Nowadays, faced with the current lockdown and slowly coming out of it, it is time for us to sit and reflect on what has happened, the wisdom and legacy the pandemic left for us, and the evolution of our lives going forward. Undoubtedly, we have learned many lessons from being forced into a new normality and having to live our lives 90 per cent indoors.
Contemplating the economic development and progression of the new normal, we clearly can define two aspects: short-term and all the measures related to safety, security and precautions and long-term and all the implementations of disease prevention and enhanced well-being with the related health insurance and financial profits. Both of these aspects have marked how we live our lives, do our business interactions, and further develop the economy.
What is wellness and wellness economy?
As per the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), wellness is the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to holistic health.
Here, it is essential to understand that to be well; we need to seek and actively engage in activities and services associated with health and wellbeing. It is also necessary to go beyond physical health and venture into the dimensions of wellness, such as feeling, thinking, working, and finding meaning.
We should not confuse wellness with health and happiness. Instead, talk about wellness as something we constantly work on to improve as individuals and on social-economic and global levels.
The wellness economy is a widespread global industry, estimated by the GWI as $4.2 trillion, representing roughly 5.3% of global economic output in 2017. Wellness is now over half the size of global health expenditures, estimated at $7.3 trillion in 2015. As an industry, wellness is a significant force in the global economy – close in size to the information and communications technology (ICT) industry and larger than the sports, pharmaceuticals, travel and tourism industries.
Despite those statistics, governments, corporations and businesses still don’t pay much attention to wellness, which is more likely to change in the coming years following the outbreak of the COVID pandemic.
Back-to-business lifestyle slowly unveils a new standard environment, and we unavoidably are already witnessing an adaptation of it to a required wellness concept being implemented into all four dimensions in business people, products, places, and profits.
The currency of wellness is a connection to Dr Travis
Safety and Health
As Dr. Travis rightly said, we need to connect to receive wellness, and now, more than ever, connection is deeply needed. However, safety is a vital prerequisite to having a healthy connection. All the safety measures for precaution and prevention, such as social distancing, low touch procedures, and disinfection policies at the office or leisure, are already guiding our lives. As per Google Analytics, searches for health and wellness-related subjects increased exponentially, with top searches related to immunity, self-awareness, mental health, mindfulness, etc.
When the employees return to the business, they will feel the same way they did on their first day at school, with all those new procedures and information. As leaders of any business, we must ensure that all will be built around not only the old necessary health and safety standards but, beyond that, looking into expanded wellness options such as biophilic design, healthy co-working spaces and corporate wellness activities and services.
Education and Health Promotion
Lifestyle Health has become a new consciousness for every winning business corporation. Similarly to the corporate immune system, we need to now look into building and boosting the immune systems of our employees and co-workers. There are already plenty of major players in the market offering healthy immune-building corporate solutions such as Organic Foods and Supplements deliveries, wellness seminars and sessions as a part of insurance or corporate health awareness packages, worksite cafeteria meal design, creation of active spaces to workout and move, on-site organic markets etc.
Connection – Wellness Community
The virus brought the world together, so we learned how to coexist and take better care of each other and our environment.
Many companies are starting to organize weekly or monthly wellness coaching sessions for their employees as part of an existing lifestyle hub or in collaboration with third-party providers such as wellness and fitness clubs and centres with various options to train and learn on-site or at third-party venues. Examples are gym memberships offered as incentives, as part of the employment package, or various reduced-rate options at contracted health stores and wellness providers.
COVID has also shed light on our values (family, human values, work-life balance) and helped us become a better and more humane version of ourselves. That will be reflected in the day-to-day interactions within the office hierarchy, where empathy and concern will be considered better leadership qualities versus the old-school tough and emotionless working environment.
Now more than ever, coming out of a complete lockdown, the business needs to incorporate a wellness concept into its working spaces. The wellness lifestyle is not a new concept and has already developed over the last 20 years, with the significant demand being in predominantly luxury lifestyle residential communities.
Along with the automated procedures in the office, taking care of daily self-cleaning and disinfecting in demand now necessitates a healthy work environment. We realise that we have turned into indoor species as nowadays life happens inside our homes, offices, schools, hotels or restaurants. That makes all the accountable businesses take care of the clean air we breathe, the surface we touch, how we socialize and communicate, and being mindful of our immune system.
Programs such as the WELL Health-Safety and assessments from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) focus on strategies to protect people in a post-COVID environment. That measures how well the working spaces and the building are maintained, focusing on the health of the people inside them.
Responsible companies already started implementing design interventions such as improved air filtration and ventilation systems to reduce the concentration of airborne viruses. Systems such as air purifiers and dehumidifiers are vital to the healthy environment in every office building.
Another crucial aspect to look at is the implementation of circadian lighting to help promote better brain productivity and focus during office hours, working along with the natural biorhythm and brain cellular health rather than against it.
With the quality of well-being in mind, businesses need to consider accessories to be implemented, such as pollution-absorbing uniforms and enhancing the indoor environment through biophilic design systems mimicking nature that is proven for an optimal attention span and mental concentration.
Conscious purchasing and sustainability will be the norm from now. From an existential perspective, we are now more alert about our and our family’s and community’s health and wellness than ever before.
As the crisis plunged the world into recession, businesses needed to make more sustainably conscious decisions. According to a recent study and survey, as a result of the COVID-19 experiences, consumers are more likely to buy environmentally friendly products. At the same time, the pandemic made buyers much more price-sensitive, focusing many businesses on everything to cut costs. Prioritizing sustainable products can enable companies to fight the crisis and recover faster. According to another global survey, more companies and consumers are purchasing environmentally friendly brands to help provide fair labour conditions and do good for nature, which will be a guiding motive following the pandemic. Another survey shows people do consider governments and businesses responsible for encouraging and sourcing the needed sustainably-conscious brands every year, with an estimated rise of that decision for the years ahead. Over 40 % of the survey showed businesses vote for altogether avoiding plastics.
Despite all of those positive indicators at this point, unfortunately, sustainability is still considered more of an appreciated bonus rather than a driving factor for purchasing. This is due to the dichotomy in consumer behaviours caring about ecology but predominately about functional features and price. However, the silver lining here for businesses will be to innovate and create sustainable products superior to the unsustainable alternatives, improve the operational benefits and show the profitability of using these products. Such good examples already existing in the businesses are paying a returnable deposit for sustainable packaging, for example, amenities such as shampoo, mouthwash, and beverage bottles, working with recycling plastics where possible and launching a reward scheme where incentives are given for returned used items. Other specific positive examples are fair-trade labelled food brands as well as the hotel and vacation homes green initiative for re-usage of the guests’ towels, which has become a standard now.
The wellness movement now has embraced a greater mission. The long-led battle between medical and pharmaceutical industries against wellness and prevention brings them finally closer together. That means both wellness and prevention are part of the healthcare industry’s significant daily decisions.
Big insurance companies will bring together the medical-wellness polarity to enter into the prevention field and reduce costs, which will change businesses, society, and generations ahead.
Health and wellness tracking and monitoring is growing exponentially not only in daily life but more and more used in the corporate world related to employee wellbeing. Digital wellness is a key to superior employee and customer experience. For example, aeroplanes and social building spaces incorporate heat-seeking technologies to measure the temperature with a single shot. We have witnessed that manufacturing, supply chain, and operations are becoming more competitive, robust and resilient through digital transformation. The pandemic has shown that our current supply chain and operations systems are failing, and we need to implement more adaptable and agile online solutions that will help us move into action quickly when the next crisis comes.
Digital wellness reflects the way that workplaces and employees create healthy relationships between each other and the workforce technology. The data gathered from the wearables and health apps can help a company create a wellness program for business consumers and employees, and the numbers help them identify the return on their investments. Nowadays, employees expect to see and control when, how and where they work, along with flexible working hours. Businesses need to integrate innovative technologies into their people-centric experiences and easy-to-work-with technology that improves productivity and increases work-life balance.
Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, and all the positive habits in one wellness dimension will affect all the rest. For example, if we sleep better, our productivity will increase, and if we find meaning in what we do, we will be more creative, resourceful and efficient. Such transformations would not only increasingly benefit the workplace culture and the overall health of the working environment but also result in the growth of profitability and returns for the company and all the stakeholders. Compared to the typical healthcare system, the difference is that companies will be proactive in boosting health and vitality rather than losing money on insurance and people’s absenteeism. According to the GWI, the global wellness market grew 10.6 per cent to USD 3.72 trillion from 2013 to 2015, while the global economy shrank 3.6 per cent over the same period and continues to grow.
The number one spending in the world’s top “wellness nation” America, shows that most of the money is spent on spas, workplace wellness, wellness tourism and real estate.
Among the top factors contributing to the growth of investment in wellness are the consumer interest to improve health driven by ageing, rising global epidemics and stress, and willingness to improve their quality of life. All industry insiders believe a shift in making wellness available to the large public is crucial and inevitable. Examples include massage treatments starting as low as USD 40-50, fitness programs of body transformations and virtual gyms being offered at very affordable monthly subscriptions as well as many wellness and organic ripe-markets becoming day-to-day popular and inexpensive solutions for every buyer are few of the winning cases to make wellness affordable to the masses.
As per the World Economic Forum, businesses prioritising their return to work strategies and changing how they operate will outpace their peers. Organizations should focus on protecting their employees’ health and well-being first while continuing their operations.
To achieve those goals, companies must prioritize the health and well-being of the team members at every step. Planning to return on-site with evaluation on health assessments, flexible hours and easy-to-work processes, continuous education and team preparation, and empathetic communication with transparent and frequent feedback are just a few tools of the wellness inventory on workplace wellness. As soon as businesses realize that their teams are better prepared for the changing digital and onsite workplace and become people rather than profit-centric, this will help them achieve organizational goals around sustainability, diversity, innovation and profits.