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Seven Employee Wellness Trends And Opportunities For 2019

By Alan Kohll, the founder and president of health and wellness service provider, TotalWellness. Follow TotalWellness on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The corporate wellness industry is constantly evolving, and savvy HR and wellness professionals need to stay on top of emerging trends to ensure their employee wellness program continues to advance. While there are numerous trends emerging in the corporate wellness world today, let's take a closer look at the seven I believe will most affect wellness programs in 2019.

Legal Challenges

On January 1, 2019, the AARP vs. EEOC court decision to eliminate regulations concerning wellness program incentives goes into effect. In the absence of clear regulatory guidance, employers are faced with uncertainty if their wellness program incentives fall within the “voluntary” requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

Proposed rules may be released by June 2019, but it’s a lengthy process that will take until at least 2020 before the EEOC issues final rules. Employers managing wellness programs should continue to monitor developments, including the issuance of any new wellness program regulations, and work with legal counsel to ensure their wellness programs comply with all applicable laws.

Privacy Concerns

Data security is not a just IT problem. A recent article by Kaiser Health News (KHN) raised concerns about the privacy of employee health data collected through participation in workplace wellness programs.

The amount of employee wellness data being collected — through wellness portals, surveys, wearable devices, gym records and lab tests — is increasing exponentially. Companies need to be transparent with their employees about who has access to their health data. Employers also need to make sure their wellness vendors maintain the highest data privacy, security and compliance standards.


Prioritizing Self-Care

Apple recently announced its “best of 2018” and listed self-care as the trend of the year. I think this trend will continue into 2019, as more people realize that self-care is now essential, not an indulgence. One dimension of self-care that has definitely been on the rise in the workplace is mindfulness practices. It's being offered at some of the world’s biggest companies to cut workplace stress and boost productivity.

Self-care will continue to seep into the corporate wellness world as more employers prioritizing holistic wellness and that’s good news. According to the Harvard Business Review, wellness programs don’t work unless you create a culture in which it is acceptable and encouraged to prioritize self-care. When you do, however, the results are profound. Self-care can help prevent burnout from work, help manage stress, and boost feelings of self-worth and confidence.

Addressing Burnout

Let’s face it: Employees are under more pressure than ever before thanks to modern life’s hectic pace. It’s no surprise that in a recent Gallup survey, 44% of employees reported feelings of burnout at work. Employee burnout impacts all industries, costing employers money in lost productivity, low engagement, increased errors and more safety incidents.

Every manager should be aware of the signs of employee burnout so that they can take actionable steps to help employees. You can prevent burnout by encouraging employees to relax and recharge – whether through mid-day breaks, building better sleep habits, flexible schedules or utilizing paid time off.


Wellness is personal. Everyone faces challenges, but everyone needs different solutions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the corporate wellness industry by creating a more personalized experience for employees. Transformative technology gives employees to access information that’s relevant and timely to them. By leveraging data, wellness programs will also be able to create a better user experience based on the employee’s preferences and wellness goals.

Digital platforms continue to grow and are showing no signs of letting up. But if you don’t have the budget to invest in technology, personalization can also be accomplished by simply asking for employee feedback. For example, at TotalWellness we started offering on-site fitness classes this year. Before launching the classes, we sent out a survey to employees in order to gauge interest in different types of fitness classes and what time of day worked best.

Financial Fitness

Access to financial wellness programs continues to increase. Corporate Insight's 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey found 14% of employees had access to programs or resources provided by their employer to help them improve their financial well-being. The survey found 63% of workers with access to financial wellness resources used them, and 53% who did not have access to a financial wellness plan said they thought their employer should offer one.

Financial worries not only keep employees up at night, but the emotional impact spills over into the workplace, too. Employees distracted by financial problems also create significant costs for employers in productivity and work errors. An effective financial wellness program should encourage budgeting, emergency savings, debt elimination and retirement planning.

Onsite Clinics

More employers are embracing onsite health clinics. Today, 50% of employers with over 5,000 employees have onsite or near-site clinics, according to the National Association of Worksite Health Clinics. It's estimated by 2020, two-thirds will have such facilities. Building onsite employee health clinics has enabled employers to offer competitive benefits, control costs and provide quality healthcare to employees. According to a study conducted by Mercer, 58% of employers that incorporated an onsite clinic say it has been successful in helping members control chronic conditions.

It’s essential for wellness professionals to regularly assess and evaluate their wellness strategies. Taking note of the latest industry trends each year can help you refresh your employee wellness strategy and will help keep your employees happy and healthy.

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