What will employee wellbeing look like in 2021?

Two colleagues having a discussion across a desk, both wear face masks
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Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
18 December 2020

The events of 2020 have made workplace wellness more important than ever. Many employers worldwide have prioritised the health, wellbeing and safety of their workforce above other business priorities. But what will be the wellbeing priorities in 2021? Virgin Pulse gathered some experts together to make some predictions…

Looking after employees

Richard Branson has often talked about the importance of looking after employees. He thinks that more business leaders will have realised this throughout 2020 and predicts that it will be higher on the agenda in future.

“Dealing with a global health crisis has made employers see even more clearly just how important it is to have healthy employees – and the responsibility they have to look after their people’s wellbeing,” he says. “Digital health is playing a big role in transforming our approach to wellbeing. From live-streamed gym classes to workout apps, activity tracking to sleep monitoring and wellbeing programs like the ones Virgin Pulse create – we have so many tools at our fingertips to help us focus on our wellbeing and to personalise our own health journeys.”

Virgin Pulse homebase
Image from Virgin Pulse

Chronic condition management

COVID-19 has highlighted how having a chronic condition can increase a person’s risk of contracting other illnesses. Virgin Pulse CEO Dave Osborne predicts that many businesses will be looking to support employees to manage and prevent chronic conditions.

“Thanks to recent advances in digital health, employers have the power to provide their high-risk workforce with high-tech and high touch tools, including digital therapeutics and coaching, that will help them make meaningful and impactful changes to their health,” he says. “Making these tools accessible from a central Homebase for Health™ – a unified, highly personalised, integrated digital health experience – will be critical for helping your employees achieve wellbeing success in 2021 and beyond.”

Two women having a meeting wearing masks
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Mental health support

Many people’s mental health has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – seven out of 10 people say that this has been the most stressful year of their working lives. Dr David Batman, who is on the science advisory board at Virgin Pulse, predicts that after many years of limited mental health support and services, 2021 will bring increased availability and use of digital support for mental health.

“We’re seeing increasing levels of psychological distress around the world. The mental health impacts are not just among those most closely affected by COVID-19 but affects everyone with the constant exposure to negative media outputs,” he says. “With the mass adoption of collaboration and video conferencing platforms, people of all ages have become comfortable with the ways that technology can support them. This includes solutions that can help them cope with workplace stress and mental health issues.”

A Black woman holds a Black Lives Matter sign at a protest
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Addressing systemic racism

The Black Lives Matter movement had a profound impact around the world during 2020 and it will likely gain more ground in 2021. Dr Jessica Isom, who joined the Virgin Pulse science advisory board this year, predicts that business leaders will take a more active role in addressing systemic racism in 2021.

“Employers will need to offer resources and spaces to create a shared literacy and attitude on racial inequality so that all leaders and employees can actively engage and enrich the response to racial injustice,” she says. “Organisational leadership can start with recognising and asserting their inclusion within systems that contribute to racial inequities. This is a starting point of opportunity as it positions the leaders and the company to be responsive to racial injustice.”

For more predictions on what employee wellbeing will look like in 2021, download the Virgin Pulse report.

Visit Virgin Pulse to find out more.