Wellbeing is not a static concept, but a dynamic one that evolves with changing times and needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many shifts in wellbeing over a very short space of time. This may leave you curious, considering what future trends in workplace wellbeing are likely to be.
So, what are the emerging trends that will shape wellbeing in the future? And how can HR and wellbeing leaders prepare for them and leverage them to create a positive and resilient workplace culture? In this blog post, we will explore some of the future trends in workplace wellbeing and what they mean for HR and wellbeing leaders.
The pandemic has shown that virtual healthcare is not only possible, but also preferable for many people. With the onset of COVID-19 back in 2020, almost all medical services were forced to switch to telephone or video calls. Despite a shift from the status quo, virtual healthcare actually offers many benefits, such as convenience, accessibility, affordability, and personalisation.
Virtual healthcare is not limited to video consultations, but also includes remote monitoring, digital therapeutics, online prescriptions, and wearable devices. These technologies can help people manage their health conditions, prevent illnesses, and access support anytime and anywhere.
Moving forward, these platforms and technologies will only become more widely adopted. As such, they’ll almost certainly form a key part of workplace wellbeing moving forward, including tools like EAP.
Virtual healthcare does present a challenge, however. As healthcare becomes more accessible due to its remote nature, resources may become strained due to demand. This is evident currently in the ongoing shortage of GP appointments, meaning many people at work are struggling to address their health concerns in a timely manner.
This presents an opportunity for workplaces to provide preventative health and wellbeing care, such as health education and point-of-care testing, giving staff general information about their overall health and wellbeing and how to improve it.
Flexible working is not a new trend, but it has become more widespread and accepted due to the pandemic. The idea refers to the ability to choose when, where, and how to work. It can include options such as remote working, hybrid working, compressed hours, staggered hours, and job sharing.
Flexible working can enhance employee wellbeing by giving them more autonomy, control, balance, and satisfaction over their work and life. It can also benefit organisations by increasing productivity, retention, diversity, and innovation.
For many people entering the job market, flexible working is now an expectation for roles where it is possible. Organisations that are mo accommodating with flexible working will likely attract the best talent and retain them for longer. In fact, recent CIPD research suggests that nearly 4 million people have changed jobs due to a lack of flexible working options.
Being ready for a continued shift towards remote and flexible working is crucial when considering future trends in workplace wellbeing. Businesses that are more accommodating are likely to have more success with staff retention and performance, so this aspect should play a key part in future plans for HR.
Mental health has become a more prominent and urgent issue due to the pandemic. Isolation and restrictions have caused unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and burnout among people.
According to a survey by Mind during pandemic restrictions, around 1 in 5 people stated that they didn’t believe that their mental health would improve following the pandemic. Additionally, 75% of young people surveyed said that the pandemic changed the way they think about their own mental health.
Mental health is not only a personal matter, but also a business one. Poor mental health can affect employee performance, engagement, absenteeism, turnover, and customer service. It can also create legal risks and reputational damage for organisations. In addition to existing staff being more aware of mental health issues, younger people coming into the workforce now expect their employer to fully consider their mental health as part of their job role.
HR and wellbeing leaders can address mental health by creating a culture of openness, empathy, and support. Businesses will need to provide employees with access to mental health resources and services, such as counselling, coaching, apps, and helplines. Additionally, managers will also need to be trained on how to recognise and respond to mental health issues among their teams.
Obesity and being overweight are major problems when it comes to chronic diseases and preventable death in the UK. According to the most recently available NHS data, there are over 1 million annual hospital admissions where obesity is a factor. This number has risen year on year, and will likely continue to rise, given that almost 65% of adults in England are either overweight or obese.
Nutrition is a key component of wellbeing that affects both physical and mental health. As the FSA points out, healthy eating is not a one-size-fits-all concept, but a personalised one that depends on individual factors such as genetics, metabolism, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.
Personalised nutrition is the practice of tailoring dietary advice and interventions based on individual characteristics and needs. It can help people improve their health outcomes, prevent diseases, and achieve their wellness goals.
Personalised nutrition is enabled by technologies such as genetic testing, biomarker analysis, digital platforms, and smart devices. These technologies can help people measure their nutritional status, receive personalised recommendations, and track their progress.
The problem with this approach lies in the fact that it is a relatively new industry. As the FSA executive summary referenced above notes, there are still considerable gaps in knowledge and technology in this industry. So, whilst personalised nutrition is a useful tool in terms of workplace wellbeing, it is not yet a fully evidence-based approach.
This is an area that will interest wellbeing leaders in the near future, and should be monitored closely. As employee desire for personalised nutrition provisions in a wellbeing plan grows, more technologies will also become available to facilitate it.
The metaverse is a term that describes a virtual and immersive space where people can interact and create with each other and with digital content. The metaverse is not a single platform or technology, but a network of interconnected and interoperable virtual worlds.
The wellness metaverse is a subset of the metaverse that focuses on wellbeing-related activities and experiences. The wellness metaverse can offer many opportunities for people to enhance their wellbeing, such as:
- Accessing wellness content and services from anywhere and anytime.
- Engaging in wellness activities and games that are fun and motivating.
- Connecting with wellness communities and experts that are supportive and inspiring.
HR and wellbeing leaders can leverage the wellness metaverse by providing employees with access to high-quality and relevant wellness content, services, activities, games, communities, and experts that can help them improve their wellbeing. They can also create their own wellness metaverse spaces that reflect their organisational culture, values, and goals.
This technology is still very much emerging, but does present an interesting opportunity for organisations to engage and care for staff moving forward.
Wellbeing is not a static concept, but a dynamic one that evolves with changing times and needs. The future of workplace wellbeing is shaped by many trends that offer both challenges and opportunities for HR and wellbeing leaders.
HR and wellbeing leaders need to be aware of these trends and adapt to them accordingly. They need to understand the needs and preferences of their employees, design interventions and initiatives that address the key domains of wellbeing, and collaborate with different stakeholders to foster a culture of holistic wellbeing.
By doing so, they can create positive working environments where individuals and organisations can thrive.