5 employee wellbeing predictions for 2021

Experts from Virgin Pulse share their forecast for the state of workplace wellness as we move into a new year.

By Meghan Madhavan      
5 wellbeing predictions

Coming off a historically turbulent year, what can wellness pros and communicators take for the coming months? Experts from the well-being tech provider Virgin Pulse in a recent webinar shared several critical wellness predictions for the year ahead.

The experts, Andrew Jacobus, vice president of the Virgin Pulse Institute, along with Dr. David Batman and Dr. Gary Smithson, members of Virgin Pulse’s Science Advisory Board, laid out predictions culled from thought leaders in the fields of health and wellness. Here are a few common themes.

1. Telehealth and digital wellbeing solutions will become increasingly important to employees.

“We’re never going back,” predicted Dexter Shurney, chief medical officer for Foodsmart, one of the thought leaders featured in the presentation.

After COVID-19 forced many health and wellbeing visits to be conducted virtually, telehealth’s value in expanding access and allowing greater convenience and efficiency has become clear. Even after the pandemic, employers will need to continue to offer digital wellbeing solutions to remain competitive. Health monitoring and management apps, virtual fitness classes and telemedicine appointments will all be areas for investment.

These tools will also prove critical in increasing access to health and wellbeing services for marginalized groups, as organizations aim to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion progress.

2. Promoting healthy habits will be a crucial component of a strong wellness program.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the dangers of “comorbidities” like obesity and has led to a rise in tobacco and substance abuse. The habits individuals picked up during quarantine are likely to stick around—for better or worse. More than ever, organizations need to encourage proper diet, exercise and stress management to ensure employees are able to stay healthy and bring their best selves to work.

3. Employee mental health will receive more attention in organizations.

“Mental health used to be considered a distant second priority to physical health. COVID has changed that,” Batman explained during the webinar.

While a majority of the world’s population did not experience the physical effects of the COVID-19 virus, the emotional and financial stress it created took a toll on the professional and personal lives of many. Employers are likely to invest more in helping their workforce cope with stress, manage financial burdens and address mental health disorders through offerings like meditation and yoga classes, budgeting apps and telecounseling.

4. Wellness professionals must give more consideration to the effects of social inequality.

2020 saw racial and social injustice thrust into the spotlight—along with its effects on wellbeing. Marginalized populations who already had worse health outcomes faced greater rates of COVID-19 deaths. They also were forced to confront traumatic acts of racism graphically detailed in the news.

“Employers must begin to more deeply consider social determinants of health,” said Jacobus. Wellness professionals will need to keep in mind the effects of racism and inequality to design more inclusive programs and offer resources to help employees cope and come together in the face of injustice.

5. With remote work on the rise, family wellbeing will also rise in importance for organizations.

Employees are spending more time with their families than ever before, and many have children or dependent parents who are relying on them more during the pandemic. Offering flexible working hours, shortening meetings and offering family access to wellbeing services are just a few ways that organizations can improve work-life balance for employees.