It is no secret that COVID-19 has caused profound changes and disruption in all facets of our personal and professional lives, which has obviously been very stressful. And in response to this sense of anxiety, there has been a rapid and extensive shift from the concept of wellness, centered on the individual, to that of wellbeing, a more holistic vision that encompasses different people and sectors of our societies.
This is quite uncharted territory. Although the concept of individual well-being is not entirely new, moving to the sphere of well-being implies a call for the participation of the entire society. Consumers now expect everyone to participate in social welfare—from employers and brands to schools and industries—in short, a drastic change from the reality we were experiencing just a few months ago.
Wellness in the world before COVID-19
The Wellness sector has been growing for some time, as evidenced by the increase in personal health practices, the growing legislative movement around health, the drive towards the destigmatization of mental health problems and the rise of the fitness industries, the spa and self-help.
For example, the number of Americans who practice yoga jumped from 20.4 million in 2012 to 36 million in 2016, and several cities and countries passed tax laws on soft drinks between 2011 and 2018. World Wellness Day was first introduced in 2012 and since then it has been held every year. In more global terms, after growing 12.8% in the last two years, the wellness industry now represents more than 5.3% of the world economy.
The existence of a growing wellness industry would seem to have exempted companies from other sectors for a long time from the obligation to put the well-being of their stakeholders at the center of their activity.“After growing 12.8% in the last two years, the wellness industry now represents more than 5.3% of the world economy”
How COVID-19 changed the rules of the game
As the world grapples with the first such global pandemic in recent history, there is much speculation about what we have learned, what we believe is essential, and what the consequences will be. At the heart of all these arguments is the universal view that the health (and even more so, well-being) of students, parents, children, partners, workers, survivors, and caregivers is absolutely critical to recovery.
If societies, and businesses, are not able to holistically focus on people’s well-being (including physical, emotional and spiritual health), it will be almost impossible to create safety nets that allow citizens to return to work (or to work). any other social sphere) and be productive.
Governments are taking responsibility for putting in place programs to support the well-being of citizens, but all aspects of the private sector are also expected to contribute to these efforts.
Well-being has really become something:
- Multistakeholder, where employees, and not just consumers, are at the center.
- Multisectoral, which affects all sectors and brands, whatever the products or services they offer.
- Multidimensional, which is why we have gone from talking about wellness to talking about wellbeing, which encompasses dimensions such as mental and financial, among others.
“If societies, and companies, are not able to focus holistically on the well-being of people, it will be almost impossible to create safety nets that allow citizens to return to work”
This new and broad approach to wellness has caused people’s expectations to change rapidly. Now, it is expected that companies (whether or not they belong to this sector of thehealth) position themselves on issues related to well-being that affect all their stakeholders, placing both their employees and consumers at the center.
But the vision of what this “wellness” society should promote has also changed, from merely considering the physical (providing tissues in public spaces, allowing sick leave or encouraging eye care) to being a holistic concept. encompasses physical, mental and emotional well-being.
These “beyond physical” areas of health can be broken down into several key categories:
- Social: develop a sense of connection, belonging and solidarity with other individuals in the community.
- Spiritual: find meaning in life’s actions, demonstrate that one has an individual purpose and that the life one lives reflects one’s values and beliefs (discovering a sense of purpose).
- Environmental: maintain good health by occupying environments that are pleasant and stimulating, that support health from the outside in.
- Emotional: Effectively coping with the stress of the pandemic, maintaining a good work-life balance, and maintaining satisfying relationships (while displaying a positive attitude).
But the pandemic has done more than accelerate trends in well-being, it has created new ones or drastically changed existing ones, both in terms of scope, action or public, to the point of being more useful to talk about them like new.
We have to be aware of these changes if we want to address health in our own local realities:
Although there was already a trend around strengthening our immune system and avoiding disease has always been something important, it has never been a global concern until now.
Health as an aspect of corporate responsibility. In this context, health has gone from being an individual responsibility to something that companies must assume, not only because society demands it but also because of legislation. The obligation to use masks, gloves and the application of other protection measures arose practically overnight and have come to stay, at least for now.
Anxiety and fear
Beyond the direct effects of the pandemic, it has also generated a climate of intense anxiety and concern about well-being in a series of aspects: health, financial, etc.
Changes in lifestyles
Health-focused lifestyles are not a new concept, but the pandemic has changed those who adopt them. Many people have introduced new patterns or habits in their lives and now worry about what they eat, how they interact and how they spend their time, among other things. It is due, in part, to the long confinement and, in part, to the response to health security and the climate of anxiety and fear.
When the physical world was confined, society began to occupy the digital space. It was one of the most prominent responses to the restrictions on physical contact and the fear of the spread of contagion.
To the extent that people have been forced to isolate themselves and maintain a social distance, there has been a greater individualization of certain habits that were previously considered social customs.“The pandemic has done more than accelerate well-being trends, it has created new ones or drastically changed existing ones”
Incorporate wellness into your brand (and communicate it)
The vast majority of consumers around the world trust the private sector more than any other institution, including the media, governments, and NGOs. This fact offers a unique opportunity for brands to go beyond storytelling and enter storydoing, or what amounts to the same thing, to actively communicate the initiatives they undertake based on what is most important to their local communities by adopting a multi-stakeholder.
With this in mind, now more than ever every company in every industry needs an inspiring story that transcends their own products and services. It should be a priority in all areas, not just traditional health-focused businesses: nutrition, tourism, personal care, beauty and fitness. Whether your business is focused on health or an entirely new field, brands need inspiring stories backed by actions that can build trust.
First, however, we need to consider some of the main areas of wellbeing that have been most important to stakeholders during this turbulent period. Although this has many facets – including food, nutrition and personal care – some apply with a broader scope to brands, for example: Mental health. Although often thought of as an individual thing, collective mental health is also extremely important and the pandemic has made our world a fertile ground for disorders such as anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress.
An area intrinsically associated with traditional business, the available environment has changed rapidly in less than a year. The increase in teleworking and the need to guarantee the security has changed the face of business, leaving open questions about what the “new normal” will look like in these spaces where people spend so much time. Even the places that have kept their doors open have undergone big changes, some of which only highlight the differences between our world today and what normal life used to be. Finding a “space” has become increasingly difficult.
This important process is about how we are to reacclimate to living and working together after (or during, depending on the location and pattern of the outbreak of the pandemic) this period of social distancing. Many people yearn for community and creating this feeling from a distance is not easy.
It has never been more urgent that we find ways to unplug, especially when so many are working from home. Consumers and employees alike are demanding that companies help raise awareness of the effects and risks associated with hyperconnectivity, something that COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated.
But if society expects brands to contribute to well-being and play an active role in supporting their stakeholders along these axes, the next question is “How?” Some of these questions are straightforward, for example, the necessary physical security concerns are well covered by governments around the world, while others are more difficult to understand.
Here are some of the steps that should be considered:
Step 1: Make Sure You Have a Good Story
It’s time to communicate beyond our typical products and services. Consumers and other stakeholders expect more from businesses, so it’s important to spend time building an inspiring wellness narrative.
In this sense, it has never been so important to adopt a human and personal approach. Society demands empathy and authenticity in communications, so finding ways to organically incorporate and address some of these issues will help you incorporate wellness into your brand image.
Step 2: Connect with stakeholders
It’s nothing new that your stakeholders are constantly engaging in conversations, but what’s becoming more and more important is connecting with them and engaging. This involvement will not only help build relationships with the brand, but also give you a better understanding of what your priorities and concerns are in terms of your own well-being.Once you know what matters most to them, you can be smart about incorporating wellness into your brand promise.
Step 3: Build content with a clear purpose
Although timeless content is an important element of any strategy, the extreme times we have lived through demand content with a purpose focused on how it can help stakeholders. During this stressful pandemic, people have naturally tended towards what can provide comfort, stability and security, in other words, to everything that improves their well-being.
Develop content tailored to the needs of your stakeholders to achieve this goal to help cultivate brand loyalty and produce content that creates an impact, linking your brand to all the important wellness concepts.
Step 4: Grow your community and build trust
Trust is essential and brand ambassadors have always been important in cultivating it among stakeholders, and the pandemic has only emphasized this reality. Now, the network of brand ambassadors, including your employees and customers, is key for your brand to incorporate the concept of well-being and manage to weather this storm.
After all, it’s important for stakeholders to feel that your brand does, in fact, have their well-being in mind, whether you do so explicitly or implicitly. Your story (what you say) will go a long way in reaching these groups, but it is your actions (what you do) that will turn stakeholders into ambassadors. To achieve this in today’s world, your brand must show that you have a focus on wellness.
Making sure stakeholders know that the brand cares about their well-being and listens to their needs is just as key as taking action to show it. The brands that are able to put well-being at the center of their activity and not just use it as another communication territory, will be better prepared to stand out in an uncertain context plagued by challenges such as the one we are experiencing.