While employers will continue to address areas such as mental-health awareness training and chronic disease management in 2018, the following five trends will also be on the horizon for Canadian workplaces.
High stress levels in the workplace are leading to decreased focus and efficiency among employees. As a result, low workplace morale erodes productivity, and employee absenteeism and burnout begin to rise.
More employers are introducing workplace mindfulness practices to enhance stress management and promote employee self-care. Informed by extensive research, mindfulness fosters conscious awareness — being present in the moment — enabling employees to break out of stressful patterns of thought, emotion, behaviour or interpersonal interactions in all aspects of their lives, and to more skillfully and consciously navigate life both at work and at home.
Employers can introduce the concept and practice of mindfulness through workplace education, such as introductory workshops, facilitated mindfulness classes, web-based mindfulness programs and, perhaps, providing quiet rooms in the workplace for contemplative reflection.
2. Personalized wellness coaching
A trend carrying over from 2017 is personalized wellness coaching — the integration of behaviour change science with health promotion, illness and disease prevention and/or rehabilitation.
Wellness coaching often uses a one-on-one approach, similar to a personal trainer, with the coach providing support, guidance, encouragement, goal-setting and confirmation when short- and long-term goals are reached. The wellness coach focuses on the person’s values, needs, vision, aspirations and goals, while providing a degree of accountability.
In the workplace, wellness coaching can be accomplished through on-site, face-to-face meetings and/or by phone or online meetings. While typically offered as individual sessions, small group wellness coaching can also be effective for team members who share the same wellness goal, such as smoking cessation or weight loss.
3. High-intensity interval training
Employees typically complain that they don’t have enough time to invest in improving their physical fitness so they want to make the most out of their workouts, at the gym and in the workplace.
High-intensity interval training workouts involve short bursts of high-intensity exercise, followed by a brief rest, over and over for the duration of the session. Apart from the benefits to the body in terms of calories burned and the use of several muscle groups, this type of routine is on the rise because it brings variety to the training. Variety is good for fostering long-term motivation because, at some point, the same fitness routine gets very boring very fast.
Where employers offer an on-site gym, regular high-intensity interval training classes can make employees more productivity and efficient. Why? Because the classes are designed to get the most results in the least amount of time. Our brains start to adopt that way of thinking across different situations that we’re faced with, finding ways to get tasks done in less time. Improved circulation to the brain can also be credited to this type of training, since it has positive effects on cardiovascular health.
4. Financial wellness
A relatively new area of focus is financial wellness. A 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that nearly one in three employees is distracted by personal financial issues while at work, with almost half spending three or more hours a week handling personal finances during working hours.
By offering financial wellness education and personal savings program options, employers can help employees to make smart decisions to improve their financial well-being. Employees are now looking to their employer for help navigating personal finance issues ranging from student loan repayment to general budgeting and savings acumen to retirement planning.
Using personalized assessments, workshops, webcasts, personal coaching, online tools and targeted communications, organizations can empower their employees to achieve their financial wellness goals.
5. Standing desks
Standing desks will continue to make inroads in workplace wellness and ergonomic programs. Given that today’s average office worker is sedentary all day with minimal breaks, sitting has been labeled worse than smoking as a health risk. As a result, employers are looking to help employees build more movement into their day, which includes offering access to standing desks.
Implementing first-come, first-serve standing workstations that employees can move to during their workday may be an affordable alternative to reconfiguring every workstation in the office right away. But this type of flexible workplace perk is exactly what younger, health-minded employees are looking for when they assess potential employers.
A word of caution, though — standing desks aren’t the magic bullet to address sedentary behaviour in the workplace. To really experience optimal health, sedentary workers must actually walk around more. But a standing desk is a good start, and standing burns 50 more calories per hour than sitting.