Global Wellness Institute’s Top 10 Ways to Improve Workplace Wellness

Global Wellness Institute shares top 10 recommendations for workplace wellness.Most of us spend a vast majority of our waking hours at work. For our American Spa team and many others, that means sitting at a computer and typing away with minimal breaks, and unfortunately undermining other healthy habits. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) has released ten ways wellness at work needs to evolve and improve from its recent roundtable of top experts on “Redefining Workplace Wellness,” that can help all of us:

  1. Focus on Total Return-on-Value The current workplace wellness discussion is dominated by negative media and unscientific “studies” that baldly conclude “workplace wellness doesn’t work.” Companies need to shift to a recognition of a wider return on value view, not just focusing on healthcare costs, but important gains in retention and productivity (93 percent of workplace wellness return in the first year is in productivity gains, not reduced costs).
  2. Take Seriously That 24/7 Work Is “Killing Us” Technology has spawned a new, global work scenario: namely, imprisonment by screens and a powerful erosion of the line between work and life and we can’t even grasp the longterm impact on physical and mental health. As Shawn La Vana, head of marketing at Virgin Pulse says, “We’re checking our smartphones 150 times a day, how focused can we really be? All of this time in front of screens, for work and in our personal lives, means we’re not exercising and eating well, and all of this feeds into a vicious cycle of poor health choices.”
  3. Embrace Technology Opportunities: from Mobile to Telemedicine Technology is very much a double-edged sword as it’s also delivering so many once-unimaginable tools that are workplace health’s friend. Telemedicine, allowing workers to connect with doctors via phone, text and online, is a major, prevention-focused opportunity for employees’ physical and mental health. Wearable health trackers and the proliferating wellness apps will rewrite the design and delivery of workplace wellness programs going forward.
  4. Extend Wellness to an Increasingly Remote Workforce With a galloping percentage of global employees working remotely or offshore, workplaces need to extend meaningful mental wellness initiatives to these employees who may need it most (suffering more loneliness and lack of peer support in both work and health). Programs will focus on the workforce beyond the workplace. Fikray Isaac, M.D., chief medical officer for Johnson & Johnson, says “Smart companies (wanting to positively impact remote workers) will increasingly include their families, significant others, and communities where they live.”
  5. Adapt Global Programs to Local Realities, Culture and Resources Delivering wellness successfully varies wildly by global region because each region has different wellness resources at their disposal and different entrenched traditions. Understanding regional traditions may make or break programs.
  6. Address the Sharpening Age Divide: Young and Aging Two very distinct age groups will increasingly mingle in the workforce, and more businesses need to rethink their once-size-fits-all-ages wellness approaches. Millennials and their tech-focused brains expect and demands far more work flexibility and all kinds of health and wellness perks. At the same time, working populations are aging worldwide (and extending work well into traditional retirement years), and this group has unique needs: from often favoring at-home work, to migrating in and out of the workforce. 
  7. Mental Health Focus Must Ramp Up Most global workplace wellness initiatives have focused on physical health (from fitness to nutrition). But given people’s hyper-connected lives and heavier workloads, there is a mental health and stress epidemic on our hands. Research on positive psychology, meditation, and mindfulness show promise of innovative mental health strategies.
  8. Top-Down Power Hierarchies Will Change Less paternalistic, hierarchical, top-down power structures will only continue to rise within companies (in part because of women’s growing power)—and this model of more self-responsible employees should have positive implications for companies’ wellness initiatives.
  9. Design Healthy Workspaces & Put Greater Focus on Environmental Health There has been too little attention paid to designing workspaces that are conducive to human wellbeing and productivity. Alfredo Carvajal of Delos says, “We will see the design and building of workplaces change in the next decade, with a much-needed new focus on natural light, healthy air, worker privacy and comfort, and flexible office design—and incorporating different types of biophilic design, which reimagines there relationship between nature, human biology and the built environment."
  10. Get Serious About a Healthy Work Culture For workplace wellness to be successful, it needs to be culture-wide, and not just a third-party-delivered, add-on program.


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