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The Rise of Wellness Apps: Investment in Employee Wellbeing Returns High Dividends

Credit: Headspace

It is no secret that the modern workplace is an environment that is frequently associated with stress. This perception rings particularly true in the world of  finance.

In a 2019 World Finance article, one employee observed ‘there was nobody ever alleviating the pressure from me’. Solutions to this burnout culture have been forged, focusing primarily upon a sustainable work-life balance. Out of a desire to de-escalate these anxieties, there has been a sharp rise in the use of wellness apps since the spring of 2020, which has marked a shift in how employees compartmentalise their working and personal lives.

The rise of wellness app usage suggests a mutually beneficial relationship for both employees and their respective organisations, as data reveals an increase in productivity and overall wellbeing.  

Whilst wellness apps are not a new concept, their increased use can be attributed to the surge in online working that has occurred as a result of the pandemic. Beforehand, wellbeing for employees was typically limited to on-site services such as meditation classes.

Due to the global lockdown that engulfed the world in March 2020, these offerings suddenly became impossible. One of the root issues that took hold of populations was the lack of physical and social interaction caused by the introduction of government guidelines designed to reduce virus transmission.   

Enter the wellness app. It was reported that in April 2020, over 2 million people paid $69.99 for an annual subscription to the mindfulness app Calm. With a deadly virus thriving in public places, employees were forced to resort to a new approach for their wellbeing.

Due to the sudden change in working habits, with most work occurring solely from home, the line between one’s work and personal life became markedly blurred. Therefore, the prominence of wellness apps can be linked to a collective desire to unplug from a world that had suddenly been compressed into the confines of four walls.

As The New York Times Magazine recently reported, for most of the population, ‘where we work, where we socialise, where we relax got squeezed into the same two-dimensional space‘ – specifically, our phone and laptop screens.

Whilst it may appear paradoxical for one to unplug from the world around themselves by using an app, wellness apps such as Calm and Headspace certainly offer a much-needed pause from the constant buzz of daily life that has been amplified during the pandemic.   

Image: Calm

Another reason for the increased demand for wellness apps that have occurred over the past 12 months is the positive effect on employee productivity in the workplace that they have had. Investing in employee wellbeing is crucial for businesses in retaining their best employees.

In 2018, it was reported by Forbes that a disengaged employee can cost employers up to $550 annually per person.

Considering this figure, investment in employee welfare is effective from an individual developmental perspective and an employer’s financial viewpoint. It is a well-known reality that businesses are only as strong as their employees.

Therefore, the promotion of wellbeing facilitates the dual function of maintaining employee development and ensuring success in carrying out business objectives.   

The wellness app Headspace offers various features that improve the mindsets of its users. The app’s main function is the provision of guided meditation through an audio format; this allows users to focus on activities such as using their breathing as an antidote to the frenzy of the modern world.

Organisations that promoted the app amongst their workforces reported less stress, more focus and easier teamwork. After using Headspace for a month, user stress was reduced by 30%, pointing towards successful internal reflection coupled with positive external results in professional work.   

My Fitness Pal is another prominent wellness app. It allows users to track their daily exercise and diet through both manual and automatic input. While some may argue that My Fitness Pal caters more to the category of fitness than wellness, these two aspects are strongly linked to cultivating a healthier mind.

As One Digital has reported, progressive organisations acknowledge the correlation between healthier, happier employees, and increased productivity, engagement, and loyalty’. Therefore, physical activity is also a strong source of overall wellbeing and translates into a better mindset in the workplace.

Business organisations have picked up on the need to invest in employees’ wellbeing, with results displaying a symbiotic relationship between time spent supporting organisational personal development, and increased employee productivity in the workplace.

The rise of wellness apps speaks to a significant sea change in how individuals manage their work-life balance. Buoyed by a rush of downloads during the pandemic, wellness apps have focused individual and company attention on how to best support their talent.

While these apps may not be enough to  abate mental health issues in isolation, usage in conjunction with other methods may be beneficial.

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