Global Wellness Institute Roundtable: “Redefining Workplace Wellness” July 2015

10 Ways That Workplace Wellness Must Evolve in the Future

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#6 in Series: Address the Sharpening Age Divide: Both Millennials and Extended-Work-Life Baby Boomers


Much has been written about how millennials and their tech-focused brains/world are redefining work, workplaces and wellness approaches. The roundtable argued that this is not just a splashy news angle but also a powerful truth.

In a nutshell, millennials demand far more work flexibility and simply expect all manner of health and wellbeing. As Dr. Pelletier put it, “Millennial worksites and their idea of ‘wellness’ will look very different. I’m still astounded when I visit Google: This generation is taking us into an expectation of health, and doesn’t find working yourself to death until 10 p.m. a desirable model.”

Joel Bennett, president, Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems, noted that both work structures and wellness programs for millennials need to acknowledge that this “emerging” group, as well as the older “wisdom” group, “represents a real evolution in the human developmental lifecycle as we’ve known it, with emerging adulthood and the aging workforce extending in years. The social fabric of aging is changing such that all age groups will benefit from a total ’we’ in the wellness perspective where all can learn from each other.”

There was agreement that while it is hard to invest in wellness for young people that may only spend one to three years at a company, it’s precisely a healthy-minded work culture that will retain them for years longer than their natural horizon. The conclusion: because of millennials the workplace wellness focus needs to expand beyond healthcare costs to recruitment, motivation, productivity and retention—and you have to give them a real “culture” of health, because they expect it.

At the same time, in most parts of the world, working populations are aging, and Baby Boomers are now extending their work-life long into traditional retirement years. These “seniors,” or workforce “wisdom groups,” also have unique behaviors and needs. For instance, many are part of the remote worker surge, wanting to work at home and not travel into an office.

And as Dondeena Bradley noted, they want to migrate in and out of work, and, “companies need to create new work structures that allow them to be all in, or part time out. And if a company only has face-to-face health support systems, how sustainable is that for this group? And for both the flexibility-demanding millennial and the in-and-out Baby Boomer, if they choose only to work a few hours some weeks, how do you keep them engaged with the work and health-life you’ve established?”

Two very distinct age groups are increasingly mingling in the workforce. And more businesses will need to rethink their one-size-fits-all-ages approach to work structure and wellness.

AuthorBeth McGroarty, Director of Research, GWI