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Work and the Coronavirus

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Helping people understand how COVID-19 affects work and employment by sharing insights and help from ILR's workplace experts.

Wellness Apps: A COVID Trend or the Future?

woman getting ready to do yoga at home with online application

Jenny Guttman

Over the past couple of years, there has been an increase in focus on the health and wellness space as our society has come to prioritize well-being.  As a result, businesses have had to quickly follow suit by adding programs such as offering healthy food in their cafeterias, incorporating step challenges, changing benefits packages and more. Due to the impact of COVID-19, employee wellbeing is at the forefront of all employers’ minds and they must turn to the digital space to provide the proper resources. This will allow all employees to gain access to the resources they need.

According to Elad Natanson, app usage has surged 40% during the pandemic, reaching an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April 2020. More importantly it’s been estimated that approximately 70% of all health problems can be handled online. With a majority of workers being stuck at home and most businesses being shut down, people are unable to access their wellness providers.  As the data shows, society has turned to apps to try and solve this problem. At the beginning of the pandemic, meditation and mental health apps (i.e. Calm and Headspace) were the most popular wellness app. According to CNBC, first-time downloads of the top 20 mental wellness apps in the U.S. hit four million in April, up about 29% since January. As stay-at-home orders have continued, we are seeing a shift in app popularity to the other seven elements of wellbeing. This includes an increase in the use of fitness apps (i.e. Peloton, MyFitnessPal), financial apps (i.e. Robinhood) and even the Audible app.

What is a business to do to support their employees? Many are reviewing their benefits packages to incorporate telehealth, teletherapy and other online services, as they have never been widely used until now. In fact, providers like Aetna, already have their own app for companies to provide to their employees. In congruence with the wellbeing app trend, most companies’ employee assistance programs are focusing on mental health resources in the digital space. However, in order to truly tend to the needs of all employees during this time and in the future, they must provide a variety of online resources, as there is no “one size fits all” approach. Here lies an opportunity for the business to create an app that includes all seven elements of wellness, rather than only addressing the few that are well known.

As COVID-19 has continued to change how society operates, companies must look to the digital space to ensure their employees are continuing to focus on their wellbeing. There are an infinite amount of resources that correlate with the different facets of well-being. As such, we must turn to and utilize them in this time of crisis. The creation of a holistic app could revolutionize the field and finally meet the needs of an increasingly digital workforce.

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