How wellness in the workplace is shaping the HR function

How wellness in the workplace is shaping the HR function

There’s no doubt about it: the Human Resources function is undergoing a change.

There are many reasons as to why this is the case, some of which you may well be familiar with, such as the need to add more strategic value to the board by moving away from the traditional back office function, or becoming more consumer service design-driven. Conversations are currently taking place around the role of HR, and what, or who, should be prioritised going forward. And as with any area of business, there’s the impact of technology and the potential this may unlock as the service continues to transform.

The above aspects are responsible for how the Human Resources function is evolving. At Rise IQ, we’re particularly interested in how wellness in the workplace is shaping the HR function.

We want to know, what can HR do to take more of a lead in the wellness area? What drives expectations around wellness in the workplace?

Human Resources: what’s in a name?

We know that HR functions are responsible for a wide range of activities such as; recruitment, talent and careers, policy, employee relations, compensation and benefits. 

But let’s for a moment take Human Resources at its namesake value, i.e. a “resource for humans”. At the same time, let’s also consider what it means to be “human” in 2020. 

Figures show that since 2004 there has been a rise in young people’s mental health problems. It may not make for particularly positive reading, but we can’t avoid the fact that mental health issues are now a recognised aspect of being “human” in the current day and age. This younger generation will soon make up the future workforce, and so businesses, led by HR, need to be prepared to offer a more personalised, humanised offering to their employees. We think that providing adequate support and care for each employee, whatever their needs, be it physical or mental, is a good place to start. 

Whilst we’re talking about this, you might also say that the experience of being “human” in 2020 for many parts of the world revolves around the intrinsic connection to modern technology: perhaps something else for employers to consider with a potential link to wellbeing – we’ll cover this further down.

Top trends for HR

So what are the trends for HR in this new year? One that’s well worth a read is the 10 HR trends that matter most in 2020. And what’s sitting at number one? “Start With Focusing On Worker Wellbeing”. 

Statistics suggest that we’re moving in the right direction when it comes to wellness in the workplace. Aon’s UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2019 found that 33% of respondents had a specific budget for a health and wellness programme. 19% didn’t have one, but planned to within the next 12-18 months. That does, however, leave 47% which didn’t have a budget available, and didn’t have a plan for one in the near future either. 

Rise IQ 2020

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The ongoing challenge for HR is how they can offer a wellness programme in a way which is practical and also well received by their employees. It’s not, and shouldn’t be something which can be turned into a simple tick box exercise. One example of a different approach is PWC: they’ve introduced a habit bank. Their initiative offers advice on everyday behaviours around physical, emotional, mental and spiritual issues. It certainly covers a lot of ground, and helps emphasise the “human” aspect for each employee, all who possess a complexity of needs which need to be met.

HR to expand further into digital

Evidently there are 3 must-dos for planning your 2020 employee health and wellbeing strategy, HR leaders should:

  • leverage on technology to sustain behaviour change
  • focus on mental health
  • promote zero harm / ensure the working environment is good

Looking at the first point in a little more detail, this article talks about creating a personal experience by leveraging technology. The purpose is to reach across the different types of employee in the workplace: the health strivers (those who have an interest in their health and show up to wellbeing programmes), the health seekers (those who want to be healthy but find that life gets in the way), and the sceptics (those don’t show up to any wellbeing programme). 

It’s safe to say that we’re not looking at a “one size fits all” situation here. Technology needs to create a personalised approach depending on the needs, attitudes and desires of the employee. So whilst typical HR functions are already intertwined with technology via learning portals and managing personal data, perhaps there are also expectations for HR to become more proficient and integrated with the opportunities that digital has to offer.

If we circle back for a moment to Aon’s UK Benefits and Trends Survey 2019, employers were asked: “when communicating with employees, how do you segment your audience?” 53% of respondents said “we don’t segment”.  Only 3% answered “by attitude towards benefits and/ or health and financial wellbeing”. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, so perhaps the answer to the above should be that the expanding role of Human Resources depends on leveraging technology to enable personalised experiences which bring out the “human” in HR.

Adapting HR to suit the Millennial Generation

Let’s talk about expectations a little more. Expectations can come from many different areas, but there’s an undeniable pressure for businesses (and HR in particular) to continually adapt to suit the millennial generation

The more obvious suggestions include, “offer flexibility” and “give career support”, but we were really pleased to see that “support for the mind and body” got a mention. These expectations from an influential generation can put pressure on HR to step up their game when it comes to providing personalised support. At Rise IQ, we think health screenings, wellbeing activities and complementary therapies can all make effective wellness offerings for employees.

Rise IQ Yoga Session

Image by Rui Dias from Pexels

What’s next for HR and wellness?

So, we know that wellness is going to be an important HR trend for 2020, and employers that don’t choose to focus their efforts this way will quickly fall behind. We think HR will need to utilise technology in new and innovative ways to create personal experiences – this is the key way to support wellness in the workplace whilst emphasising the  “human” in Human Resources.

Writer | Sam Colyer
Writer | Sam Colyer
Contributor | Lena Chauhan
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