More and more, corporations are turning to corporate wellness programs to bring awareness to and support for their employee health needs. The best wellness programs corral everything — the worksite environment, company policies, and leadership’s messaging — into a single mission of improved health.

Lasting health improvements

The most effective wellness programs are comprehensive, flexible, scalable, and strategically tailored to your company’s goals, whether they’re business outcomes, health ones or both. Health outcomes are broad-reaching and could include weight loss, smoking cessation, stress management, and the management of high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia, sleep apnea, anxiety or depression.

The popularity of wellness programs can be attributed to improved health outcomes and lower health care costs. Aside from business gains, workplace satisfaction can increase dramatically, leading to fewer absences and turnover.

Stronger bottom line

A recent report from PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) — Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2017 examined short-term and long-term health care industry trends.

This report discovered that behavioral health care factors more and more into employer health benefits. Although incorporating behavioral health services may raise new costs in the short-term, it would likely deflate costs in the long-term, as behavioral and emotional health is often linked to chronic health issues.

In a study focusing on the impact of workplace wellness programs on employee health, RAND Corporation cited that successful wellness programs have clear messaging from organizational leaders, prioritize wellness within management, approach wellness with a continuous quality improvement attitude and solicit feedback from employees.

So what trends can you expect to see in worksite wellness in 2017? Here’s how corporations are using wellness programs (and this year’s lessons) to promote employee health in the coming year:

1. Place greater emphasis on sleep

As more employers understand the importance of an employee’s entire health, focus falls on disease prevention and wellness interventions. Even though the CDC recommends adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day, they report that over 40 million American adults (30 percent) are only sleeping six or fewer hours a day.

Employers are getting wise to the impact of sleep loss on their business. The short-term effects are damaging to productivity and can affect mood, memory retention and decision-making, as well as increase the risk of occupational injuries. Long-term sleep deprivation can exacerbate health problems like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Wellness programs can encourage better sleep habits through healthy sleep routines, which can have an enormous impact on productivity and overall well-being.

2. Continue to stay on top of wellness regulations

There are a variety of regulations that employers need to be aware of when implementing a wellness program. EEOC regulations go into effect for employers on the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

Additionally, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is crucial. Employers that offer wellness programs that collect employee health information will now be required to inform employees of what information will be collected, how it will be used, who will receive it, and what will be done to keep it confidential.

3. Embrace new technologies

Wellness programs can act as a coordinator in sharing and integrating with other program vendors. There is also a unique opportunity for wellness programs to serve as a sort of “hub” in terms of coordinating health care and access to resources for all your employees.

As more employees work remotely, keeping engagement levels high and the lines of communication open can be a challenge. However, by staying on top of tech trends such as wearables and linking technologies (like video conferencing), interconnectivity can surge.

4. Focus on total well-being, not just physical health

When you talk about saving your company money on health costs, the core of it lies in improving and preventing employee health issues. By understanding the mind-body connection and treating both physical and emotional health, employers can increase productivity and lower health care costs through improved health outcomes.

“Emotional health accounts for $135 billion spent on health care every year,” says Jane Ruppert, Vice President of Health Services at Interactive Health, citing a research report prepared by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “That’s nearly as much as the total spent on heart disease and cancer treatment combined. With 1 in 5 American adults experiencing some emotional health issue — particularly depression — in any given year, corporations should be prioritizing it in their worksites.”

Wellness programs that address both the physical and emotional well-being of employees — the mind-body connection — can provide a means of addressing overall health that is truly holistic. A corporate wellness solution like Interactive Health addresses emotional health using their clinically-based, proven approach in order to foster your employees’ physical and emotional health outcomes.

5. Give back to the community

Wellness programs offer the ability to positively impact your employees, their spouses and their families, as well as the community around them. Offering company-supported wellness programs with activities that serve the community can create an added incentive for your employees to adopt healthy behaviors because the activities benefit more than just the individual. These activities can vary from local cancer and heart charity walks to building community gardens in food deserts.

As millennials join the workforce in increasing numbers, building healthier families and communities has become more popular. When setting up your annual wellness program, employers may consider offering employees an ability to donate their rewards to a local charity.

6. Create a healthy work environment

Getting creative is essential. By focusing continued efforts to create programs within the office environment improve on your actual worksite and the design of the workplace, you may be surprised to discover you have higher rates of employee engagement and healthier behaviors in the office, resulting in improved health outcomes overall.

Some of these efforts can be as simple as eliminating high fat or sugar choices for staff meetings and holiday parties, or as complex as redesigning your office space. Healthy activity can be easily incorporated into your workplace by initiating walking meetings, maintaining good air quality throughout the office, and providing clean staircases with pictures and motivational messaging to encourage employees to take the stairs rather than the elevator.