8 Predictions About The Future Of Wellness And Work: Are Your Leaders Ready?

“What the whole world wants is a good job. That is one of the single biggest discoveries Gallup has ever made.” Jim Clifton, CEO, Gallup Organization, Gallup World Poll

Blog 145 PicWork can empower human thriving. Through firsthand experience, we each know work can be a huge source of meaning, growth, energy, positive accomplishment, life-enhancing relationships, and wellbeing. It can equally contribute to unhappiness, insecurity, ill health, and over-stress.

On the flipside, work needs thriving humans. Economies are increasingly interdependent. As more work decisions are made between people globally, we’re called to operate across countries, cultures, value systems, and worldviews. The nature of work is morphing too; today’s work is to a large extent about creating new knowledge, being self-directed, solving complex problems through collaboration, learning together, and continuously innovating. We’re moving into the age of the human economy – or the wisdom economy, as some call it – where work literally depends on mental, emotional, and social intelligence. Who better to bring those intelligences to bear at work than well-rested, sharp-minded, energized, and thriving people?

This two-way relationship between human thriving and work led me to kick off the Future of Well Work initiative with the Global Wellness Institute a few months ago. My hope for the initiative is to bring together top thinkers and doers who can offer thought leadership for a new vision of impact about “well work” in the global community. The initiative is young, yet I’m already inspired by the organizations it is attracting, from larger enterprises such as Google, Virgin Pulse, Johnson & Johnson, Steelcase, Zappos, and Humana, to smaller businesses such as The Breakers, eMindful, Kurbo Health, and Grupo Diarq. (See the full list of organizations here.) Mostly, however, I’m enjoying the quality of the people involved in the initiative; they are passionate and committed to make wellness a priority in everything their organizations do.

And making wellness a priority is tricky work. There is no one right formula for investing in the health, safety, and vitality of people. Plus, the workplace wellness field has gotten a bad rap in recent years, even viewed as a scam by some, oftentimes deservedly so. But so far I find this particular group of leaders not interested in talking about wellness programs and initiatives; they’re concerned with more fundamental questions: How do we create organizations where people genuinely thrive? …where people can bring their whole selves and full energies to work? I believe these are essential questions of effective, responsible leadership, to be asked by all employers regardless of geography, industry, or size.

For our first initiative meeting of the year, we invited two guest speakers, SRI senior researchers Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston, to share their recently-completed Future of Wellness At Work study. They offered us a big-picture look at the current state of wellness in the global workforce and made eight predictions about the future of wellness given the radically changing nature of work itself.

What do they predict is in store for us all?

  1. Companies and governments will demand change due to rising costs and worsening health. These entities are, as Ophelia and Katherine put it, “highly motivated to reverse the current trend of an unwell workforce.”
  2. Wellness at work is a movement that will explode across the world in the coming 5-10 years. A focus on wellness at and through work will not remain a luxury for professional workers in wealthy countries, but an imperative for future economic growth in all countries around the world.
  3. Workplace wellness programs (as we know them today) will no longer exist. We’ll emphasize creating cultures of wellbeing, rather than programs that, while beneficial, often do not fundamentally shift work and the work environment to support human thriving.
  4. People will take more responsibility for their own wellness and how work affects it. As people gain autonomy globally, they’ll realize that is isn’t enough to passively depend on an employer for one’s wellness; it takes personal responsibility to affect change in one’s health and wellbeing.
  5. Companies that do not provide well working environments will not be able to recruit and retain good people. Increasingly, people will look for meaning and purpose in their work, making them less loyal to a single employer and more apt to seek out organizations that are supportive, collegial, and aligned with their intrinsic values and motivations.
  6. Doing right by employees and the community is good business. It will become a norm for employers of all types to incorporate wellness into their operations and brand story.
  7. Governments will become more aggressive about mandating wellness, including in the workplace. Tax incentives, tighter regulations, and higher standards for acceptable working conditions … all of these and more will become tools used to prioritize human wellbeing.
  8. The healthiest workplaces will be a destination where people go to improve their own wellness.Work can be a source of joy, friendship, purpose, as well as a social environment to support healthy behaviors. Ophelia and Katherine claim, “As more workplaces embrace wellness, we imagine a future where people work not only for financial compensation but to feel well and be well.”

Through their research, Ophelia and Katherine confirmed what a growing number of leaders globally are realizing: wellness isn’t the sole responsibility of human resource professionals or health programs; it is about real leadership that builds organizations where people thrive.

Want to receive full research report on The Future of Wellness At Work? Drop me an email at renee@wisdom-works.com or go to the Global Wellness Institute. The report will be available at the end of February.

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