Employee wellness programs have gained popularity in recent years, as companies recognize the connection between employee well-being and productivity. 

In fact, a recent survey from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) discovered that 79% of employers now cite improving employee productivity and reducing absenteeism as a primary objective for their programs, and another 76% acknowledge that their wellness program helps improve and maintain employee morale. Overall, the majority of companies (78%) also say that wellness programs are also an important differentiator when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. 

But there’s one part of the wellness conversation that’s been evolving in recent years that employers need to pay more attention to: Wellness is no longer just about physical health and healthcare costs. 

Especially in light of employee burnout, the current generation of employees realizes that wellness goes far beyond just physical health. In fact, in another survey, more than 60% of workers feel that their employer’s wellness offering should support total well-being, and they desire a more holistic approach that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, financial, and social aspects of wellness.

For HR managers evaluating their benefits packages and considering how the workforce is changing and the demands of the future, here are five things employees look for in health and wellness programs:

1. Personalization and flexibility to reach as many employees as possible.

Wellness tools are not one-size-fits-all solutions, and what different individuals want and need from a wellness program can vary greatly. In fact, more than half of workers surveyed said that the well-being programs their employers offered were irrelevant to them. A wellness program that is flexible and provides more options for different groups and individuals to choose from will enable your employees to customize a wellness program that addresses their individual needs — and will be increasingly important as your efforts to retain a more diverse workforce gain traction.

2. Video and streaming fitness services for at-home flexibility.

Just as telemedicine has become more of a standard offering, many popular exercise studios now host live-streaming classes. Consider offering access to (or reimbursement for) on-demand and streaming workout videos as an alternative to the standard gym membership.

Your wellness program could also provide simple pieces of exercise equipment, such as free weights or resistance bands, and email fitness newsletters subscriptions to help employees get the most from their at-home workouts.

3. Mental and behavioral health support that’s private and discreet.

Including mental health support as a part of corporate wellness programs has become more common, and for good reason. While 96% of CEOs think they’re doing enough to support employee mental health, only 69% of employees agree

In particular, the pandemic has created even more of an opportunity for companies to offer stress management and resilience training as part of their wellness program. Resilience training is a proactive, long-term strategy that helps employees cope with difficult situations, manage stress, and become stronger and more capable as a result. In a recent survey, 81% of companies report that they plan to invest in this area more during the coming year.

4. Personal financial tools to build financial knowledge and wellness.

Financial health has a direct connection to physical health and a person’s overall well-being. Financial issues can have a direct impact on work performance, and research shows that employees who need help with their finances are significantly less likely to be physically healthy and more likely to report feeling frequently stressed or anxious.

Companies can incorporate personal finance and advising into wellness and benefits programs by offering finance workshops, webinars, and other e-learning opportunities to help employees improve their financial knowledge, which can also improve their overall well-being.

5. Community involvement opportunities for a local impact.

Volunteering and community service provides both mental and physical health benefits. Employees who engage in some kind of regular community involvement, such as volunteering on a weekly basis, are more likely to report having lower stress levels, decreased risk for depression, and as cited in a study by Johns Hopkins University, increased brain function.

Make room in your wellness program for employees to reap the many benefits of giving back by offering time off for volunteering, mentoring, or other social connectedness and community involvement. Your company can also spearhead its own volunteer efforts through the wellness program, which can provide additional benefits of increased engagement, morale, and better teamwork within your organization.

Corporate wellness programs, and employees’ expectations of them, will continue to evolve. Taking a holistic approach that encompasses not just the physical, but mental, emotional, financial, and social aspects of wellness can make those programs more attractive to both existing and potential employees. Tailoring them to fit your employees’ needs is beneficial to both the organization and to employees. Providing a variety of wellness options that people can choose from will help drive participation and ultimately, have a positive impact on engagement, retention, and overall productivity.

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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all-inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding the specific application of the information to your own plan.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published to SyncHR by PrimePay's blog and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.