Your Next Corporate Benefit: Yoga Classes

Forget the traditional perks. Companies are going all-in on offering a full range of wellness programs.

It’s been a great year at Company X, and already there are rumors it’s preparing to offer workers a host of new benefits. Will it be more vacations days? Changes in retirement plans? Actually, it might be stress reduction programs.

According to a recent joint study by Korn Ferry and the human resources organization WorldatWork, companies are going all-in to help workers lead healthier—and presumably longer—lives. Two out of three employers offer stress reduction programs that include yoga and massage, a jump from just over half in the year before. Telemedicine is making huge inroads, too: Three-quarters of those companies offer the service, allowing workers to access healthcare professionals by phone.

According to Korn Ferry senior principal Robert Swatland, the new emphasis reflects today’s changing, fast-paced workforce, which has become well aware of the effects of job pressure. “Companies are trying to keep up the pace and offer health plans suited for the hyper-connected, lightning-quick pace of today’s global workforce,” he says. And this shift appears to be the preferance. "it isn’t always the high-cost things that are valued. It is often these new benefits."

From the healthcare industry’s perspective, the changes reflect an even broader move to revamp its entire approach toward medicine and coverage. “Every health plan has moved away from calling itself health insurance; they are now ‘health and well-being’ plans and are trying to look at the holistic picture of the members,” says Heidi Leeds, global sector leader for health insurance at Korn Ferry. The move toward a holistic, complete look at health helps explain the inclusion of yoga, as well as other things such as weight management, and lactation support for mothers, both of which are offered at seven in 10 firms. Four-fifths of firms now have a 24-hour nurse hotline, and two-thirds of those will give you nutrition advice.

But advances in technology also go a long way to explain other changes in how healthcare is provided. “I think that technology will truly revolutionize healthcare going forward,” says Leeds. For example, younger employees are already used to the concept of therapy sessions over a smartphone, explains Leeds. The idea that other services may be provided via a screen isn’t such a jump, at least for younger patients.

The trick now, of course, is to make sure workers of all ages take advantage of the wellness offerings and technology. In some cases, the approach may require some tweaking, experts say. But in whatever form, healthy offerings appear to be the benefit of the moment. “With a tight labor market and fierce competition for qualified talent, organizations are becoming more creative in offering unique health and wellness benefits to help them enhance talent attraction and retention efforts,” says Alison Avalos, director of research and certification for WorldatWork.