As we move into 2024, one topic is not shifting from our radar and that is wellbeing. Whilst leaders grapple with the challenges posed by the ‘Great Resignation’ and a fiercely competitive talent market, wellbeing is consistently emerging as a top priority for organisations.
The really exciting news is that we have seen massive progress in recent years that suggests the wellbeing movement is primed to reach far beyond the surface-level initiatives of the past, into the holistic, proactive and revolutionary movement that we desperately need it to be.
In this article, we delve into five key wellbeing trends that will be steering the ship on business wellbeing in 2024.
1. Leadership and wellbeing
The link between employee wellbeing and leadership practices is undeniable. In 2024, more businesses will be placing a robust emphasis on developing leaders equipped with high emotional intelligence and empathy. Leaders who prioritise their own wellbeing and model healthy work habits create a positive ripple effect throughout the organisation.
Leadership development programmes have evolved to include components focused on stress management, effective communication, and the creation of a supportive work culture. The recognition is that leaders who understand and prioritise the wellbeing of their teams are better equipped to navigate challenges, foster collaboration, and ultimately drive success.
In essence, the wellbeing of employees is profoundly influenced by the actions and attitudes of organisational leaders. A culture that values the wellbeing of its workforce begins at the top, with leaders serving as exemplars of positive work habits. This approach creates a cultural shift where wellbeing is not perceived as an isolated initiative but as an integral part of the organisational fabric.
2. Burnout prevention
Wellness programmes are beginning to transcend their traditional moulds — no longer confined to gym memberships and sporadic health challenges. In 2024, businesses are embracing holistic approaches to employee wellbeing, recognising that a healthy workforce is inherently more productive. These comprehensive programmes now encompass physical, mental, and emotional dimensions, fostering a sense of overall wellness.
One of the main contributors to this trend is the shift from reactive wellness benefits to proactive prevention strategies. A healthy workforce is not merely a result of providing employees with an array of wellness benefits, but rather of creating a work environment that minimises cause from the outset. Employees are urging organisations to build a foundation where they don’t find themselves working in overwhelmingly stressful conditions, inauthentic cultures, or ineffective teams.
Countless preventative measures can be integrated into workplace culture. To name a few:
- Properly training and developing managers to be effective human leaders
- Actively teaching employees about personal wellbeing, rather than offering surface-level ‘cures’
- Prioritising connection and belonging
- Creating a safe and honest feedback culture
- Addressing issues in the DE&I space
- Improving company processes such as running more effective meetings, in order to relieve workplace stress
Managers play a pivotal role in the prevention narrative. Leaders who learn to have coaching-style conversations with team members will be far more able to gauge their wellbeing levels. They can then become the first line of defence in recognising when an employee might be struggling and can take immediate action to support them before burnout occurs.
3. Flexibility and work-life balance
According to research conducted by Trajectory, a significant 54% of people working from home express plans for more free time in the future. Google search trends show us that job seekers are increasingly seeking employment that aligns with their individual circumstances, whether it be a flexible work schedule, remote working options, or the ability to tailor their work based on personal needs.
The remote work revolution, once considered a temporary response to global upheavals, has now solidified into a strategic shift in the world of work. Remote work and hybrid has become a deliberate choice to enhance employee wellbeing and increase flexibility and autonomy for employees. This shift is driven not only by the pursuit of a better work-life balance but also by the discernible positive impact on productivity.
Research shows that remote workers often experience lower stress levels and improved mental health, contributing significantly to an overarching sense of wellbeing. Looking ahead, businesses are poised to invest in cutting-edge technologies that facilitate seamless remote collaboration, ensuring that the benefits of remote work are optimised without compromising team cohesion. The traditional dichotomy between work and life is gradually giving way to a more fluid concept: work-life integration.
Furthermore, companies now recognise that employees are not just labourers; they are unique individuals with personal lives, passions, and interests – and embracing this is key to performance. In 2024, businesses who actively encourage employees to pursue their hobbies and personal development outside of work, will reap the benefits of increased wellbeing, leading to higher performance.
4. Belonging and connection
While technological advancements have ostensibly made it easier for us to connect, the paradoxical rise of global loneliness has elevated this issue to a critical health concern. It is estimated to cost UK employers a staggering £2.5 billion annually. This crisis perpetuates a shift in the way people are perceiving connections at work – and highlights a desperate need for a deeper sense of belonging for many people.
In the pursuit of authentic connection, employees are looking for workplaces where they feel like they truly belong, which is becoming more and more difficult with the rise of remote working. This is especially key for graduates and early-in-career talent, who have not experienced the decades of going into a bustling office daily, that many more senior figures have. Figuring out how to balance these two needs (flexibility and connection), will be a key wellbeing focus for businesses in 2024.
Beyond the confines of the workplace, there has been a notable rise in the popularity of ‘third place’ environments – spaces neither home nor workplace – designed to bring people together. This trend is especially pronounced in mental health and wellbeing, as evidenced by the increasing searches for initiatives like ‘Andy’s Man Club.’ These spaces foster a sense of community and connection, addressing the growing need for authentic human interaction. The rise of such environments highlights how prevalent this issue is and business leaders would do well to follow suit, by being strategic in their efforts to generate genuine connection and belonging in their organisations.
5. Inclusive and multi-generational wellbeing
A big cornerstone of workplace wellbeing in 2024 is the emphasis on DEI. A workplace that genuinely values diversity fosters a profound sense of belonging and psychological safety — essential components of overall wellbeing. Recognising this, businesses are prioritising inclusive policies and practices more and more.
In the current landscape, companies are actively working towards creating cultures that celebrate differences and ensure equal opportunities for all employees. DEI initiatives have transcended above compliance requirements, aiming to create environments where employees feel genuinely heard, respected, and valued. This emphasis on individual contributions not only enhances wellbeing but also fuels innovation and creativity.
In the past, there has been a pervasive tendency among leaders to treat DEI and wellbeing as separate initiatives. Despite their intrinsic connection, many leaders attempt to improve one without considering the other, potentially undermining both efforts. In reality, organisations need wellbeing strategies that are not only equitable but also inclusive of diverse employees. Simultaneously, comprehensive DEI initiatives are essential to deliver a consistent employee experience for everyone.
Furthermore, a nuanced approach acknowledges that diverse employees’ experiences and needs related to wellbeing can vary significantly. Without addressing these diverse needs, employees cannot perform at their best.
For example, generational awareness is a critical component of an inclusive wellbeing strategy. A one-size-fits-all approach will fall short of achieving workplace wellness because each generation possesses unique values and priorities.
The current workforce is composed of five different generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Understanding and respecting these generational differences is key to ensuring effective wellbeing efforts. For instance, Baby Boomers may prioritize health insurance and a robust retirement plan, while Gen X focuses on salary. Millennials and Gen Z, on the other hand, appreciate more in-person connection, and mental health awareness. Acknowledging these generational nuances is paramount, as they significantly impact employees’ experiences in the workplace. Consequently, organisations must adopt varied and adaptable approaches to wellbeing to accommodate the diverse values and priorities across different generations.
Our wellbeing wish: get deeper
There is one wellbeing theme that didn’t make the list. Not because it isn’t important (in fact, it might be the most important), but because we haven’t seen enough people talking about it to make it a trend… yet. But we’re holding out hope for 2024, because this is key.
Our personal, Ivy House wellbeing trend of 2024 is this: get deeper.
For too long, organisational wellbeing has been surface level at best, and completely ineffectual at worst. It has been an afterthought, a nice-to-have. But wellbeing is what drives performance, creates culture, and generates results. It is fundamental to building a healthy, thriving workforce, capable of navigating a changing landscape and overcoming organisational challenges.
And for that to happen, it needs to go deeper. We need to teach employees and leaders how to truly get proactive about their own wellbeing, how to have the right conversations, and how to re-programme their own belief systems for success. And that requires behavioural change, a critical element that is often missed off any wellbeing — or indeed any — development programme. It needs to become an essential piece of the development puzzle, allowing individuals to reach their wellbeing goals – and consequently, allowing you to reach your business goals.
The trends outlined in this article collectively paint a picture of the direction in which wellbeing is moving. It is becoming more systematic, more holistic, and more interconnected with other organisation initiatives. Businesses that wholeheartedly embrace these trends are not only investing in the wellbeing of their workforce but are also future-proofing their organisations.
Success in the corporate world is no longer tethered solely to financial metrics; it extends to encompass the effectiveness, health and happiness of the workforce. In 2024 and beyond, a holistic approach to employee wellbeing will become a strategic imperative for thriving in the modern business landscape.
If you want to know more about how to create an uplift in your organisation’s wellbeing, join us on January 25th when our Founder, Elke Edwards, will be in conversation with wellbeing experts, discussing exactly that.