams. [A major concern] will be employees’ emotional and mental health. Employers will need to be responsive to decreased morale, and lingering feelings of grief, isolation, and anxiety. We’ll see greater investment in telehealth, at-home exercise and wellness activities, and easy-to-use apps and online platforms.”
At IncentFit, we saw an initial pause while employers assessed the situation and their evolving needs, but benefit fluctuations were not as big as we expected!
In a survey by consultancy Willis Towers Watson, 816 large employers representing 12 million U.S. employees discussed how COVID-19 was affecting their benefits strategy. Nearly half of respondents said they were actually enhancing health care benefits, with 45 percent expanding their wellness programs, and 33 percent planning changes in paid time off (PTO) or vacation benefits.
Additionally, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) specifically recommended deploying wellness programs as a means to educate the workforce about health precautions and more in the wake of COVID-19.
So what’s next?
Now as we move into 2021, we’ll see employers continue to prioritize their teams’ health and safety while grappling with the effects of a full year of interrupted work and life.
We expect to see several trends emerge as employers strive to improve their remote communication, keep employees engaged, and proactively address mental health, physical health, and overall wellbeing.
Trend: Engaging Remote Employees
Most people will not resume “in office” work in the same way we used to—at least not for several months. And while we’re all tired of Zoom meetings, HR teams are putting more energy into creative ways to engage remote employees this year! Some possibilities include:
- Wellness challenges to encourage fun and friendly competition among colleagues
- Employee recognition efforts to incentivize great work, teamwork, or attitudes
- Virtual wellness events, lunch-and-learns, and webinars
- Weekly or monthly events just for fun (like a virtual yoga session or staff D&D night)
Wellness incentives for staying active (Note: with IncentFit, this can even include rewards for verified exercise at home!)
Trend: Expanding Reimbursements and Subsidizing Health Costs
We’ve already seen large employers hop on this trend!
Instead of allowing a standard gym membership reimbursement, many companies began offering reimbursements for other health and wellness needs, including streaming exercise services, work-from-home equipment, premium fitness and meditation apps, and more. (Especially important while gym reopening guidelines vary from place to place!)
Due to popular demand, we also made it possible to reward employees for completing streaming exercise videos/classes and for working out at home.
This year, we expect to see more companies get creative with their reimbursement programs, allowing employees to submit receipts for ergonomic home office equipment, air quality supplies, and even “sleep hygiene” improvements like bedding or humidifiers.
Trend: Eyes on Mental Wellness
We’ll see employers subsidize mental health care and mental wellness benefits, launching or expanding their offerings to support not just employees, but their families too.
“The challenges brought on by COVID-19 highlighted the differences between peoples’ unique experiences and created an urgency among employers to invest in all types of mental wellness offerings–from virtual meditation to fertility support, to more relational offerings like couples therapy,” according to BenefitsPro.
Some updates to look out for:
- Free or subsidized teletherapy options for individuals, couples, and families
- Reimbursements or free subscriptions to apps that support mental health, including meditation/mindfulness services (like Calm) or on-demand therapy (such as Better Help)
- Wellness challenges that focus on mental wellness, self-care, and improving work/life balance
- Employee surveys and health risk assessments include screenings for stress, depression, mental health concerns
We certainly won’t miss much about 2020 (except maybe the Dalgona coffee trend), but it wasn’t entirely a loss. One positive: virtual accommodations that made healthcare more accessible to a wider range of people.
Telehealth services skyrocketed, allowing patients to meet with doctors from the safety of their own homes. We expect that to continue this year and beyond! The CDC has noted several specific benefits to this trend, as telehealth helps to expand access to clinical care, reduces disease exposure for staff and patients alike, and reduces the burden on overcrowded facilities.
Great news here: IncentFit will be launching a new telehealth product later this year—keep an eye out!
Want to talk to our team about how to adjust your wellness strategy for 2021? Schedule a call now with our benefits experts.