The past year has been a tumultuous time for HR, with toxic trends from quiet quitting to quiet firing creating mounting tension between employer and employee. That’s not to mention external challenges such as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis in the UK. With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that employee wellbeing is at an all-time low. In fact, Gallup research shows that almost half (40%) of employees say their job is having a direct negative impact on their mental health.

In 2024, organisations will need to prioritise wellbeing, supporting employees’ mental and physical health to ensure productivity and retention in the long run. Here are some top trends to look out for.

Building morale

After a year of global inflation, layoffs and political conflict, the spotlight will be on building employee morale in 2024 – with initiatives like employee recognition taking centre stage.

A strong morale leads to a positive workplace culture, which is linked to improved business outcomes like employee productivity and engagement. Furthermore, Gallup identifies five key elements of wellbeing: career, financial, social, physical, and community.

Historically, organisations may have focused solely on supporting employee wellbeing insofar as it pertains to their career. Now, with the increasing understanding of the benefits a happy and healthy workforce brings, employers are continuing to expand employee benefits to foster all aspects of wellbeing. Understanding how all these elements of wellbeing impact employees is the key to creating successful human experience strategies.

One of the most effective ways to support employees’ whole wellbeing is through a dedicated employee recognition programme. According to Gallup and Workhuman’s research, effective recognition contributes to:

  • Lower burnout: Employees are up to 90% less likely to report being burned out at work “always” or “very often.”
  • Improved daily emotions: Employees are up to two times as likely to report having experienced a lot of gratitude the previous day and about 40% less likely to report having experienced a lot of stress, worry and sadness.
  • Stronger relationships: Employees are seven times as likely to strongly agree they have meaningful connections or a best friend at work, and as much as 10 times as likely to strongly agree they belong.

Using AI to transform the employee experience

AI has become something of a buzzword over the past year – and not always for the right reasons, such as AI taking jobs. However, this technology comes with a big opportunity for organisations to support stressed-out workers.

From automating repetitive tasks, to using AI for training, professional development, and employee feedback, the technology has a myriad of potential benefits to the workplace in 2024. As IBM reports, AI, when used correctly, can transform the employee experience. By using AI to automate routine tasks, for example, employees’ time will be freed up to focus on more strategic activities, wider business goals, and of course their own interests – resulting in a greater work-life balance.

Given that employee stress is at a record high, now is the best time to invest in technology that will make their lives easier. And it’s not just employee wellbeing that’s at stake – with it comes a whole host of issues for businesses themselves, including lower engagement and productivity. A healthy and happy workforce will be key to successful organisations in 2024.

Focusing on DEI

DEI and wellbeing are tightly intertwined in the workplace. If employees feel that they do not belong at their organisation, this negatively impacts their wellbeing.

What’s more, as older workers hit retirement age and Gen Z enters the workforce, this younger generation will increasingly influence employee expectations– including when it comes to DEI and wellbeing. In fact, recent UK research found that Gen Z puts the highest emphasis on DEI, with 80% agreeing it is very or extremely important in the workplace. In 2024, HR leaders must have a renewed focus on their DEI efforts in order to support all employees.

Rather than solely conducting one-off training sessions, leaders should also focus on ensuring existing programmes within the company are aligned with DEI goals. For example, an employee recognition and reward programme will be most successful when it is equitable and inclusive. Employees will notice if one group or individual is recognised more than another, and this bias – whether intentional or not – will negatively impact employees’ wellbeing.

In particular, leaders need to ensure that employees are getting the right amount of recognition. Employees who strongly agree that they are receiving the right amount of recognition for the work they do are four times as likely to perceive their workplace as inclusive, and seven times more likely to perceive it as equitable, compared to those who don’t.

On the flipside, HR leaders can analyse data from internal recognition programmes in order to determine where the company falls short in terms of equitably rewarding and recognising employees and create goals accordingly.

Invest in employee wellbeing

Trends may change but one thing remains the same: your employees are your company. By investing in employee wellbeing, organisations will not only support the humans that make their work possible, but they will also ensure a healthy and happy workforce that achieves long-term business goals.

Niamh Graham_Workhuman
Niamh Graham
VP of Global HR at Workhuman | + posts

Niamh Graham is VP of Global HR at Workhuman, provider of the world's fastest-growing social recognition and continuous performance management platform.  Niamh oversees all global HR activities focused on the recruitment, retention, and alignment of Workhuman's international workforce based in Dublin and Boston. Chief among these responsibilities is continuously improving and elevating everything the company does to ensure its employees have an exceptional employee experience.