What’s Next for Corporate Wellness since COVID-19

by Erika Zauner

The perks of a job used to mean health insurance and vacation time, but we’ve seen that evolve tremendously over the years as companies have increasingly invested more in their employees to attract and retain talent and keep their workforce healthy and engaged. Powerful, adaptable benefits programs are key to attracting top talent; companies are creating and investing in programs that offer not only gym memberships, but also programs that address all aspects of wellness and provide physical, mental, emotional, nutritious and even financial wellness support to their teams.

A catalyst for widespread remote work plans, COVID-19 has changed the way we interact with others, work at our jobs and live our lives. It has also propelled changes in corporate wellness, reshaping what these programs look like and what the future has in store. Despite the economic fallout of the pandemic, in fact, we’ve seen companies maintain or increase their investment in wellness programs for their employees by launching access to our company for their international employees during COVID, or investing in virtual private webinars and fitness classes to build culture. Looking ahead, those programs will feel very different to accommodate hybrid work plans and dispersed employees.

How Corporate Wellness Has Changed Since Shutdowns Began

The next big fitness trend: working out at home (virtually). People are reluctant to go back to the office, let alone a gym or fitness studio. To survive, the workout studios that can are adapting and offering membership-based online classes. For example, fitness studios like Barry’s, solidcore and Fhitting Room have taken their workouts virtual with live Zoom classes, while apps like Peloton and Aaptiv have been popular options for at-home workouts. As companies transition their workforces to staggered scheduling or fully remote, an employee’s typical neighborhood studio around the corner from the office may not be as convenient when traveling directly from home. Companies will need to make sure that the gyms or studios they are partnering with can provide options that work for all of their employees, regardless of their geographic locations and schedules.

Wellness is not just about fitness; mental health and emotional wellness programs will take a front seat. During June 2020, the most redeemed brand on our platform was the Calm app, placing ahead of the fitness companies we work with. Employees are experiencing burnout and need ways to mentally reset. Apps and programs that address mental health will become part of what employees expect.

At-home lunch and prepared meals are making a comeback; grabbing a salad by the office will be a thing of the past. When people are working from home, the way they are eating is different. Someone’s lunch at the office was often leftovers from the previous night’s dinner or a salad or sandwich from the local deli. We saw that Thrive Market, Daily Harvest, Blue Apron and Purple Carrot were all among the top 10 most redeemed brands during the month of June. This shows that discounts on gyms are not enough; employees need choices that will help them access nutritious food in a way that is faster, less expensive and more convenient.

Steps Companies Can Take to Create Cost-Effective and Powerful Corporate Wellness Programs in a Post-Pandemic World

Take a data-driven approach to well-being. Companies should check with their employees as to what they want — a survey can point the company to exactly the types of programs it should be investing in, and where it can invest less in order to meet each employee’s unique needs. If using surveys, the company should conduct them regularly to check in and see how employees are feeling about the offerings and what can be improved. The purpose of a wellness program is to cater to employees’ needs; getting a pulse-check from them can be invaluable.

Outsource and partner with a company that offers wellness programs. At HealthKick, we work with mid-sized to large employers to create custom wellness programs that fit their needs. Partnering with an organization like HealthKick expands the options that a company can provide to its workforce, while enabling employees to save an average of $500 or more on their wellness spend.

Incorporate gamification or challenges into your program. Companies should encourage employees to attend classes together (even virtually) and reward employees for taking a certain number of classes. This can build engagement and give employees something to work toward so they don’t lose interest. For example, we recently hosted a Wellbeing Bingo challenge for employees, focused on building healthy habits by making small changes every day.

Looking ahead, companies will have to adapt their wellness offerings to meet employees’ changing needs. Many wellness companies are already providing virtual offerings. By finding the right partners and getting an understanding of what their workforce wants, business leaders can make simple transitions for programs that will work in the future.

Erika Zauner is a wellness expert and CEO of HealthKick, a corporate wellness membership that provides personalized access to over 500 leading consumer health, fitness and wellness brands.

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