A new year brings new resolve, and wellness is often at the top of the list. The start of 2016 also means an excellent opportunity for employers to support their workers’ wellness goals with the right programs.

 

“Employee health affects organizational health,” writes Kathryn Mayer for BenefitsPro.com. “Simply put, a healthy workforce is in a company’s best interest: it helps productivity, reduces health care costs, and prevents absenteeism.”

 

Just having a program in place won’t necessarily work, though. A recent Towers Watson study “found just one-third of more than 30,000 employees say the well-being initiatives offered by their employers encouraged them to live healthier lifestyles, with 32 percent saying these programs don’t meet their needs,” writes Mark McGraw for Human Resources Executive Online.

 

Mayer suggests polling employees, including managers, to see what kind of programs, exercise and incentives they’re hoping for, then creating a program that reflects an organization’s unique needs. “Remember that not all wellness programs should be the same,” she writes.

 

Lucky for your company, new trends in wellness provide plenty of options. “In 2016, organizations will look for programs that take employee health a step further,” writes James A. Martin for CIO.com. If 2015 was Year of the Wearable, this year will make that trend more social than ever. Employers are now allowing their employees to find support from their significant others by subsidizing family members’ fitness trackers.

 

“Social support is important in getting employees to sign up, participate, and stay motivated, not only during a fitness challenge, but all year long,” Martin writes. Employers will keep workers more engaged with their wearables by offering “enhanced technology, gamification, competitions and other similar ideas.”

 

Other new features might include telephone or live video coaching in order to offer employees a more personalized experience. “Some corporate wellness programs provide employers with aggregated data about employee sleep trends,” Martin writes, “which they can use to help make staff more aware of potential sleep problems and suggest ways to enhance sleep quantity and quality.”

 

As programs improve, so too should incentives. One popular option: combine wellness and charitable giving. “A growing body of research suggests that altruism is an effective, low-cost and meaningful way to reduce stress and improve well-being,” Martin writes, quoting Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp.

 

This approach can increase engagement both within your organization and in your community.

“Expand your company’s wellness culture by supporting community health efforts; participate in local walks and runs; work with nonprofits; work with a local health coalition,” Mayer writes.

But make sure it matches what the employee actually wants. “Incentives can be very influential,” she writes, “and not just any incentive, but strategic incentives.”