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6 Top Trends That Will Shape Your Wellness Program in 2023

For years, corporate wellness programs were designed to help employees access health care, company-sponsored services, and other benefits to maintain and improve their well-being.

And while that hasn’t changed, the world has.

Today’s employees are dealing with stressors that stretch beyond their day-to-day work tasks. From inflation and pandemic-induced mental health issues to direct and indirect discrimination, employees need different levels of support now than they did before 2020.

Is your wellness program equipped to keep up with what your employees truly need to thrive?

Before you begin modifying your company’s wellness strategy for 2023, it helps to first analyze which areas of well-being your employees need the most support. Over the past year, we’ve kept our pulse on the most pressing challenges facing employees and categorized them into six broad categories of well-being:

  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Occupational
  • Emotional/mental
  • Social
  • Purpose

As you look to address the health and wellness of your workforce in the new year, these six dimensions of well-being will be your roadmap to ensuring your employees receive the equitable and personalized support they need to succeed.

Furthermore, aside from helping employees reach their full potential, aligning your future programs to address specific employee needs will better position your business to surpass your goals and experience increased revenue, growth, engagement, and retention.

Physical Well-Being: Remote Fitness and Sleep

Working long hours without prioritizing sleep, exercise, or social interaction used to be applauded. If 2022 taught us anything, it’s that employees are heavily questioning the wisdom of this approach.

As personal and work lives continue to blend together, employees are realizing that overly stressful work environments are no longer sustainable, especially when they cause workers to impair decision-making, long-term memory, and cognition by compromising on sleep.

And, as it turns out, not only are well-rested employees sharper and more productive—they’re also healthier, too.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), getting seven hours of sleep per night can significantly reduce one’s risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and depression. And with more at-home sleep diagnostic services slated to be released in 2023, consumers will be able to access their own sleep habits and learn personalized strategies to improve sleep quality.

With hybrid work expected to remain the preferred work model for many organizations in 2023, exercise will take on a greater role as employees set out to restore their physical and mental well-being. John Hopkins Medicine reports that fitting in just 30 minutes of exercise per day effectively reduces insomnia and improves sleep quality.

No matter which type or level of exercise is pursued, making time to move throughout the day is now viewed as an essential component of physical and mental well-being. As your workplace continues to evolve, becoming more flexible and making exercise more accessible enables your employees to achieve a better work-life balance, greater productivity, and higher morale.


Financial Well-Being: Living Wages

The cost of living is on everybody’s mind. And while employees of all ages are facing these issues, the greatest economic burdens are plaguing younger generations at large.

It’s widely reported that millennials are currently earning 20% less than baby boomers did at their age, but the reason why isn’t often acknowledged.

While baby boomers might have been able to land solid jobs with a bachelor's degree, that kind of ROI became a dim memory by the time millennials and Gen Z graduated from college—tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And with the costs of college rising and wages stagnating across the board, the outlook for younger employees to achieve financial security is far-fetched.

But the debt was worth it for their career and earning power, right? Not according to 36% of millennials and Gen Z with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Just like exercise and sleep, financial well-being is critical not just for employee well-being but for organizational success as well.

As 41% of employees continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck, financially stressed workers are costing companies $244B a year in lost productivity. These workers are also much more likely to leave their current positions for better pay and financial assistance.

Just like exercise and sleep, financial well-being is critical not just for employee well-being but for organizational success as well. Prioritizing living wages and expanding financial education resources will better position companies to retain and empower employees in 2023.

Rather than adopting race-to-the-bottom compensation models, equitable pay structures enable employees to find more sustainable financial security while also building a positive employer brand.

“Financial wellness is the material starting point for all other aspects of well-being. Companies that ignore it do so at their employees’ and their own peril.” 
– Steven Van Yoder, Co-Founder of Returns on Wellbeing Institute


Occupational Well-Being: Flexibility

The push-pull of remote vs. in-office vs. hybrid work structures is expected to continue in 2023, with work flexibility potentially being a point of contention that could impact recruitment.

After the pandemic introduced the concept of remote-work life, many employees had a taste of what it felt like to have a little more wiggle room in their days. This flexibility made it easier for employees to balance their workloads with other pressing duties like caretaking, childcare, and other personal obligations, without having to jeopardize their financial wellness by hiring extra help or taking time off.

However, many employers continue to cling to pre-pandemic in-person work models, even as we approach the end of 2022. And these decisions have created tension with younger, digital-native employees who have proven to be just as productive at home as they are at a cubicle.

Deloitte’s 2022 Global Gen Z and Millennial survey reports that 75% of Gen Z and 76% of millennial employees prefer hybrid or remote work structures. Not to mention, 63% of employees from all generations want flexible hours and three- or four-day work weeks.

At this point, companies who force employees to solely work in-person are placing their recruitment and retention efforts in jeopardy. In a recent survey from FlexJobs, 41% of respondents who quit their jobs in the past six months cited “not allowing flexible schedules” as a primary reason for leaving.

Employees who are happy with their work flexibility and environment are more likely to recommend their company to others. Letting people work where and when they want, as long as it’s feasible and the work gets done, is a smart way for companies to build rock-solid engagement and a healthy recruitment pipeline.

Emotional Well-Being: Mindfulness

The past few years have introduced tremendous stressors into our lives. But those stressors have also forced us to expand our awareness around emotional well-being.

With one in five adults currently living with some form of mental illness, it’s safe to say we could all use some emotional support in the new year. Fortunately, there is one powerful tool that can help us find our centers, making it a little bit easier to cope with…well, everything.

Mindfulness involves training the mind to be present, to observe, and to deliberately think instead of react to a stimulus. For example, mindfulness can prevent us from getting carried away from racing thoughts and recognize when our emotions aren’t in check.

Gen Z has taken powerful stances on the conversation around mental health and mindfulness. They are better equipped to break stigmas around mental health issues than other generations, as EY explains in its latest Gen Z wellness study:

“[Gen Z] believes that mental health is a holistic state of well-being that grows from the inside out. And they recognize that if they don’t take care of it, that neglect will emerge externally in physical and behavioral ways. They’re especially concerned about stress and anxiety, and access to mental health care.”

As Gen Z populates the workforce and gathers influence, this attitude bodes well for the future of psychologically safe workplaces. (And considering 66% of employees want more mental health support from their employers, it can’t come soon enough.) In 2023, younger employees will take on a greater role in shaping mindfulness practices during the workday, while also advocating for greater access to digital and virtual counseling and coaching.

Companies can respond by giving their employees the workplace emotional safety to be human during difficult moments, while also empowering them with support and powerful tools like mindfulness.


Social Well-Being: Cultures of Belonging

With friends and co-workers now scattered all over the world, work can be some employees’ only opportunity to enjoy a true sense of belonging—making the back-to-the-office question that much more complicated.

In fact, 33% of employees say that their lack of social interaction with colleagues is their biggest challenge with remote work.

However, if we assume that remote work is here to stay, the facts are clear—companies must foster connections among team members, no matter where they work. This improves social well-being by building trust and connection among team members, setting organizations up for success.

Another source of success? A team of diverse individuals whose talents aren’t held back by discrimination or lack of access.

Employees’ perception of inclusion (as well as recruitment and retention) will depend on how well companies deliver on ESG and DEI initiatives as well as on health equity and access to care. Many workers in underrepresented groups continue to experience discrimination and alienation not just at work, but in their personal lives as well.

In 2023, employers will be called on to create a culture of true belonging, informed from a place of inclusion, service, and stewardship. And as we’ve learned from WellRight’s own Director of Human Resources, Alice Raflores, PHR, SHRM-CP, the effort has to come from the top:

“Your C-suite and/or board of directors have to take an interest in this,” she highlights. “Give them all the information they need, present a comprehensive plan, follow up at key progress points, and make sure they know this won’t work without accountability for every piece of the puzzle.” – Alice Raflores, Director of Human Resources, WellRight

Putting in the effort to build true inclusion and connection may seem daunting, but a great place to start is by listening. The rewards for your employees and the morale of your company are well worth it.

Purpose-Driven Well-Being: Shared Values

When it comes to company values, the stakes are getting higher. No longer persuaded by vague or polished messaging, employees are increasingly declining to work for companies whose true values are nonexistent or clash with their own.

Younger employees will be the corporate changemakers when it comes to purpose-driven work, continuing to hold people—and companies—to their word. And right now, it’s safe to say they see lots of room for improvement:

  • Less than 20% of Gen Z/millennial workers think their employers actually share their values, like committing to climate change.
  • 40% of Gen Z applicants have rejected a job or assignment because it didn’t align with their values.
  • 75% of millennial employees feel their companies prioritize revenue over the greater good.

And while many young workers still feel pressure to earn their living working for companies whose values don’t align with their own, it’s important to remember that as millennials and Gen Z ascend into roles of leadership and influence, they’re bringing their values with them.

So what’s the result of all this? Organizations need to look at this new awareness of purpose as an opportunity to assess their 360-degree impact and decide what they want to stand for.

While these trends may be highly analyzed areas of focus for 2023, they represent so much more than a simple yearly wellness agenda.

By looking clearly at what employees want and need in the coming year, you have the potential to transform your workplace into one that is more engaged, more productive, more human, and more prepared to face whatever challenges the rest of this decade might bring.

We can help. Talk to us today.


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