The wellness programs of the future will not just be about saving on healthcare premiums. The increased understanding of what drives happiness and productivity is also making employers rethink how they measure program success, as they discover the benefits of an integrated approach to wellbeing.

By Kay Lakhi

If recent trends in the wellness industry are a sign of things to come, then the wellness industry is in for a major overhaul. The days of cookie-cutter programs like health assessments and biometric screenings are over. Going forward, real value to organizations will instead come from programs that are cutting-edge and unique in what they offer. Wearables and mobile technology are already pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved through wellness programs, but innovations that will make a noticeable impact on employee well-being are more rooted in sociology.

Program Design
Employers are taking a more comprehensive approach to employee happiness by catering to the diverse needs of their workforce. From unlimited vacation days to fully-stocked napping rooms, both employers and wellness providers are experimenting with nontraditional, revolutionary programs that focus on increasing an employee's overall wellbeing.

Lunch and learn sessions that provide knowledge and awareness on a wide range of topics including nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress, mindfulness and many others are also becoming a popular option. Wellness programs are beginning to focus on the whole person so employees can find satisfaction with their relationships, finances, physical health, their career and their community. Satisfaction with one's relationships is particularly an area of focus that is expected to significantly impact workforce wellbeing and productivity.

Anchoring the purpose
When individuals discover a deep-rooted purpose for living, they are more likely to take action and find sustained well-being. This is the idea behind designing wellbeing programs that use the power of purpose to motivate employees. Programs that leverage an individual's sense of purpose have been shown to generate better outcomes for participant wellbeing and productivity.

Consequently, seasoned veterans in the industry are already enhancing the lives of the populations they serve by designing programs that will help individuals identify why they want to improve their wellbeing. This unique approach to program design may even render the need for short-term incentives unnecessary by driving individuals to find and sustain motivation from within.

Beyond The Numbers
These emerging trends make it clear that the wellness programs of the future will not just be about saving on healthcare premiums. The increased understanding of what drives happiness and productivity is also making employers rethink how they measure program success. Employers are discovering that the benefits to their organizations by taking an integrated approach to wellbeing are much higher than what the short-term accounting numbers indicate. As a result, they are now looking beyond the numbers and using Value on Investment to assess program effectiveness.

As visionaries and innovators in the industry begin to uncover the enormous potential of these programs, they are fundamentally changing the very ecosystem of businesses. Forward-thinking employers are already investing in revolutionary initiatives that will help their employees do their best work possible for creating strong businesses. It remains to be seen which players will fully embrace the new trends and march forward, and who will be left behind.

Kay Lakhi is a dietitian and entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience in various healthcare settings. She is also the founder, president and CEO of Alyfe Wellbeing Strategies, a corporate wellbeing company located in Lewis Center, Ohio.