Workplace Wellbeing Initiative

2020 Trends

We share our 2020 Wellness at Work trends in the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic affecting every country, company, community and citizen on our planet. We believe the corporate landscape will forever be changed in the aftermath of COVID-19. Through the pandemic, and as it eases, we believe these wellness-forward trends will emerge.

TREND 1: Top Leadership Brings Greater Care to Addressing Our Uncertain Future

COVID-19 has brought about change that the world has never collectively seen. Within a few short weeks, health care systems have shifted into crisis mode, governments have closed borders, and financial markets have become erratic. We do not know where this will end. And, if the suspected origins of this virus are correct, there may be more to come. So, we will see top leaders being called to a higher level of care for the people they employ and the communities they touch, to guide people through this uncertain maze we call the future, with change, fear and upset at every turn. Leadership coming from care will also extend the focus beyond the immediate sphere of influence and force leaders to take greater responsibility for what is happening in realms beyond their immediate control. Top leadership will be called to look beyond the narrow concerns of profit and returns to shareholders to the assessment of what might be best for the greater good; they will get better at whole systems thinking to acknowledge and take actions that contribute to the wellbeing of the ecosystem of stakeholders (suppliers, communities, natural resources and so forth) that have been underwriting their success. This will bring an entirely new examination of what we, as employers, consider to be ethical and successful.

TREND 2: Emergency Management and Business Continuity Efforts Rise

Our current pandemic has shown us once again that our future is far less predictable than we imagined. Organizations are governed (at the very least) by climate change and environmental factors, rapid population growth, and hyper-expansion of information and technology. They will now add to this list the emerging threat of global viruses. So that the organization can continue to provide services to its customers, organizations will now not only strengthen their emergency management and business continuity plans to mitigate product shortages, labor shortages, and financial difficulties, they will also add prevention and wellness to their efforts. Employers will prioritize prevention and wellness, realizing these strategies help employees manage their stress and boost immunity to prevent disease, as well as connect employees with one another through healthy lifestyles and maintain a positive company culture. As part of this, companies will be compelled to assume a broader interest in the stability of the bedrock upon which their existence depends, including the health of the environment; integrity in government policy, including energy and health; and the evolution of education.

TREND 3: Wellness Becomes a Corporate Responsibility

Care for the protection, safety and wellness of people will become a priority in the future in the workplace. Physical, mental and emotional wellness will be put at the forefront, for example, by building health with ventilation, sanitation, cleaning, light, etc., and other wellness strategies. Where wellness has been something “nice to have,” it will become more of “must to have.” It will be a corporate responsibility that employees are as healthy as they can be, with a well-functioning immune system, education and expertise in personal wellness and wellbeing, a greater possibility of remote working, and significant shifts in perspective that see employees treated reverently as whole human beings. This will also involve an ethical examination of factors detrimental to wellness that have, until now, been accepted and ignored (e.g., the vast amounts of time spent in motor vehicle commutes) and will motivate organizations to redefine their beliefs, policies and practices supporting when and how people work with the aim to facilitate greater wellness and effectiveness.

TREND 4: With Remote Work Comes a Redefinition & Expansion of Leadership

The exploration and expansion of remote working will reveal many unforeseen wellness benefits. As companies adopt remote work policies, from sick leave to flexible work schedules, which were prompted by the Coronavirus outbreak, many companies will keep those policies in place. Their budgets will also see a shift from corporate real estate and other centralized costs to investments in strategies, technologies and resources to keep remote workers connected, productive and resilient. All of this will require the development of new models of leading to include: 1) shifting leadership responsibilities to everyone (rather than a few) and 2) building leadership skills organization-wide to embrace the roles of facilitator, coach, mentor and guide with the purpose of empowering wellbeing, trust and effectiveness within and between people and teams. More and more, people will be trusted to be responsible and to work unsupervised, plus they will be encouraged to grow as human beings through their work. In remote work environments, traditional top-down “command and control” models will become redundant.

TREND 5: Companies Get More Serious about Aging & Stress

An increased number of aging people will remain in the workforce, and organizations will begin to create strategies to not simply manage this but to take advantage of it. The wisdom that comes with experience and age and mentorship will become valued. Ageism and old unhelpful biases and thinking will gradually disappear as retirement will become nothing more than an option (out of many) for those who wish to do so. Older employees will become a vital part of the workplace community. Organizations that resist this trend will struggle with lawsuits, conflict and workforce instability; plus, they will find their brand negatively affected.

Change creates uncertainty, and with such comes possible stress and anxiety. These will need to be managed as technological advances bring the change we perhaps cannot even accurately imagine at this time. AI, and the rapid advances of related technologies, will force a re-evaluation of the roles of human beings in the workplace. This will lead us to realize the new potential in human development and the exploration of spiritual and prosocial qualities, such as intuition, care, compassion and kindness. These will open a new realm of possibilities and marketplaces, as human beings expand their creative potential to new realms.

TREND 6: Telemedicine Takes Root Alongside Personal Responsibility for Healthy Living

In a world where technology reigns, telemedicine will allow people to stay at work or at home and still take care of their health concerns. More insurance companies and government-administered healthcare programs will step up to cover telemedicine in the same way they are covering in-person visits. For example, more states in the US will pass laws mandating that private insurers cover telemedicine services in the same manner that they cover in-person services. In the European Union and other countries with nationalized health care, opportunities for incorporating telehealth practices in innovative reimbursement schemes will be advanced within different health care systems. More doctors will embrace telemedicine, too, due to patient demand. Telemedicine will benefit both employer and employee, including reduced costs of healthcare benefits, lower absenteeism, and increased productivity; plus, telemedicine will increase employee compliance with important preventive care visits.

Alongside telemedicine will be a greater focus on self-care. Individuals will become warier of the fear-based messages that ask them to rely on pharmaceutical, government and other entities for their health. They will get smarter about the deeper causes of many of our world’s diseases: lifestyle factors, such as unhealthy eating, inactiveness, unmanaged stress and smoking. Globally, people will increasingly choose lifestyle approaches to support their own health and wellness, as examples, creating community gardens, participating in forums for natural approaches to infant care, engaging in physical activities communities locally and online, and adopting plant-based eating.