From gym reimbursements to technology-driven gadgets, businesses are refurbishing their corporate wellness programs to bolster the health, productivity and engagement of their staff. The $6.6 billion corporate wellness industry continues to be shaped by emerging trends and data-driven metrics – all of which provide compelling insight into the motivating factors that support healthy lifestyle choices for employees. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are placing an even greater emphasis on strategies supporting employee mental health. Here’s a look at how corporate wellness programs are evolving to incorporate initiatives focused on both the physical and psychological wellbeing of workers. 

Adapting Strategy to Fit the Times

When initially introduced, workplace wellness programs had a primarily physical focus – i.e. losing weight, quitting smoking, etc. As these initiatives evolved over the years, employers broadened their scope of focus, incorporating programs that went beyond just physical health. 

Companies are now fusing traditional efforts with ones that drive engagement levels, encourage professional development and support employee mental wellbeing. With more than half of Americans feeling unhappy, discouraged and unsatisfied in the workplace, businesses are scrambling to readjust their approach, focusing their resources on building more positivity in the workplace. Apart from low productivity levels, dissatisfied workers demonstrate elevated levels of stress and have a greater risk of developing chronic health conditions down the road. 

Companies that value and invest in the wellbeing of their employees will see a corresponding improvement in attracting new hires and retaining talent. In recent years, many employers have encountered declining participation rates in their workplace wellness programs among staff. 

The bottom line is, if a task is not mandatory or it’s overly complex, employees will be reluctant to follow through on it. So if employers want to increase effective participation, then they should look for low-cost ways to reduce unnecessary stressors. This means they will need to refine their focus to concentrate on elements that will directly contribute to the success of their wellness programs, like communication, accessibility, education and health assessments.

Stressing the Importance of Mental Health

One of the many things the Covid pandemic has revealed is the pressing need for mental health support.

So it’s imperative for today’s employers to embrace resources that enlighten and educate their staff on the topic of mental health. According to the World Health Organization, over 42 million Americans live with an anxiety disorder and 16 million suffer from depression. 

Since the pandemic, however, feelings of fear and isolation have only served to bolster those numbers. From August 19, 2020 to February 1, 2021, the CDC surveyed nearly 800,000 US adults. 40.9% of respondents said they were grappling with at least one adverse mental health condition, with 30.9% listing anxiety or depression, 26.3% reporting symptoms of a trauma or stress-related disorder and 13.3% turning to substance use as a way to cope with emotional stress related to the pandemic. 

With such a high quantity of Americans being affected by mental illness, employers must continue to work towards eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness in the workplace. Promoting wellness initiatives that provide aid to those seeking therapy services, supporting activities that encourage self-care and allowing employees to take mental health days are all ways in which businesses can better support their staff’s needs.

Caring for the collective well-being of employees will also involve policies that recognize individual successes and contributions. “Given identity is tied to work, being recognized and appreciated makes employees feel valued and boosts sense of self and self-esteem, which is protective in terms of depression and anxiety,” says Psychiatrist and author of The Power of Different, Dr. Gail Saltz. “Since close to half of all employees will at some time in their lives struggle with mental health issues, it behooves companies, for productivity and saved dollars for disability, to encourage early mental health care.”

Collecting feedback and surveying employees is always an effective way to gather insights into what type of support your staff needs. Workplace wellness – especially in trying times – is crucial for ensuring every facet of your business is functioning and operating at an optimal level, including your employees. 

To learn how the experts at Polaris can help your company drive growth and success, contact us today