The corporate wellness trends you need to be aware of in 2024 – and how to use them effectively

Workplace wellness is big business these days, but it can be hard to know how to look after the physical and mental health of our employees. It’s essential to not just jump on the bandwagon of corporate wellness trends, but know which ones to prioritize how to support individuals in your organization with a variety of needs.

Here are six ways you can improve workplace wellness in your business and help maintain good employee health in all its facets.

Focus on workplace wellness in a challenging world

The last few years have brought with them numerous challenges – the pandemic, war, cost of living crises – which will be having an impact on the wellbeing of employees. According to a study from PwC, more than half (53%) of all employees are worried about increasing expenses, while nearly six in ten say compensation and salaries aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. It’s essential that businesses look at the broader landscape in which their staff are operating and consider how their corporate wellness programs can support them. This can include counseling, financial wellness strategies, flexible working, and creating psychologically safe spaces where employees feel comfortable discussing any challenges they may be facing – including getting mental health support. A focus on resiliency and a sense of belonging will be essential. Businesses are increasingly providing continuous learning opportunities, aiding their employees in adapting to change, acquiring new skills, and staying up to date in their fields. This approach not only improves job satisfaction but also fosters mental resilience, equipping employees to effectively tackle upcoming challenges.

Prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion

The world is not equal, and this is true when it comes to mental health. According to Mental Health America Black adults are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than White adults. Yet there is also a level of underreporting. Those from racial minorities are less likely to be diagnosed with mental ill health due to not coming forward, yet are more likely to be disabled by it. In All Worked Up we found that almost half of all working men screened positive for symptoms of depression versus one-third of women (34%) (scoring 3+ on the PHQ-2 test). Being on a low income is highly correlated with poor mental health. Poverty can both exacerbate mental health problems, and mental health problems can make it harder to work. What this means for employers is that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. It’s essential that your workplace wellness and employee assistance programs are flexible enough to cater for a variety of needs and personal lives. 

Help employees adjust to changing workplaces

The workplace is in flux. We’ve seen numerous lay offs across industries. Whilst there’s pressure in some quarters to return to the office, hybrid working is now the norm and remote employees are growing. Prioritizing work-life balance through flexible working schedules, sabbaticals, and policies that support personal time and family commitments is crucial. Recognizing that rest and disengagement from work are essential for employee well-being is a key aspect of this approach. This focus acknowledges the importance of personal health and family life in maintaining a productive and satisfied workforce.

These adjustments can take time. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that the number of employees who feel lonely at work has risen from 33% in 2022 to 38% in late 2023. Finding ways to keep remote workers engaged and included is key to not only collaboration and productivity, but employee wellness.

The trend of quiet quitting we saw in 2022 and 2023 was marked by employees setting firm boundaries to protect their work-life balance. But now we’re seeing quiet thriving, when employers and employees find strategies that empower individuals to succeed, preventing stress and burnout in the overall employee experience.

At the same time we have employees asking “will AI take my job?” and panicking about new technologies that they have to adopt that may disrupt their working practices. Essential skills for thriving in this era, such as a growth mindset, a positive attitude, self-awareness, and solid decision-making abilities, will be increasingly important and interpersonal skills typically employed in human interactions will become even more crucial to maximise the benefits of this emerging technology. It’s essential to provide reassurance, training and support to ensure that people feel well equipped rather than threatened by changing workplaces.

Whilst digital tools obviously have their place, all this screen time can be taking its toll. There are sometimes deadlines or crises, but more often than not it’s about having firm boundaries. Let employees know that they don’t have to be available in evenings, and don’t make it mandatory to check emails whilst on vacation. Having work life balance is important for mental health, and helps ensure that employees don’t burn out. Research included in the Employee Mental Health Report shows that 75% employees reported low to moderate energy on average throughout the day. Adequate rest and rejuvenation that comes from exercise, socializing and down time will help ensure your employees can be their best selves at work, all helping to improve productivity and stress levels. 

Ask yourselves questions as a business

Employees spend the vast majority of waking hours at work – yet it’s not always good for their health. Workplace psychosocial factors carry with them mental health risks. The American Psychological Association published a report that found nearly 25% of employees believe that their workplace is toxic—and of those workers, more than half experienced harm to their mental health as a result. Unmanageable workloads and unrealistic deadlines cause stress and burnout. Shift work and remote locations can lead to social isolation. The pressure to get ahead can add a burden of worry. Time out from the workforce due to sickness and ill health can be difficult to manage, and returning hard. And workplace bullying and exposure to trauma can trigger significantly challenging responses that are hard to overcome. Whilst it’s essential to give personalized employee wellness support, it’s also key to look at your workplace and ask yourself if the environment you are providing is setting people up for success, or causing stress and worry.

It’s not that businesses don’t care. Organizations recognize that there is an issue and companies are, in fact, spending a lot of money on employee wellbeing. Sadly, this is often without meaningful measurement and understanding. Aside from reporting uptake, which is typically in the single percentages, employers have no real insight into whether their investments are having the desired impact on their teams.  Deloitte has measured wellbeing on employers behalf and discovered that, on the whole, employee mental health initiatives aren’t working. Without measurement, all these initiatives are done on the whim of the well-meaning, but go unproven, waiting for inevitable budget cuts. Cuts that will impact the wellbeing of employees everywhere.

At Wysa we offer a free Employee Health Barometer screening tool that can help you find out the biggest issues in your organization, and put in place tailored and evidence based strategies to help individuals. You can also use focus groups to try to understand more about what people want, and help you take steps in proactively addressing the mental wellbeing of employees and help them have a holistically healthier lifestyle. Employee Resource Groups are pivotal in helping employees participate actively in the organization’s approach and helping employees feel supported.

Prioritize holistic approaches to employee wellness

Holistic wellness programs consider every aspect of an employee’s wellbeing. Physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing are all growing in prominence as employers seek to ensure that their workers are thriving in all areas of life – and recognize the value that this brings to their business and the role it plays in employee engagement.

This might include fitness classes, workplace walks and talks, healthy potluck lunches, virtual meditation, educational webinars and more. Work with employee assistance programs who can offer a wraparound support service to keep employee wellness always top of the agenda.

Use AI for mental health and to prevent crises

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing employee wellness across the board by offering personalized recommendations based on individual health data and feedback. Wysa’s comprehensive offering includes CBT, sleep packages, stress management techniques, emotional health support, and more. But it goes further than being another one of many workplace wellness initiatives and features crisis escalation with SOS features triggered through real time AI conversation analysis, clinical screenings, mood tracking, or an SOS button, removing the need for managerial intervention. Too often intervention comes too late. In All Worked Up we found that four in ten employees with clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and/or depression didn’t think their symptoms were serious enough. Preventive health measures like regular health screenings, activities and education can help make workplace wellness something that is front of mind all the time, rather than in crisis mode. One huge benefit of Wysa is that it takes away the need for people to understand it is time to get professional help, mitigating the risk of a crisis. When either the AI or user detects a crisis, individuals can be directed to counselors, crisis helplines, personal safety plans and grounding exercises to de-escalate the situation.

We also know that AI can engage employees in ways that many traditional corporate wellness programs can’t. Wysa’s AI is clinically proven to create a therapeutic alliance equivalent to a human therapist within the first week. 81% of employees said they would prefer to speak to an AI chatbot with clinically validated resources than their HR teams – which makes a compelling case for using it in your employee wellness strategy.

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