Interviews with 4 wellbeing leaders find that holistic strategies prioritizing well-being must involve senior leadership, foster authentic connections, and adapt to the changing landscape of work to be successful
As we embark on a new year, workplace well-being takes center stage against a backdrop of challenges including the enduring impact of Covid and economic uncertainties.
That’s why as the workplace contends with sustained levels of heightened stress and anxiety, it can be helpful to consider guidance offered by experienced leaders who can help illuminate a path to a more positive and resilient future.
For insight, I turned to four visionary wellness leaders and asked for their perspective on issues and opportunities in 2024 in the realm of workplace wellbeing. Each shed light on challenges of current workplace realities on employers seeking to build connection and engagement.
The shifting landscape: Employee well-being in 2024
Amy Cohen, a veteran well-being professional and current Communications Director at Ramp Health, highlighted a notable shift in the 2023 Gallup State of the Global Workplace Report: “The percentage of employees that believe their organization cares about their well-being is now half of what it was early in the pandemic.”
But when looking ahead to 2024, Amy is optimistic. “Technology as a tool to deliver positive mind-shifting resources through interactive challenges, courses, webinars and live video sessions will no doubt be advancing. It will be interesting to see how emerging AI technology will affect the dissonance between employee and employer perceptions.” Amy is confident that “by combining technology and human connection to prioritize the employee experience, employers can help build trust and demonstrate care for workers.”
Amy also underscores the need for balance in wellness programs by integrating virtual and tangible tools to help foster a connection to the organization’s purpose and objectives. To support these goals, the new year can be an opportune time to consider a well-planned communication campaign to help empower people. “Delivering messages that shift mindset, offer supportive guidance, and share resources can cultivate a psychologically healthy space that allows employees to thrive.”
Autonomy as a pillar of wellness initiatives
Andrew Soren, MAPP (Master of Applied Positive Psychology) and leader of Eudaimonic by Design, highlights the preference among employees to maintain workplace flexibility gained during the pandemic.
Despite challenges with developing personal connections, Soren strongly feels that, going forward, “wellness initiatives should acknowledge the importance of autonomy, and ensure that we’re prioritizing ways to foster autonomy that satisfies both the business needs, and the needs of our people.”
Soren states, “Those that really care for their employees through wellness initiatives, in the long term, will be the most competitive, finding it easier to retain and recruit talent - two significant issues facing employers in 2024.”
Nurturing workplace connections: A response to the loneliness epidemic
Paula Toledo, MAPP, Workplace Relations and Well-being Consultant, also recognizes the challenges of building authentic team connections. Paula states, “In light of the recent advisory from U.S. Surgeon General on our epidemic of loneliness, workplace social support and fostering meaningful relationships have gained increased importance.
From a well-being standpoint, since we spend so much of our day at work interacting with work colleagues, it’s vital that organizations oﬀer opportunities to engage in meaningful ways to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.”
Leaders are questioning how well-being programs can be tailored to foster a greater sense of community and connection. Paula states, “Research consistently shows that happy employees are productive employees. And the happiest people have positive relationships. We have learned throughout the pandemic that we can connect virtually and have deeper and more meaningful interactions with people we love, colleagues, and even strangers. The most resilient workplaces will be the ones that focus on exactly how to cultivate these high-quality connections. The organizations that embody and foster in the truest sense that the workplace is a community, whether people gather virtually or in person, will be the ones that thrive.”
Role modeling and tailored solutions for a new era
In the ongoing talent battle, Ellen De Vleeschouwer, Occupational Health Psychologist & Founder & General Manager of AG Health Partner in Belgium, emphasizes the necessity of role modeling in the realm of employment experience. “You must practice what you preach, and that most definitely includes senior leadership. If top management does not visibly demonstrate through their actions that it’s ok to take some time for your well-being - during working hours as well - employees will not participate in well-being initiatives.”
Ellen made mention to the potential impact on younger workers. “There has been a huge increase in anxiety disorders, and mostly in young people. As most of their colleagues are still working from home, there’s less opportunity to establish deep connections.” Ellen suggests, “Organizing on-site well-being events, or just for a celebration of successes, will usually bring people back into the office. In a more social setting, those events will likely rekindle the positive effects of connecting with colleagues and give new recruits a broader, more personal, and more rewarding introduction to the company culture.”
As organizations navigate the challenges of 2024, the perspectives shared by these industry leaders underscore the importance of assuming a strategic and proactive approach to employee well-being. The key takeaways emphasize the significance of holistic strategies that prioritize well-being, involve senior leadership, foster authentic connections, and adapt to the changing landscape of work.
It's not only about implementing these measures but also about embodying the values. By taking these thoughtful steps, organizations can build a resilient and thriving workplace that prioritizes the well-being and success of their most valuable asset – their people.