Workplace Wellness: Trends, Ideas & Tips For Companies #SHRM19


If I were to do a word cloud of all conversations taking place at the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition, perhaps the no.1 word in that cloud would be:


Workplace Wellness. Employee wellness. Digital wellness. Mental wellness. Physical wellness. Financial wellness. Ergonomic wellness. Facility wellness. Spiritual wellness.

You get the idea. Companies are diving deep into the wellness wave...and for good reason! Let’s dive into some of the trends, ideas, and tips when it comes to workplace wellness for companies.

Health & wellness

It doesn’t matter if the employer is self-insured or fully insured, there are direct costs associated with poor health and chronic conditions. A lot of focus is spent on the small number of employees who contribute to the majority of the healthcare cost via disease management or chronic care management programs. But the one thing we do know, is that if action is not taken to prevent currently healthy employees from developing really expensive conditions like Diabetes, the cost to an employer for healthcare and productivity is only going to continue to rapidly increase.

Wellness programs aim to keep the healthy portions of the employee population healthy, and they are usually the majority of the employees, and so it is critical to use technology to help deliver the education, tools and motivation to those employees to change bad habits for healthy ones and make the lifestyle changes that will allow then to live productive lives and feel good towards an employer who demonstrates their commitment to that goal.

- Darryl Gordon, VP of Marketing, MediKeeper, Inc.

Benefits & wellness

The biggest challenge for companies when providing healthcare benefits is a lack of engagement. The experience is so difficult to understand and navigate that generally employees only engage with their insurance providers when they are ill or need serious help.

Companies can overcome the poor experience by integrating a holistic platform that is designed to make healthcare, benefits and lifestyle benefits and programs accessible and easy of use. Integrate all parts of the process into a seamless digital experience and help proactively build healthy lifestyle habits. This always-on relationship is the foundation of preventative health and helps reduce healthcare costs.

- Rebecca Orellana, Marketing Manager, League

Insurance wellness

In many organizations, you will often see the accounting or finance department handling the acquisition of insurance for the business while the HR department is responsible for selecting the employee-related coverages. This can lead to using multiple agencies and carriers, which can make things more complex than necessary. There are many benefits of having your insurance (i.e., workers’ compensation and disability) placed with one agency or carrier.  Having one point of contact to help handle your coverage needs can make the process much smoother.

-Sam Liotta, President and CEO, AmVenture

Spiritual wellness

Whether your employees are millennials, baby-boomers or are from any generation, and whether they work in an office, a warehouse, distribution center, driving over the road, working from home, remote or virtual - they all face the common issues employees can deal with. A rebellious teenager, elderly parent, finances, stress, trouble with a coworker, loneliness, depression, grief, illness, death, anxiety, hopelessness, etc.

Providing the right care to employees is critical in employee retention. HR professionals know money and benefits are farther down the list as to why people are attracted or stay with an organization. Feeling cared for and valued, as well as the employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor are the two most important elements of retention.

If a company takes care of their employees first, the customer loyalty and business success will follow.

-Jason Brown, Chief Marketing Officer, Marketplace Chaplains USA

Physical wellness

Ongoing employee participation is the main challenge when it comes to Health and Fitness wellness programs. To succeed, a program must contain three things: choice, safety, and a social element.

Organizations should strive for a full mind and body approach. Focus on social motivation and mobilizing employees from within to drive engagement levels. Whether that’s offering an online video platform that connects people with classes at the same time, or by giving them massive choice and access to hundreds of classes and instructors for people to take, a health and fitness program must contain those three elements (choice, safety, social) for employees to participate.

-Mike Kott, Co-CEO, Burnalong

365 wellness

Benefits have always been confined to a two-week open enrollment period. But the problem is, employee’s lives don’t happen within a two week window. And, the convergence of five generations within one workforce adds to a complex landscape that’s always shifting.

For example, an employee’s child turns 16 and the need for auto insurance arises. HR administrators can surface those benefits as employee lives change to truly offer a 365 day approach to benefits and wellness.

Human Resources should aim to automate and address all employee needs with a robust portfolio of core benefits (medical, dental, vision) and off the shelf benefits (pet insurance, accident insurance) to identify the benefits that make the most sense to employees.

-Ankur Patel, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Benefitfocus

Onsite wellness

Employees are losing lean leg mass with sedentary desk jobs. This lifestyle can increase risk for injury, which can lead to higher expenses for employers including workers compensation and health claims.

Rather than focusing on giving employees more material things, offer more onsite perks that aim to improve your health. For example, offering onsite body composition testing and blood pressure monitoring can produce trackable results for healthy changes in employees. And not only body composition, but cardiovascular health too.

Track measurable changes and improve the health and happiness of your employees.

-Amanda Alles, Business Development Executive, InBody

Wallet wellness

Employee discount networks help paychecks go further. Maybe it’s saving on a cell phone bill. Or a gym membership. A discount network helps companies get creative with perks with making a positive impact on an employee lifestyle.

Some companies are in a position to pay employees more. But pay $1,000 or save $1,000, and that increase or decrease has the same financial impact on an employee’s life. If companies are thoughtful and creative on the employee lifestyle, they can offer competitive perks without raising expenses on the P&L.

-Ryan Marvel, VP of Business Development, Access Perks

Absence wellness

There are always new advancements with absence management. If an employee goes to a supervisor for an absence management inquiry, an organization needs to make sure the chain of communication is open from the supervisor to HR. If it’s not open, that’s where you can run into legal issues.

Train the supervisors on the law. What is a qualifying medical event? What’s the deadline to notify an employee that they’re eligible? When can the employee come back? When can they be ready to work at full capacity? 

The biggest thing in absence management is compliance. Make sure you’re getting to your absence management claims on time. With FMLA there are deadlines. Find a system that has the right forms, the right communication, and right reporting to provide you with insights into your absence management program. 

-Shahlla Karmali, Marketing Coordinator, Presagia
Interested in learning more about workplace wellness? Review SHRM’s vendor directory of Employee Wellness companies, or jump in the conversation on social media by following SHRM.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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