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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.
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.
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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
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.”
37 percent of full-time employees say they think about or deal with financial issues while on the clock at work7
Since 2007, Americans have been saying that money is their top stressor8
Almost half of American adults have problems with “paying household expenses on time”9
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:
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.
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
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
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
But it is vital to a healthy, balanced body and mind. While we sleep, the following happens:17
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
Poor sleep has been linked to:21
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.
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.
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:
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.
1 Willis Health Productivity Survey 2015
2 “Health care takes up 7.6 percent of employer budgets, study shows.” http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/09/02/health-care-takes-up-76-percent-of-employer-budget?slreturn=1473342701
3 “Administration on Aging (AoA): Aging Statistics.” http://www.aoa.acl.gov/Aging_Statistics/index.aspx
4 “The MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs.” http://www.caregiving.org/data/Caregiver_Costs_Study_Web_FINAL_2-12-10.pdf
5 “Caregiving: The Impact on the Workplace.” http://healthadvocate.com/downloads/webinars/caregiving.pdf
6 “The Most Popular Ages to Retire.” http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/articles/2016-06-10/the-most-popular-ages-to-retire
7 “How much is employee financial stress costing your clients?” http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/08/23/how-much-is-employee-financial-stress-costing-your
8 “How much is employee financial stress costing your clients?” http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/08/23/how-much-is-employee-financial-stress-costing-your
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.” http://fortune.com/2016/03/12/meditation-mindfulness-apps/
13 “Mindfulness.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindfulness
14 “What are the benefits of mindfulness?” http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx
15 “Can Mindfulness Help You Quit Smoking?” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minding-the-body/201204/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.” http://www.medicaldaily.com/plants-boost-productivity-and-well-being-50-how-houseplants-workplace-may-get-you-promotion-264614
17 “10 Fascinating Things That Happen While You’re Sleeping.” http://www.prevention.com/health/what-happens-during-sleep
18 “Why sleep matters to every workplace.” http://www.mentalworkout.com/blog/2016/02/26/why-sleep-matters-to-every-workplace/
19 “Go Ahead, Hit the Snooze Button.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323301104578257894191502654
20 “The Ten Dangers of Sleep Deprivation for Workers.” http://ehstoday.com/safety/ten-dangers-sleep-deprivation-workers
21 “Why sleep matters to every workplace.” http://www.mentalworkout.com/blog/2016/02/26/why-sleep-matters-to-every-workplace/
22 “Circadian Rhythms.” http://sleepcenter.ucla.edu/circadian-rhythms
23 “5 Ways to Prompt Your Employees to Sleep More.” https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240167
24 “Analytics Of Things – What Does It Mean, And Where Is It Taking Us?” http://www.forbes.com/sites/teradata/2015/07/15/analytics-of-things-what-does-it-mean-and-where-is-it-taking-us/#c3dbc591964c
25 “20 Smart Devices For Better Health And Fitness.” http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/health-fitness-devices/
26 “Healthy Aspirations: The Disconnect Between Americans’ Desire for a Healthy Lifestyle and Actual Behavior.” http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/healthy-aspirations-the-disconnect-between-americans-desire-for-a-healthy-lifestyle-and-actual-behavior.html
27 “Employees want wellness plans with meaningful incentives.” http://www.benefitspro.com/2015/02/02/employees-want-wellness-plans-with-meaningful-ince?slreturn=1475697032