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2017 Humana Wellness Trends Report

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Employers have always been concerned with and struggled with how to address rising healthcare costs. Understanding that those costs will continue to rise, they looked for different types of solutions. Workplace wellness programs were then implemented, initially as a way to curb the rising costs of healthcare. But in more recent years, employers have come to understand how poor well-being can affect employee productivity, morale, and loyalty, and have begun using a wider range of metrics to measure the success of their wellness programs.1

However, the original driver behind wellness program implementation and engagement remains urgent: Healthcare costs continue to severely impact the business bottom line. One survey found that they currently account for an average of 7.6 percent of an organization’s budget.2 Employers continue to look for solutions and well-being continues to be a solution that makes sense not only for improving employee health and happiness, but also for business finances.

In this report, we will highlight five trends that we believe are making a significant impact in the world of wellness – not just programmatically, but also culturally. While none of these trends are brand-new, they have recently been gaining momentum and warrant attention. Read on to learn about the biggest wellness trends and how addressing these trends in the workplace can make a significant difference overall.

Trend #1: An aging population

In 2014, about 14.5 percent of the U.S. population was aged 65 years or older. By 2040, that number will rise to 21.7 percent.3 There’s no doubt about it – the general population is becoming older, and it’s affecting the U.S. workplace in two major ways.



Use the side scrollbars to navigate horizontally through each trend. Scroll vertically or use the top navigation to see the next trend.

More workers are caring for older loved ones

It is more common nowadays for employees to provide some type of caregiving to older loved ones, often parents. Also, with increasing healthcare costs, the burden of financial costs may fall more on these caregivers. The stress that comes with caregiving and providing financial support has been well-documented: Caregiver obligations have been linked with lower productivity, higher stress, and poor health for the caregiver.4

How does this affect organizations?


More workers themselves are aging…and retiring later

Due to financial strain and increasing costs related to healthcare, more Americans are declaring that they’re retiring later, with 40 percent saying they are going to retire after the age of 65.6 Older workers offer many advantages to the workforce, especially their experience and expertise, but they may incur more healthcare costs due to having a higher likelihood of chronic conditions. Also, those who planned to retire later were “more likely to report stress, poor health, and feeling stuck in their jobs than people expecting to retire sooner.”

One way to counteract the negative impact of these trends is to ensure the well-being of the caregivers and older employees of your organization. And you can do that by supporting them through wellness programming.


Organizations with a true culture of well-being can support these employees.

Here’s how.

It is good practice to design a wellness program for a diverse workforce – all levels of health, different ages, different worksites, etc. Consider deploying a fitness app that tracks both exercise and daily steps as an easy way to reward and motivate employees with different activity levels.
Many organizations already offer benefits such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), which can provide emotional support and referrals to resources that can help with adult/elder care, stress, and financial burdens.
While this may not be possible for all workplaces, flexible scheduling has been a positively received benefit by employees, especially those with caregiver obligations.
All managers can benefit from training on how to deal with employees who may have personal concerns that are interfering with their managers’ expectations. Training can help managers learn how to navigate these challenging conversations with employees to discover solutions.

Trend 2: Financial well-being

Fast facts you should know:

worker at desk with clock

37 percent of full-time employees say they think about or deal with financial issues while on the clock at work7

head with stress

Since 2007, Americans have been saying that money is their top stressor8

wallet with money

Almost half of American adults have problems with “paying household expenses on time”9



It’s a small wonder that employers have steadily been viewing financial well-being as a serious workforce issue needing additional attention. Research is revealing that financial troubles are costing businesses mightily by lowering productivity and increasing stress levels of employees – making them less focused at work and possibly contributing to absenteeism, presenteeism, and poor health, which then, in turn, contributes to rising healthcare costs.

Poor financial well-being hurts an organization’s bottom line

In a survey of human resource professionals, about seventy percent believed that personal financial challenges had a “large or some impact” on their employees’ performance, with about one-half reporting that employee stress (50 percent) and the ability to focus on work are two top concerns.10

Employees want financial wellness programs, but...

According to research, 60 percent of employees said they would take advantage of financial resources if employers made them available.11 But there are a few catches:

  • Those same employees wanted to keep their usage of such programs private from their employers (by 40 percent).
  • And even more of them wanted to keep it hush-hush from their coworkers (60 percent).
  • Finally, another large portion (44 percent) preferred getting financial wellness information from a “neutral third party” instead of their own employer (26 percent).

How wellness programs can specifically help financial well‑being

Financial well-being can be a part of an existing or new wellness program. “Wellness,” after all, is best viewed as a holistic term, encompassing different dimensions of well-being, such as physical, mental, emotional, and social.


Interested in financial wellness ideas?   
Scroll on for a short list of best practices.


Some financial wellness program best practices

There is a wide range of financial concerns held by employees (debt management, tax returns, estate planning, retirement, home ownership). Surveying employees about their choices for topics would be a boon for selecting subject matter for financial wellness programs.
An app with a holistic approach can help individuals stay on track with their financial well-being with features like daily and monthly financial challenges.
Also provide resources to help employees manage their stress related to finances. EAPs are a good gateway for such resources, and other stress management offerings such as meditation lunches and workshops can be connected with financial well-being.
Financial education, for example, can be offered online, with one-on-one sessions with financial professionals, and through financial and legal benefits that are a part of some EAP vendors’ offerings.
Some EAPs offer a legal/financial benefit, as well as educational seminars and webinars (the latter being a good choice for those who want to retain their privacy).
Remember those employees who said they wanted financial resources? They did not respond well to communications promoting financial wellness that seemed condescending and complicated. Communications with the right tone are the first step to making financial literacy accessible.

Trend 3: Mindfulness

Fortune estimated that 22 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have already offered mindfulness programs, and that percentage is set to double in 2017.12

Why is mindfulness seen as a human resource solution, and how does it tie in with wellness?


Mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”13 Promising research has found that a mindful approach may help ease “the effects of stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions.”14

So, mindfulness can help pave the way for better mental and emotional states. But what about physical well-being?

no smoking

The connection between mindfulness and overall wellness becomes even clearer when you look at research regarding mindfulness’s impact on physical health.

In one study, 88 smokers who wanted to quit were randomly assigned to either a mindfulness course or a “standard” tobacco cessation program (which focused on triggers and lifestyle changes). Four months later, the mindfulness group had a higher success rate than the tobacco cessation program group (31 percent vs. 6 percent).15

With its wide range of benefits to well‑being, mindfulness has unsurprisingly become a popular way to curtail costs linked to poor well‑being, such as healthcare usage and lost productivity.


Any organization can use a mindful approach in its workplace to improve well-being. Here are a few ways.

There are many available that address specific well-being concerns, such as healthy eating, stress management, living with a chronic condition, or quitting smoking. Online courses are especially useful for organizations with employees who work at home or otherwise off site.
Digital detoxes are when employees are allowed to stay off work email for a designated length of time.
There are also apps that can help people track their moods in a consistent basis, which can help create awareness about causes of stress and ways to cope.
Implement “meeting-free” blocks in employees’ schedules, and have managers talk to employees about expectations in email responsiveness so that workers can focus more and react less.
Research has found that plants, as well as images of nature, in the workplace can boost creativity and improve stress levels for employees.16 In addition, some niche spaces could be created just for the express purpose of relaxation, such as a meditation alcove, lounge, or “privacy booths,” which resemble phone booths and allow employees privacy for personal phone calls.
Excessive meetings or ill-constructed meetings can contribute to employee stress. Break away from the typical setup of a meeting by instituting walking meetings or by making it a policy to include breaks into longer meetings.

Trend 4: Sleep

You may have heard that wellness programs have been becoming increasingly “holistic,” encompassing everything from exercise to diet to mental wellness to emotional challenges to personal finances (see Trend 2). There is one frequently overlooked wellness topic that ties all of these seemingly different areas together: sleep.

Sleep is a simple, unexciting part of our lives.

But it is vital to a healthy, balanced body and mind. While we sleep, the following happens:17

  • Short-term memories become long-term ones
  • Muscles grow
  • Tissue gets repaired
  • Hormones are regulated

Unfortunately, many adult Americans are not getting enough sleep.

pillowsOne estimate states that one-third of the entire U.S. workforce has at least one sleep disorder.18
sleeping at deskAmong workers aged 30 and older, 74 percent say that lack of sleep affects their work performance.
computer before bedIn addition, a majority of Americans report using a computer within one hour before going to bed, an example of poor sleep hygiene.19

There are two important reasons why organizations should think about how well their employees are sleeping:

Poor sleep leads to poor health.

Sleep deprivation costs organizations money.


Those two reasons are very much intertwined. According to researchers at Harvard, U.S. businesses lose $63.2 billion a year due to chronic sleep issues. Most of that lost productivity is due to presenteeism, in which employees report to work but are underperforming while there. And it is little wonder – poor sleep can cause workers to:20

  • Struggle with processing and remembering information
  • Produce more errors at work
  • Become more likely to get into an accident at work
  • Experience lower morale and focus at work

Sleep is also at the intersection of different dimensions of health.

Poor sleep has been linked to:21

  • Increased appetite and poor diet choices
  • Lower levels of energy and exercise
  • High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression

There is a number of ways sleep can be better integrated into a culture of well-being, such as the following.

Implement wellness apps that connect to wearable devices that can track sleep and offer daily and monthly sleep challenges. Some apps and programs even offer incentives and rewards for meeting sleep goals and improving overall sleep habits.
Exposure to daylight can support the human body’s ability to produce melatonin, a hormone that signals the body to go to sleep.22
Provide them with online resources, webinars, seminars, and lunch ‘n learns on the topic.
Offer quiet spaces with hammocks and bunks in quiet spaces.23
EAP and work-life professionals can provide referrals to sleep centers and specialists, as well as online resources on the topic.

Emerging Trend 5: The connected experience 2.0

Unlike other trends highlighted in this report, this trend is only a few years old, and it will gradually build over the next decade and beyond. It will involve multiple industries, hundreds of companies, and many partnerships and collaborations.

“The Internet of things” is a phrase you may have heard. It refers to how everyday devices and objects are becoming “smart,” as in connecting to the Internet, sending and receiving data with interconnected apps and systems.

If the “Internet of Things” marks the first stage of the connected experience, then one could say that the “Analytics of Things” signifies the next step.24 All the “big data” we’ve heard talked about for the past decade or so is being analyzed and circulated back to consumers, mainly in the form of behavioral design or behavior change tactics.

wearable exercise trackable

How does this affect individual well‑being?

In the world of health and wellness, the most common example today would be mobile device apps connecting with a wearable fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit®. But that iteration only represents the first phase.

The next stage of the connected experience will allow for more data about the choices people make about their health to come from a wider range of devices. Imagine drinking from a mug that can analyze the nutritional value of whatever you’re drinking, or measuring your blood glucose with a device that connects and communicates with your smartphone. These devices are already on the market, or are in development (but they are not in wide use).25 Think video gaming systems, household appliances, clothing, cars, and much more, feeding a cloud of data that will further inform and guide the behaviors of individuals.


Why should we care about the second phase of the connected experience?

Businesses want to use analytics to learn consumers’ behaviors so they can better guide and influence those behaviors; similarly, employers want to do the same with employees because they want to know what is driving organizational costs and how to curb them.

As for the employees themselves, it is obvious that there is intense interest in becoming or staying healthy, but their actual behaviors can often fall short of their goals.26 Surveys also show that they want more “health management guidance” and incentives to be more engaged in their wellness programs.27 That connected experience 2.0 will provide those opportunities.


The next phase of the connected experience is a great opportunity to deepen employees’ relationships with their own health. But in order to make the most of this opportunity, challenge yourself to considering the following actions:

What to expect (and demand!) from workplace wellness

Select wellness vendors and partners that are continually increasing partnerships (one of Humana’s platforms currently connects with nearly 20 other apps, and we have partnerships with recognized wellness brands such as Weight Watchers®).
Just as consumers will develop expectations from their devices, apps, and systems, employees will be more engaged with health and wellness benefits that work with each other. Look for vendors that “play well” with others, as well as programs that have the ability to refer employees to other pertinent employer-sponsored benefits that can help with that employee’s situation.
With accurate real-time data capture, apps like Goal Guru can deploy “nudges” (a.k.a. moments of influence) to promote daily and gradual behavior change in individuals.
Some wellness programs offer “personalization” in the form of segmented communications targeting different types of employees, based on self-reported data, biometric screenings, health assessments, etc.

Where are you with the trends?

After looking at these wellness trends (addressing the aging population, financial well-being, mindfulness, and sleep), where do you think your organization lands? Are you ahead of the curve, behind the curve, or just on time with the rest of the herd?

No matter where you are you with wellness programming, you can find guidance with Humana Wellness. Visit our page about employer best practices and tips, or reach out to a Humana associate today to talk about how you can cultivate a strategy that makes sense for your organization.

Contact us

For more information about how to jumpstart or enhance your own wellness strategy, reach out to us at, or visit us online at:



1 Willis Health Productivity Survey 2015

2 “Health care takes up 7.6 percent of employer budgets, study shows.”

3 “Administration on Aging (AoA): Aging Statistics.”

4 “The MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs.”

5 “Caregiving: The Impact on the Workplace.”

6 “The Most Popular Ages to Retire.”

7 “How much is employee financial stress costing your clients?”

8 “How much is employee financial stress costing your clients?”

9 10017 Financial Stress Contributing to Productivity Loss - SHRM

10 SHRM Financial Wellness Executive Summary 2014

11 10086 Plan Adviser Financial Wellness Programs Stigma 2015

12 “Meditation Has Become a Billion-Dollar Business.”

13 “Mindfulness.”

14 “What are the benefits of mindfulness?”

15 “Can Mindfulness Help You Quit Smoking?”

16 “Plants Boost Productivity and Well-Being by 50%: How Houseplants in the Workplace May Get You a Promotion.”

17 “10 Fascinating Things That Happen While You’re Sleeping.”

18 “Why sleep matters to every workplace.”

19 “Go Ahead, Hit the Snooze Button.”

20 “The Ten Dangers of Sleep Deprivation for Workers.”

21 “Why sleep matters to every workplace.”

22 “Circadian Rhythms.”

23 “5 Ways to Prompt Your Employees to Sleep More.”

24 “Analytics Of Things – What Does It Mean, And Where Is It Taking Us?”

25 “20 Smart Devices For Better Health And Fitness.”

26 “Healthy Aspirations: The Disconnect Between Americans’ Desire for a Healthy Lifestyle and Actual Behavior.”

27 “Employees want wellness plans with meaningful incentives.”