Well, it’s been an exhausting couple of years, and there may be no end in sight to the pandemic. As a result of the global upheaval and a realignment of their desires and needs, 4.3 million American workers have recently quit their jobs in a movement dubbed “The Great Resignation.” The reasons for this movement are many, but they include a widespread sense of worker dissatisfaction.
Consequently, it’s no surprise that employers are keen on keeping their employees content and healthy and no surprise that workers are taking the keenest level of interest in their own health and wellness. Here are our predictions for what’s new in employee wellness for 2022.
These past two years have taught everyone the critical importance of looking after their health.
Only when employees take care of their own immunity and wellbeing will they be able to withstand the stresses of whatever comes next in the pandemic, but that means that employers will have to support those measures and make them easy for employees to enact.
The unpredictable nature of world events has taught us the need to be kind to ourselves, but employees also rely on employers to give them resources and a greater ability to look after themselves.
Self-care doesn’t mean indulgence. According to the World Health Organization, self-care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
In the past, employers, by placing unreasonable demands on employees, may have impaired their ability to look after themselves. In 2022, employees will expect more support from employers in allowing them the latitude to take care of their own health.
Many have come to realize that the ways they may have acted in the early phase of pandemic (too much cake, too much alcohol) are not sustainable in the long term, and now is the time for a course correction. Preventive self-care emphasizes healthy behaviors, for example, encouraging the Mediterranean diet, to prevent disease, rather than treating symptoms when they occur. Employers can support those measures by supplying healthful options, offering in-house catering or providing training programs to help employees understand nutrition and self-care.
Preventive care can also apply to stress management. It’s much better to preempt obvious problems of overwork and burnout rather than waiting for them to happen and then reacting. Employers can provide clearer guidelines to combat overwork.
It’s much easier to nip problems in the bud rather than waiting for them to become full-blown health issues like hypertension or metabolic syndrome (which result in lost productivity, as well as potentially losing employees to greener pastures). For employers, this means making access to health services like tele-therapy easy and straightforward without making employees jump through hoops to access them. Employees will want to find ways to integrate preventive care into their daily routines. Self-care is more than a buzzword; it’s essential to how we’re going to live from here on out.
With Americans’ motivation reserves running low and nerves fraying, overly prescriptive plans for nutrition or other healthcare essentials won’t work. Flexible, intelligent, nourishing care is the way to go. That could mean encouraging employees to do a half-hour of yoga a day or find ways to rethink their relationship with food so that forming better habits isn’t a chore, but rather, something they enjoy doing.
With employees far more aware of the health dangers they face and how risk factors can be interlinked (COVID mortality was so much worse for those who were obese, for example), they need to understand their own physical and mental health so they can take steps to safeguard it.
Employers owe their employees an environment that is safe and promotes health. That task is a lot more fraught now, with masking and vaccine booster rules constantly in flux (if in-office work is still considered essential in 2022), but it has never been more important. This includes helping supporting employees as they map their own strategies for health and wellness, particularly as everyone’s situation is different.
Employers can also help fight the pandemic by offering vaccine incentives, if not mandates. These could be in the form of financial disbursements or in the form of benefits, such as additional leave or enjoyable fitness activities or classes.
Studies have shown that anxiety and depression have skyrocketed during the pandemic. In 2022, employees will be looking to reduce their current levels of stress and anxiety, and also to forestall any future spikes and unnecessary stresses.
Mental health is a major area that’s easier to tend to earlier rather than later, when issues like everyday anxieties can snowball into far more serious conditions.
Employee wellness trends in 2022 include giving employees access to meditation or yoga classes and encouraging them to exercise daily. It could mean respecting employees’ need for flexibility in taking days off from the workplace, or mental health days. It will certainly mean creating a more generous-spirited culture for employees, in which they feel respected and valued, and in which they feel free to share their concerns openly.
While the pandemic has reduced the social stigma of seeing a therapist or discussing mental health issues openly, it also greatly contributed to mental health issues like stress and depression, which won’t be easily dispelled in the future. Employers will need to be both sensitive to employees’ needs and proactive in their attempts to boost their employees’ resilience and sense of optimism, by managing their workloads to prevent burnout, giving them tools with which to maintain a positive mindset. Studies show that yoga classes can be effective against depression on their own or as an adjunct to other treatments.
Work suddenly seems less important to many Americans, who would rather spend more time with their families than with spreadsheets. Businesses are necessarily focused on the bottom line, but employers now have to incentivize employees to come back to work. This means employers will have to be attuned to their employees’ requests on balancing remote and in-office work.
Some companies, like Microsoft Japan, are trialing four-day work weeks with successful results (like a 40% jump in productivity). Even if companies maintain a five-day work week, it seems highly unlikely that all of those shifts will be required to be in-person.
Employees have different needs and wants when it comes to in-office vs remote work, and, of course, needs vary by business, too. Employees will expect flexibility and responsiveness from employers when it comes to their work-life balance needs.
The pandemic has highlighted many issues in America of inequality, particularly as these relate to healthcare. Those who had savings and flexibility with work hours might well have had great experiences during the pandemic, while those without a safety net had a much harder time of it.
What does this mean for employers? Being mindful of systemic problems and disparate economic backgrounds of employees can inform crafting a more comprehensive and humane approach to healthcare. This could mean taking proactive steps to make sure that employees have access to plans relating to issues like:
In general, that means putting employees’ health first and providing generous access to programs that will keep employees not just barely functional, but in excellent health.
According to recent CDC studies, telehealth visits are still highly popular but declining from their earlier peak usage during the pandemic.
The trend for 2022 will likely involve employees using telehealth visits for such things as talk therapy, but also wanting the personal assurance and thoroughness that comes from an in-person medical examination when it comes to concerns like dental care, vision, and dermatology (as well as other obvious examples). Many are also facing a backlog of delayed health concerns they need checked out and doctor’s appointments they delayed due to fear of COVID-19.
Now that the “new normal” is establishing itself, as frustrating and unstable as that new normal is, employees have a chance to decide on a balance that works for them in the future.
This integration of in-person doctor’s visits and telehealth sessions could maximize both employees’ time efficiency and help give them far better coverage of their health issues than they would have formerly been ignored.
Also, part of this integration of new and old technology when it comes to health could be wearable technologies like Fitbits and devices that take stock of daily footsteps, blood pressure, and so on. The overall trend here is giving employees more say and mastery over their health concerns and measures of overall wellness.
MyLifeWell is a comprehensive resource that provides a one-stop-shop for wellbeing. It has great classes to help your employees achieve their fitness goals, as well as resources for mental health like yoga and meditation classes. It also offers nutrition guides and step-by-step programs for improving diet and nutrition. MyLifeWell can provide employees with a number of excellent resources to boost their wellness journeys and enhance their health and self-care routines.