6 Trends That Are Redefining Workplace Wellness

Suhail Mirza is a global speaker and expert on inclusive wellness. He is on the Board of Newcross Healthcare on whose behalf he has delivered inclusive inner wellness webinars to the NHS and social care workforces, which are facing unprecedented burnout challenges. He is also a former employment rights lawyer, Robbins-Madanes Coach and has supported wellness for workforces globally in sectors from energy to retail and technology to professional services and finance. He has appeared on BBC radio to discuss wellness.

In an era defined by unprecedented global challenges, conversations around mental health and wellness have never been more important. The lingering effects of the pandemic, economic uncertainties, escalating geopolitical tensions and cultural conflict have converged to generate anxiety and unease among individuals worldwide. The situation is so critical that the UN passed a resolution in June 2023 urging member states to make mental health a top priority by 2030.

Consider these facts. One in four people will have a mental health disorder in their lifetime. Individuals with severe mental health issues have a 20-year shorter lifespan, according to the UK’s Centre for Mental Health. Worryingly, there’s a glaring disparity in mental health challenges between children from privileged and underprivileged backgrounds.

The costs cannot be underestimated. Reuters in 2018 calculated that the mental health crisis could cost the world $16 trillion by 2030 — and this was before the pandemic. In terms of global productivity, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 12 billion working days are lost annually to depression and anxiety.
In the workplace, mental health issues have a huge impact on companies and their talent. Firms navigating this landscape need to understand the latest developments in mental health so that they can create supportive, healthy work environments where individuals can thrive. Here are six key trends to note. 

1. The definition of wellness has expanded

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers true health to encompass mental, physical, and social well-being. Prominent experts like psychiatrist and Harvard professor Shekhar Saxena now argue for an even more holistic and inclusive definition to encompass spiritual well-being. In the workplace, this could be described as an individual’s need for meaning and purpose in their jobs. 

We’re starting to see companies embracing this holistic definition, fostering a culture of openness and acceptance around mental health challenges. This approach includes implementing inclusive wellness strategies and integrating mental health support within talent procurement processes. Well-being champions — leaders who create a supportive culture by sharing their own struggles — also play a pivotal role in normalising conversations around mental health and providing a safe environment for those discussions to take place. 

2. Governments are prioritising workplace mental health

Governments worldwide have instituted policy frameworks to safeguard employee well-being. The UK, for instance, has introduced comprehensive Thriving at Work standards, setting a benchmark for employers to follow in supporting mental health. Likewise, the EU has outlined directives focusing on mental health in the workplace, advocating for preventive measures, removing stigma such as the language used around it and providing better access to mental health services. This shift towards legislative backing signifies a pivotal moment in prioritising mental wellness as an essential aspect of labour policy.

3. Companies are creating employee-centric environments 

We’re witnessing a cultural shift within organisations that emphasises employee-centric approaches. Flexible work arrangements, remote work policies and mindfulness practices have become integral components of fostering a conducive mental health environment. Employers are increasingly cognizant of the importance of work-life balance, offering well-being perks such as meditation sessions, yoga classes and mental health days to support their workforce.

4. Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) have evolved

Companies recognise that investing in employees' mental well-being is not only a moral imperative but a potential strategic advantage. Firms that offer mental health wellness programmes benefit from increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and enhanced employee retention rates — in both their temporary and permanent workforces. 
EAPs have evolved beyond conventional counselling services to include holistic support tools such as digital mental health platforms, virtual counselling and resilience training modules. AI-powered mental health apps and wearables offer personalised wellness interventions tailored to individual needs, while a groundbreaking research initiative announced by chief scientist Sir Jeremy Farrar at WHO and the Jameel Arts & Health Lab has shown that the arts could play a significant role in promoting health equity and preventing illness.

5. Tech has changed the wellness landscape, but we still need human solutions

Technology plays a pivotal role in bolstering mental health support. Virtual mental health services are a transformative tool, providing remote access to counselling, therapy and mindfulness practices. Telemedicine platforms have expanded mental health care accessibility, breaking barriers of geography and enhancing outreach to remote or underserved populations. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms have revolutionised mental health diagnostics and interventions, facilitating early detection through data-driven insights. 

These innovations offer scalable and personalised solutions but cannot come at the cost of human interaction. Successful organisations will be those that strike a balance between digital and human approaches, using apps and AI to support personalised interactions like daily check-ins and mindfulness programmes. Wellness represents the quintessence of what it means to be human.

6. Firms need to prepare for the mental health challenges of the new workforce 

Organisations must now realign their approach to wellness to accommodate marginalised communities and amplify social impact. Addressing the mental health challenges faced by young adults entering the workforce is particularly pressing. 

How? By destigmatizing discussions and providing mentorship, safe spaces to talk and early intervention tools. Distributed leadership support across all layers of an organisation (including leading by example) in shaping a supportive workplace culture and aligning organisational missions with the values of younger individuals in mind will be critical for the success of these initiatives. Collaborations with mental health experts, wellness start-ups and health and Ed- tech innovators also present avenues for forging impactful partnerships. 
Within these challenges lie vast opportunities for employers. Embracing these shifts and proactively integrating mental health strategies into core services will not only drive organisational success, but contribute to a more resilient and empowered workforce on a global scale. And this will define successful businesses in the tumultuous landscape of the modern age.

To find out more about well-being in the workplace, check out our resources or get in touch today. 

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