2020 Vision: Five predictions for workplace wellbeing in the future

Wellbeing in the workplace became a real trend in the last decade – and it’s not going anywhere in the 2020s. 

But what will workplace wellness look like in the next 10 years? Virgin Pulse asked some experts for their predictions.

Generational expectations

As younger generations start to join the workforce, they bring different expectations with them. Younger workers are more likely to choose their employers based on values, rather than just how much money they’ll make in that role.

Richard Branson says: “Major positive shifts in wellbeing are being driven by a broader desire from businesses to take a stand on what they believe in. Employees, especially younger generations, expect their employers’ values to align with their own. This is moving companies to be braver and more progressive by introducing sustainable policies, increasing flexibility, encouraging volunteering and supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace. Long may it continue.”

Digitisation of wellbeing

As technology changes, it offers the opportunity for wellbeing and health to be tracked more effectively. The last 10 years saw the introduction of wearable technology that helps users to see their health data. David Osborne, CEO of Virgin Pulse predicts that the future will see that streamlined and simplified.

“Many health and wellbeing point solutions will be subsumed into broader, more comprehensive digital platforms as organisations and health plans seek to consolidate, streamline and simplify the sponsor and user experience,” he says.

David Osborne, CEO of Virgin Pulse

Personalisation

“Healthcare providers and individuals will make a dramatic shift toward ‘lifestyle as medicine’ as new technologies enable us to create personalised, preventive treatments for our patients,” Dr David Batman, specialist consultant in occupational medicine, predicts. “New possibilities are now emerging as we bring together novel approaches, such as whole genome sequencing, microbiome analysis, data and informatics, wearable technology and the use of modern social media connections.”

Thanks to these, doctors will be able to identify people who may be at risk of developing an illness before it even starts. This means that preventative steps can be taken to reduce the impact of that illness – or even stop it happening.

Dr Batman adds: “It’s the interconnections between these innovations that are likely to make it possible to move to truly personalised care.

Improved work-life balance

The last 10 years saw many businesses adopting flexible working practices and introducing better parental leave and holiday offerings. 

Professor Sir Cary L Cooper at University of Manchester predicts that this will continue into the 2020s. He says: “2020 will see greater work-life balance for employees, from four day working weeks to employees determining ‘when and where’ they work, unlimited holidays and corporate wellbeing programmes to retain and develop healthier staff.”

Emotional agility skills

“For too long, the essence of what makes humans human – emotions, values, motivation and behaviour at work – have been called ‘soft skills’ and relegated to the sidelines in business,” Dr Susan David, Harvard Medical School psychologist and author of Emotional Agility, says. But, she points out, these are the capacities that drive everything in business from strategy, culture and engagement to leadership, innovation and collaboration. These skills are also important if workplaces are going to be places where mental health can thrive.

She says: “I predict that in 2020, organisations will come to see emotional agility skills as the critical skills they are. There will be a focus on understanding how their absence undermines all aspects of business, and conversely on how to develop and cultivate them for more healthy, sustainable and successful workplaces.”

For more predictions on what workplace wellbeing will look like in 2020 and beyond, download Virgin Pulse’s 2020 Vision eBook.

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