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The Year of Anxiety: 2020. Last October, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a study showing a dramatic increase in anxiety among Americans, hitting 62% of all Americans, up from ~35% over years prior. The main causes were their families’ safety (80%), systemic racism (76%), COVID-19 (75%), their health (73%), gun violence (73%), and the looming presidential election (72%). It’s no wonder then that the wellness industry picked up on these sentiments and capitalized on the moment.
Calm and Headspace were both able to reach unicorn status and pen lucrative deals in new arenas. Headspace developed a deal with Netflix to bring its guided meditation know-how to the streaming service with 37 million new subscribers added in all of 2020. The company merged with fellow wellness-tech company Ginger in August of this year in a $3BN deal. Calm reached a $2BN valuation at the end of 2020, a year after the company introduced an enterprise offering for employers to offer teams, a fortuitous new business model.
Image Credit: Meditation House
Spirituality vs. Productivity
The transition of meditation as a tool for personal empowerment to address anxiety, feelings of disconnect, and a desire towards spirituality into one of employee wellness–ahem, productivity– and personal optimization is fully underway. This trend has been coined “McMindfulness” by industry experts. The practice has even been co-opted by the U.S. military to “optimize warrior performance.” Not very zen.
The Mindfulness Bandwagon
Despite misgivings about a corporate takeover of a Buddhist tradition, the benefits are easy to see. Wellness Coach is on a mission to incorporate mindfulness into corporate teams, with coaches available to set the tone in the first five minutes of a company’s all-hands meetings and give tools to employees to think before they react. Simple Habit is an app-only offering to introduce and maintain a consistent meditation practice. Insight Timer began as a guided meditation and timer app and has now spawned an entire industry of wellness professionals sharing live sound healings, yoga classes, EFT tapping sessions, and more. You can even meditate with Gisele Bündchen or Russell Brand.
Is 2021 any better?
Despite resounding calls for the prioritization of mental health, workplace wellness is still struggling. Burnout is still a leading cause of employee resignations and career changes. Two out of three people planning to quit say their employer hasn't followed through on promises to improve employee mental health. According to the APA, low wages are the most common cause for poor mental health and that improving wages, rather than offering a downloadable app, can most significantly improve worker wellbeing.
NYC vs. Bay Area
Watch out Silicon Valley. The Big Apple is taking a bite out of your investments.