In the last few years, workplace wellness has quickly transitioned from a job perk to a table-stakes necessity for employees.
And while a heightened focus on wellness has improved morale, retention, and work culture for many organizations, there’s still a lot of work to be done. For example, concerns regarding the mental and emotional wellbeing of employees have been knocking on employers’ doors for years now, yet over 75% of employees are still feeling incredibly stressed without sufficient workplace support.
In this ever-changing era of work, it can be easy for organizations to fall behind on employees’ evolving wellness needs. But in order to keep employees happy, healthy, engaged, and willing to stay, it’s crucial to keep their wellbeing needs top of mind—for next year and beyond.
Looking Back at 2023 Corporate Wellness Trends
At the end of 2022, we took a look at the most current industry research and reports to make predictions on the top wellness trends for the year ahead.
As we set our sights on 2024, we’re revisiting those same projections to see how well they’ve been prioritized over the last year. In addition, we’ll go back to the data to draw predictions for the future of employee wellness in 2024 and beyond.
Just like last year, we’ll be breaking down our findings according to the six pillars of holistic wellbeing and how well organizations address each:
Corporate Wellness Trends: How Organizations Did in 2023
Physical Wellness: How Stress Impacts Sleep Habits
While many organizations have traditionally viewed employee wellness in terms of physical health, 2023 made it clear to employers that this approach was too rigid—especially in our world of hybrid work. Rather than focusing solely on employees getting daily exercise and eating right, physical wellness as we know it has expanded to equally prioritize sleep quality.
Last year, we talked about the importance of sleep in improving employee wellbeing—more specifically, how high-stress work environments can compromise it. Unsurprisingly, research has emerged since then showing that 64% of workers still report stress as the No. 1 factor contributing to their sleep loss, with 76% frequently feeling tired on the job.
Not only does poor sleep lead to cognitive issues that impact work performance, but it can also be detrimental to an employee’s health, increasing their risk of developing illnesses like diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and even certain cancers. So what can employers do in 2024 to reduce stress levels and help employees get a good night’s rest?
New research is showing two promising, if unconventional, options: napping and the four-day workweek.
The Power of Naps
While sleeping on the job may be perceived as extremely counter-productive, a recent study suggests that periodic snooze sessions could be healthy for both employees and businesses.
According to a report from University College London and the University of the Republic in Uruguay, short daily naps may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases by delaying brain shrinkage. In other words, brief dozes throughout the work day can actually improve an employee’s ability to learn, minimize errors due to tiredness, and increase overall productivity.
Four-Day Work Weeks
How can a four-day work week benefit employee sleep quality and businesses at the same time?
In a large-scale UK trial of four-day work weeks, both employees and organizations alike reaped the benefits. Not only did 40% of employees notice fewer sleep issues like insomnia, but a whopping 92% of companies reported they would continue with the test schedule even after the trial was over, citing significant revenue increases.
In fact, organizations using the four-day work model saw a 35% increase in revenue on average compared to past performance over the same period of time during the normal five-day work week.
While it’s unlikely that nap-time or four-day workweeks will be built into employee schedules any time soon, it’s clear these trends are gaining traction. Over the next year, we might just see them being implemented to improve recruitment and retention efforts.
Mental Health and Emotional Wellness: Detoxifying Toxic Work Environments
In recent years, mental health has taken center stage when it comes to workplace wellness goals for employers and employees. Over 90% of workers—particularly millennials and Gen Z—agree that emotional and mental health support are important in an organization, with 80% affirming mental health support is paramount when choosing an employer, according to Deloitte.
And while it’s become clear that mental wellbeing and psychological safety are perhaps the most critical issues in the workplace, employees haven’t seen them reflected sufficiently in their wellness benefits.
In a 2023 survey on large employer healthcare strategies, 77% of employees reported an increase in mental health issues at work. At the same time, the American Psychological Association published a report that corroborated this sentiment, with nearly 25% of employees saying their workplace is toxic—and of those workers, more than half experienced harm to their mental health as a result.
But before we start making dismal predictions for 2024, it’s not all bad news. The same APA report found that nearly 60% of employees felt their employer regularly started providing information on available resources and mental health benefits, more-so than in previous years.
Clearly, efforts are being made to spread awareness and expand access to mental healthcare for struggling employees, and while more work needs to be done in 2024 and beyond, companies are certainly on the right track.
Social Wellness: Increasing Social Connections and Belonging
Similar to mental health, social wellbeing is shaping up to be one of the most crucial pillars in 2024 and beyond.
As workers become more spread out geographically, it’s easy for employees to miss out on valuable social interactions that build a sense of community and foster belonging. Organizations are still trying to figure out how to bridge this gap, given that the number of employees who feel lonely at work has risen from 33% in 2022 to 38% in late 2023.
While solving for social disconnection at work is challenging to say the least, ignoring it can have far-reaching consequences for organizations. According to a 2023 advisory report from the U.S. Surgeon General, poor social connectedness can increase an employee’s risk of heart disease by 29%, stroke by 32%, developing dementia by 50%, and even the risk of premature death by over 60%.
Of course, remote and hybrid work arrangements aren’t entirely to blame for this lack of connection. Gen Z and millennial employees who first entered the workforce on the heels of the pandemic were forced to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of work often without any work experience to prepare them. From the shift to remote and hybrid schedules to the ongoing return-to-office trend, these young workers have had to adjust to unprecedented and ever-changing norms, harming soft skills like social connectedness.
As a new year undoubtedly brings new challenges, organizations will have to increase their focus on building connections and belonging among employees to ensure a positive culture and constructive collaboration.
Financial Wellness: Rising Financial Stress
While inflation has seemingly cooled from the record-setting 12-month high of 9.1% back in June 2022, the cost of living is still astronomical—and it’s affecting employees from all economic classes.
According to a recent study from PwC, 53% of all employees are worried about increasing expenses, while nearly 60% say compensation isn’t keeping up with the cost of living. Meanwhile, 76% of workers earning under $50,000 a year are still living paycheck to paycheck this late into 2023.
It’s clear that financial wellness remains a top concern for employees, but especially for Gen Z and millennials who are just starting out their careers. Roughly 66% of young adults worry the economy will stay the same or worsen in the next year, while around 40% have taken on a second job to make ends meet, adding to their already high levels of burnout.
With financial stress on the rise, organizations are not only at risk of losing employees to more competitive compensation packages, but they’re also missing out on productivity due to financial distractions in the workplace.
While living wages and equitable pay increases are ideal, organizations can also provide additional resources, such as financial management and budgeting workshops. Rather than presenting personal finances as a simple math equation, these resources should aim to take a less restrictive approach that’s aware of the complex relationship between emotions, logic, and money.
Occupational Wellness: Quiet Thriving
Last year, occupational wellness often centered around finding the right balance between remote, hybrid, and in-office work while maintaining flexibility for employees. At the time, roughly 75% of Gen Z and millennial employees preferred remote or hybrid structures, providing hope for the continuation of these work models.
However, in 2023, 66% of employees reported working in the office five days a week, demonstrating a disconnect between what they want and what they’re workplaces are pushing.
The trend of quiet quitting also took 2022 and 2023 by storm as employees began to set firm boundaries to protect their work-life balance. As they’ve settled into their rhythm, employees are not only figuring out what their limits are when it comes to work schedules and culture, but also what they need to succeed and thrive in their roles.
Quiet thriving, as it’s called, is when employers work together with employees to address their needs and ensure they’re empowered to succeed. This approach aims to prevent the stress and burnout that lead to quiet quitting in the first place, offering support across all aspects of wellness.
This facet of workplace culture is also part of a larger shift in focus toward overall employee experience. While flexible schedules and work arrangements are only one aspect of this, providing these options can equip workers with the independence they need to balance work and life responsibilities in 2024 and beyond.
Purpose-Driven: The Importance of Shared Values
Purpose-driven work may not receive as much attention as the other pillars of holistic wellness, but over the past year, it’s become a top priority among employees.
Gen Z and millennial employees in particular ground their career decisions in their own personal values. Nearly 40% say they have actually rejected work projects in the past due to ethical concerns, while over 33% report turning down great job offers that didn’t align with their beliefs.
But beyond just aligning with an organization’s core values, employees want to feel empowered and supported to drive positive change within their organizations and larger communities. Major social issues are of particular importance—as an example, around 50% of individuals have been putting significant pressure on their employers to act on climate change.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are also crucial, as they help to bridge gaps in equity, boost understanding and social connectedness among employee groups, and instill a sense of belonging. And while 97% of companies reported making significant changes to improve their DEI progress in 2023, only 37% of employees corroborated these efforts.
This disconnect highlights considerable room for improvement in 2024, but it could also be an opportunity for Gen Z and millennials to lead the charge on DEI and make a positive impact on inclusion in the workplace.
Stay Ahead of the Curve With WellRight
As corporate wellness continues to evolve and transform the way we work, 2024 is sure to bring new challenges, but also progress. Employers must stay vigilant in prioritizing all aspects of employee wellness, especially in the areas of mental health, social connectedness, and financial stress.
WellRight is here to help with personalized programming and expert insight into how wellness affects businesses from all industries. Want to learn how you can set your workforce up for success in 2024 and beyond? Talk to us today.