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As we sit back with our glass of Christmas punch & reflect on the year that’s been, it’s been one filled with many highs & some shake your head moments!

In our personal & professional circles, it’s also been a big year of change & uncertainty for a lot of people. However, with this, often presents many opportunities. To reflect on what’s important, to shift gears or undergo transformation to enable us to embark on a new chapter.

However, one thing hasn’t changed. Happy & healthy employees equal a thriving business.

We’ve seen lots of ‘a-ha’ moments from clients this year realising that investment in employee wellness is critical to remaining competitive in a global economy. It is no longer perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’. This reflects recent research which suggests that 70% of Australian organisations have a formal workplace health & wellness strategy in place, & a further 16.8% are planning to in the future. A report released earlier this year from the Global Wellness Institute also suggests the wellness industry is now a $3.72 trillion industry, & that ‘…. with only 9.5% of today’s workforce covered by a workplace wellness program, this remains a wellness market with some of the largest growth opportunity.’

So, what have been some of the top trends driving this awakening by organisations? In this two-part series, we list our top 9 trends.

These trends are based on hundreds of conversations with our wonderful clients, associates, human resource & safety leaders, senior executives, business owners & workers on the ground. It draws on major economic & business themes over the past year which include companies doing more with less, the skills gap, further advances in technology, an ageing workforce, & ongoing organisational change.

Trend #1. Leaders are becoming more accountable for employee wellness

A thriving organisation relies on healthy, resilient & high performing leaders. We also know that (unsurprisingly) senior leaders are the ‘make or break’ for initiating & sustaining a successful wellness strategy within an organisation. For these reasons, it’s encouraging to see an increasing call for leaders to be accountable for employee wellness & building a supportive culture.

Trend #2. Organisations are becoming increasingly smart with workplace design

The design, layout & style of a workplace can have a huge impact on how we work. Organisations such as Medibank Private are recognising that smart design is critical to fostering a workplace in which employees flourish. From the colour scheme in the kitchen, through to the height of work surfaces, good ventilation & natural light, & the provision of amenities that support a healthy lifestyle, it all contributes to the quality of an employees working environment.

Trend #3. The future workplace is (nearly) here

In the words of Bob Dylan, ‘.the times they are a-changin’. According to new research, as much as 20% of employees at Australian companies will be contractors, temps or consultants within the next three years. Plus, Australians under 25 now average just 20 months in one role. Furthermore, by 2020, McCrindle Research estimates that one in three workers will be employed on a casual basis, with voluntary annual turnover approaching 20 per cent. This will pose significant challenges for workplaces from a cultural & engagement standpoint, together with attracting top talent.

Trend #4. Working less & more flexibly increases productivity

Sweden made headlines this year with the introduction of a 6 hour working day heralded as the pinnacle of work life balance & efficiency. Pioneers in the likes of the legal sector are also challenging the status quo, no longer willing to sacrifice their wellness in order to climb the ranks. They are moving beyond time-based billing, to create virtual, family-friendly, customer-centric &  highly successful firms. As this recent article from the Washington Post sprouts Stop touting the crazy hours you work. It helps no one.

Trend #5. Employees are feeling the financial pinch

Personal finance issues continue to be one of the leading causes of stress for employees. Recent Australian research suggests 50% of workers are worried about their financial situation. More concerning is that 61% have insufficient emergency savings. New research from AMP also shows that employees who suffer from financial stress are (unsurprisingly) less engaged at work & more likely to underperform. An increasing number of employers are subsequently investing in financial literacy & transition to retirement planning for their employees to help ease the pinch.

Curious to know the remainder of our 9 trends? Stay tuned for our next blog post in the coming weeks.