Six workplace wellness trends HR need to know in 2020

Do you already have a successful workplace well-being strategy in place?

If so, how did you measure it 2019? What annual impacts on behaviour, HR measures and business outcomes, did it achieve? How will you adjust it according to the changing needs of your workforce composition and structure in 2020?

This article outlines what you need to know about changes coming to workplace well-being in 2020. As technology fragments tools, behaviours and processes and rewrites internal communications structures, organisations need to understand, embrace and integrate their business with their employees at the center.

If the employee’s well-being is not considered as a key stakeholder business need, an organisation will now lose its competitive advantage. As millennial’s flock to organisations who promise to deliver employee-centric wellbeing, leadership and connection-based programs.

To assess whether we have an employee-centric well-being culture, we need to ask:

1. Whom makes up the majority of our workforce?

2. How do we create a culture of well-being that motivates engagement, presenteeism and retention in our workforce?

3. How do we break down current cultural roadblocks to proceeding with optimal workplace well-being; a sense of success, purpose, leadership, opportunity and appreciation?

What are the current organisational costs of not providing optimal workplace well-being?

4. What are the current organisational costs of not providing optimal workplace well-being? These costs are significant and represent missed opportunities for employees and employers. They can be measured by turnover, absenteeism, presenteeism, levels of stress, workplace burnout and workers compensation. Ultimately, it will cost the business more in employer brand value as it struggles to attract the best talent.

So let’s review six global workplace wellness trends to embed in your organisation for 2020.

1. Workplace Wellness Culture Audits

To keep pace with change, organisations should regularly review HR based goals and organisational goals for productivity, turnover, customer complaint levels, error levels, workplace health and safety standards .

These metrics should be aligned with workplace Well-being Programs including retention, turnover, stress levels and mental health issues. This audit should help to keep you abreast of changing technology, societal conditions, and worker satisfaction/engagement levels. The results may include the following:

  • A growing need for more flexibility in working from home
  • A need to address change management issues
  • Provide feedback to the leadership team on communications issues and structural roadblocks to employee well-being
  • The need for greater education on how to disengage from stress and internal communication tools to support this
  • Mindfulness training courses help with this as do resiliency, strengths-based coaching and promoting levels of fun and interaction (yoga laughter as an example).

2. Millennial’s as the largest employee group have changed well-being expectations irrevocably

Millennial’s as the largest growing body of employees from 2020 on are different leaders than the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers of the past. Millennial’s will leave if an organisation has not dealt with structural issues causing workplace burnout. This includes excessive work hours, poor communication, or change management issues. Three of every 4 employees in this 2019 study say they experienced workplace burnout.

Recent research by Class pass , Oct 2019 , revealed 75% of professionals believe it’s the employers responsibility to provide health and well-being benefits. With more than half stating they would stay with a company longer if they provided fitness and wellness benefits.

Generational conflict exists as we now have 5 different generations in the workforce. Millennial’s have different attitudes toward authority, flexibility and work ethic. There are also differences in customs i.e.: values of respect and standards of courtesy and behaviours like eye contact. Whilst Millennial’s and Gen Z’eds maybe flying along with technology, their emotional intelligence and organisational communication tends to be poorer due to their screen based upbringing.

Millennial’s expect more from their employers than did their parents, they are now becoming leaders who expect change:

  • 64% Want to make the world a better place
  • 79% Desire a coach or mentor rather than a traditional boss
  • 88% Seek collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one
  • 74% Hope to incorporate work-life “integration” (as opposed to work-life balance)
  • Ask for flexible work schedules

 SOURCE: OCTANNER Global Culture Report, 2018

3. Embedding well-being programs that are measurable and create real behavioural change

Simple participation in learning lunches or wellness activities does not lead to behaviour change. Buy in by key stakeholders such as the CEO, executive team and HR/People and Culture are necessary to produce a real return on investment for well-being programs.

This can be benefits such as the lowering of insurance costs and reductions on workerscompensation claims

This can be benefits such as the lowering of insurance costs and reductions on workers compensation claims as well as traditional metrics such as reduced turnover, absenteeism, stress levels and retention. Investing in both people and benefits will ignite productivity, improve workforce attraction and company culture long-term, says

Habit change takes at least 60 days according to neuroscience research. So, programs that support employees at work and at home, that are engaging, novel, social and measurable provide greater chance of success. Providing employees opportunities for in-person connection and resources to incorporate healthy living both at work and at home are essential for embedding change.  

For example:

  • Building a workplace culture where employees leave feeling exhilarated not exhausted
  • On-site, measurable face-to-face wellness coaching, mindfulness courses, emotional intelligence and personalised psychology.
  • Education on attention, fatigue prevention, brain health, blood sugar levels and the science of breathing
  • Supplementary stress management tools such as HRV wearables and trackables over a 6o day period to measure stress and sleep levels
  • Resilience training including linkages between purpose, meaning and connectedness
  • Social activities including team challenges and working on team chosen projects together in real time
  • Adventure and social good volunteering programs where employees can volunteer once a month during work hours
  •  Providing resources to help employees with challenges at home (caregiving, counseling, budgeting, etc.).  

4. Physical, Psychological, Socio-emotional and financial Well-being Initiatives

Whilst, stress relief tools such as tracking steps or company fitness challenges have been popular and useful for the last decade or so, there has been absence of mental self-care and psychological well-being programs.

With greater awareness of the issues of mental health in our community and at work (1 in 5 have a mental health issue at any one time) and the complex issues of bullying, harassment and negligence due to suicide. Employers must see this as partly their responsibility to bear.

Well-being Initiatives need to relate to an employee’s total health and wellbeing not just one aspect of it. Tools to deal with workplace stress as well as personal stress may include:

✳️ Emotional Intelligence tools, education and coaching

✳️ Encouragement to connect with team members in non-work related activities such as walk and talk program, meditation together physically or via an app.

✳️ Sleep or rest pods, deep breathing practice, mindfulness and compassion practice

✳️ Include financial wellness programs for all employees:

As financial hardship is one of the major stressors facing individuals, offering in-house financial counseling and programs targeted to individual employees’ needs are a huge benefit. They can relieve stress, improve productivity and appreciation, engagement with the organisation.

Financial wellness programs can include salary sacrifice options, tuition reimbursement for training and study, credit counsellors and financial concierge services. Also providing resources to help employees with challenges at home (caregiving, counselling, budgeting, etc.). 

 5. Think Inclusion and Compassion not just Diversity

There has been much work done in organisations over recent years in de-emphasising autocratic, egoistic, topdown, leadership and management style thinking and practice. In order to practice this concept, individuals and leaders who have embraced an egoistic non-inclusive style will need awareness and insight training and an understanding of the concepts of emotional intelligence in a team and organisational context.

Organisations who emphasise inclusion and compassion not just diversity have higher Culture Scores

Whilst Diversity Policy is a necessary and perhaps legal requirement for many organisations, diversity emphasises difference which can be tribalising and entrench separateness and feelings of otherness between groups at work rather than collaboration and compassion. Organisations who emphasise inclusion and compassion not just diversity have higher culture scores.

Compassionate, inclusive organisations create employees who focus on working together for the common good of the organisation and community. To do this people need to feel valued and understood by others for their individual and authentic self. Cultures who achieve this foster value, pride and commitment to their organisation and filled with purpose.

There is a big difference in culture scores when people feel they work in an inclusive environment:

SOURCE: OCTANNER Global Culture Report 2018

6. A call for connection: Loneliness pervades

 Most employees spend more time at work than they do at home with their families on a given day. Work and home life has become “integrated”, no longer work/life balance. Connections and relationships at work create a more positive work experience. That’s important when you work work 8-12 hours a day, 5 days a week.

People want to connect with their “second family.”

Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people. It’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. You have to be in it together—and “it” can be anything that you both think has meaning and value.


Connections promote a sense of belonging. Humans are social creatures, we want to be needed, connected and belong. We are wired to be social want to interact with other people. “A lone monkey is a dead monkey”. We want to fit in and belong to our organisation. We want to feel part of a team. A lack of connection leads to loneliness, stress and uncertainty of whether or not the employee belongs in the organisation.

 Connections create a feeling of establishing purpose and making a difference.

Employees aren’t there just for the paycheck, particularly millenials. They want to feel a part of something bigger, contribute toward a meaningful purpose, make a difference in the world. They want to strive for a common goal together.

Let me know how your organisation has built a culture of belonging, purpose, and mental flourishing. And join us in Melbourne FEB 20 or Sydney FEB 28 for breakfast to discuss building your culture of Well-being.

Originally published on Linkedin January 1, 2020

Contact [email protected]

#workplacehealth #wellbeing #mentalhealth #2020