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Top-5 workplace wellness trends for 2021

What to watch for.

Did you miss our first workplace well-being webinar of the year? Don't sweat it! We've prepared a recording of, "Future Trends: The Shape of Workplace Well-being Programs" External Siteto watch at your earliest convenience.

Like many companies, your workplace probably looks a little different after everything that happened this year, whether you adopted a permanent remote work strategy, employ essential workers, re-opened your office(s), or managed a mostly deskless workforce.

But now that 2020 is nearly over, we’re looking ahead to next year — specifically at what goes into your employees’ health and well-being. Even if your workforce will continue to be remote for the first half of 2021, well-being programs and benefits are more important than ever. Nearly half of employers see investments in health and well-being as an integral part of their workforce strategy, and 65 percent plan to expand their well-being programs in 2021, according to WebMD® Health Services External Site.

Whether you’re just starting out or want to make a few tweaks to your employee well-being programs, we’ve got you covered with the top-5 workplace wellness trends for 2021.

Trend #1: Focusing on financial health

Even before the pandemic hit, Americans didn’t exactly have their finances in tip-top shape. A February 2020 report External Site from Bank of America showed that more than half of employees were stressed about money and that stress interfered with their work External Site. We’ve written before about how financial stress can seep into other parts of your employees’ daily lives — causing serious physical and mental health issues, absenteeism or presenteeism, reduced productivity, and more.

There are many reasons for financial stress — crushing debt, lack of emergency savings, or no clear path toward retirement. Amidst these struggles, your employees are hoping you can help. Especially now, it’s important for your employees to have easy access to financial tools and resources to help them get back on track during these hard and uncertain times External Site.

From financial literacy training and explaining how to save and plan for retirement to help with managing day-to-day finances and debt management education, there are many ways employers can help with their employees’ financial well-being.

One financial-based benefit quickly gaining popularity: student loan repayment benefits. With millennials quickly becoming much of the workforce, more and more of your employees are likely to be dealing with education-related debt in the amount of five or six figures. According to the 2019 Employee Benefits Survey from SHRM External Site, the number of companies offering student loan repayment assistance increased from 3 percent to 8 percent in just four years.

Trend #2: Encouraging social connections

Throughout a year where we’ve had to stay physically distant from others, maintaining social connections with friends, family, and coworkers has become more important than ever. And, research has shown that employees who are also friends External Site perform better at their jobs than those who are strangers.

But, if your employees may not have seen the inside of the office since much earlier in the year, it can be tough to think about ways to foster social connection in the workplace — and help your employees feel less lonely and isolated while working from home. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Encourage employees to check in with each other frequently, whether that means a quick email, phone call, or text to ask how things are going.
  • Use video conferencing software for meetings instead of using the phone.
  • Schedule virtual meetups like a face-to-face coffee break.
  • Prioritize team traditions and rituals, even if you can’t all be in the same room together.
  • Celebrate all accomplishments, no matter how small.

Trend #3: Understanding emotional and mental health

According to the American Psychiatric Association External Site, around 25 percent of employees have been diagnosed with depression — 40 percent of whom take an average of 10 days off each year as a result. The pandemic has only made things worse. In mid-July, more than half of all adults External Site in the United States reported their mental health had been negatively impacted because of COVID-19.

According to two studies conducted by the Business Group on Health External Site, employees are showing significant interest in using employer-sponsored mental health services like stress management programs, mental health apps, mindfulness meditation programs, and more. But, a survey from MetLife showed that nearly 60 percent of employees External Site dealing with mental health issues think their employer doesn’t offer programs that meet their needs or the programs they do offer are too difficult to understand or access.

This means that offering mental health programs and resources is just one part of the solution — employers also need to actively work to reduce the stigma around mental health and using or seeking out these benefit offerings.

Trend #4: Recognizing well-being as a key benefit strategy

Even if you’ve overlooked well-being programs or used a standard, cookie-cutter strategy in the past, it’s time to face the facts — your employees’ well-being absolutely impacts your bottom line. And, after a hard year like the one we’ve had, your employees are looking to you for support now more than ever.

More than two-thirds of U.S. employees experienced negative effects on their health and well-being due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many don’t feel they have the support they need when it comes to their financial stability or mental and physical health.

By thinking outside the box and offering well-being programs that align with your employees’ needs, you’re not just supporting their health — you’re making decisions that are good for your business.

Trend #5: Tailoring solutions to your employees

When it comes to well-being, think quality over quantity. No matter the number of well-being programs you offer, it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all. A fast-emerging trend in workplace wellness offerings is tailoring solutions to your employee population based on what they need. But how do you figure that out? The answer: Working with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's health and well-being consultants.

Ready, set, let's talk workplace wellness!

At Wellmark, we know your business, and have insights and data on your employees that you may not have in-house. Our team of employer health and well-being consultants can serve as an extension of your workforce and provide expertise in creating engaging solutions to meet the unique needs of your employee population.

Learn more, get connected and receive a complimentary consultation Opens in a new widow with one of our employer health and well-being experts. Once you complete the form, you'll receive a copy of our Well-being that Works guide. From there, we will be there every step of the way, our team can be your go-to source for finding the right combination of solutions — because one-size doesn’t fit all.

If you are interested in learning more about how we can support your organization and your employee’s health and well-being next year and beyond, contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.