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Human Resources

5 trends shaping the future of workplace health 

Published 27 May 2024 in Human Resources • 9 min read

Boosting your employees’ mental health isn’t just good for them and the people around them – it has a demonstrable impact on the bottom line. Here’s how the landscape is shaping up.

Recently valued at $1.8tn, the thriving global well-being industry remains ripe for investment and innovation. Organizations are increasingly investing in employee well-being and recognizing the important part the workplace plays in this (for better or worse).

Boosting employee health and well-being not only benefits individual workers – and, as a result, their teams, families, and communities – who are seeking employers that take well-being seriously, but it is clearly and causally tied to improving bottom-line corporate performance. There is no question that improving employee well-being is worth it for both employees and employers.

In our research and leadership development work with a variety of organizations, we note several innovations and trends rapidly shaping the future of workplace health and well-being. From leveraging interdisciplinary insights to utilizing developments in technology and artificial intelligence, or incorporating new leadership practices, this area is rapidly evolving.

Boosting employee health and well-being not only benefits individual workers... but it is clearly and causally tied to improving bottom line corporate performance

Well-being as a strategic investment

An increasing number of leaders (and consequently, the organizations they influence) now see employee well-being as a barometer of their overall health and as key to sustainable performance – and are prepared to invest in it. One Mind at Work’s 2024 annual survey of organizations around the globe (representing more than two million workers) found that 67% of senior leaders expressed a commitment to workforce mental health, and 74% of organizations now invest in some form of mental health training, and this is projected to continue.

The emergence of influential organizational roles, such as the Chief Health and Well-being Officer (e.g., Diana Han at Unilever) underscores this shift towards integrating and aligning employee health and well-being with core business strategies at the senior, strategic level. More and more senior leaders are becoming skilled in managing themselves as well as becoming role models and supporting the well-being of others.

Organizations are also holding leaders more accountable for the environments they create, beyond their financial performance. Mercer, for example, highlights that in 2024, 50% of executives now have employee health and well-being metrics on their scorecards (up from 20% before the pandemic).

Viewed as a strategic investment, the effectiveness of mental health initiatives will increasingly rely on evidence-based strategies that offer measurable outcomes. This shift is critical as it allows for the assessment of real impact rather than anecdotal success, guiding future investments and strategies in mental health. This not only reinforces the value of current initiatives but also ensures continuous improvement and adaptation in response to evolving workforce needs.

“We see an exciting opportunity to continue evolving our measurement of workplace well-being in line with best practices. This year we are launching a new Well-being Index in our bi-annual Pulse surveys. Our index takes a science-based approach to measuring colleague workplace well-being and was validated with experts in the field, including Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre.”

Lauren von Stackelberg (SHE/HER), Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer & Global Head of Wellbeing, VP, the LEGO Group

“74% of organizations surveyed invest in some form of mental health training.”

Holistic lenses: Thriving individuals and organizational cultures

Headlines proclaiming workplace wellness programs have little benefit, point to research showing that well-being initiatives targeted at the individual level are simply ineffective. This has triggered skepticism and ignited organizations to reconsider their efforts. You cannot ‘fix’ declining well-being by offering employee mindfulness courses if your job demands stay excessive or if the organizational culture is toxic.

Organizations leading in this space recognize that health and well-being are a shared responsibility and commitment between employees, leaders, and the broader organization. Indeed, as mental health expert Morra Arrons Mele notes, employers wanting to improve workplace mental health and well-being must tackle ‘how, why, and where we work’.

Workplace well-being is no longer only about ‘one size fits all’ approaches that emphasize the benefits and provisions offered to individual employees. Organizations we work with that take well-being seriously are moving toward holistic approaches to culture and individual well-being that consider the emotional, mental, social, spiritual, physical, and financial health of individuals. They’re taking a broader approach, such as exploring how to create meaningful and purposeful jobs, supporting employees to develop and maintain sustainable work practices, developing and training better leaders, and creating teams and cultures that promote inclusion and psychological safety.

“We believe in the power of the human and what the human spirit is capable of, so our approach to learning, development, work, and well-being is holistic. We want to create an environment where each person can be led by purpose, and our teams have a range of tools to flexibly choose a path that is best for their needs. This combines a supportive, team-oriented atmosphere with access to personal self-care for both physical and mental well-being.”

Noa Perry-Reifer, Chief People Officer, On

Companies are leveraging AI to analyze data for workplace satisfaction, stress, and mental health issues

Digital tools and AI for personalized health

With the rise of telehealth and digital therapeutic tools, including games, a wealth of new apps and technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) experiences that are powered by AI, are poised to become more integrated into everyday workplace well-being programs.

First, from the diagnostic side, AI and machine learning are increasingly being used to analyze data from employee interactions and feedback systems to identify patterns related to workplace satisfaction, performance, stress, and impending mental health issues such as the potential for depression or burnout. This data can help leaders identify problematic emerging patterns so they can pre-emptively address job-related issues, toxic leadership, team dynamics, and employee engagement levels in their organizations around the globe.

As organizations increasingly recognize the highly diverse well-being needs of their workforce, this data, paired with emerging apps, games, and tools, is providing personalized mental health support for employees. For example, we have recently witnessed a wealth of applications providing AI-based on-demand therapists and coaches, chatbot clinical therapy support, self-diagnostics and personalized training modules, and a wealth of applications that can enhance leadership skills, such as time management (and stress management), emotional intelligence, communication, and empathy.

Interestingly, learnings from the world of online gaming (ironically one of the major contributors to digital ill health and addiction) are supporting workplace mental health innovation – such as in the field of “serious games.” These more therapeutically oriented games are being developed and commercialized by major industries to support mental health (e.g., ADHD, depression, anxiety) and foster cognitive skill training (e.g., emotion regulation) in the workplace and beyond. For example, as awareness of the danger of problematic mobile phone use increases, these games, apps, and, of course, other non-tech-based devices, are poised to support individuals to limit technology overuse – or misuse – and promote work-life balance and digital well-being.

*Note that this trend is also poised to ignite a wealth of data protection and ethical challenges (as we will highlight below).

Ethical responsibility to handle mental health data with sensitivity and confidentiality, promoting inclusivity

Interdisciplinary innovations shaping work

Interdisciplinary innovations from the fields of neuroscience, biotechnology, genetics, medicine, and pharmaceuticals are increasingly informing and influencing approaches to leadership and workplace well-being.

For example, the field of ‘biohacking’ – the practice of using new, and sometimes experimental, scientific and technological methods to optimize health, performance, well-being, and longevity – is quickly growing, and thus making its way into the workplace.

This trend is fueled by prominent organizational leaders, as well as a wealth of social media well-being researchers and influencers through podcasts and Instagram and YouTube channels, easing access to wearable biometric technology (e.g., smart watches, smart rings, or portable biometric feedback devices like ECG, EEG or retinal scans), more accessible medical and genetic diagnostics, and a broader cultural interest from individuals who are keen to improve their health, leadership, and overall performance at work (and beyond). 

“The adoption of interdisciplinary solutions, particularly from startups, is reshaping corporate mental health strategies. For example, the integration of neurotech tools that monitor stress and cognitive load in real time provides organizations with data to tailor individual wellness programs that are both preventative and reactive to mental health needs.”

Patricia Gall, CEO, MindSpark 360 & SAHMI

Political, legal, and ethical considerations

As mental health initiatives become more integral to workplace cultures, organizations must navigate a complex landscape of social, legal, and ethical considerations. For example, new laws and legislation at the federal level in many countries bring new scrutiny to organizations, forcing them to proactively care for workplace health and take responsibility for the cultures they promote.

In the United Kingdom and Australia, for example, mental health considerations are integrated into health and safety laws, obligating employers to assume a duty of care to prevent and mitigate mental health ill-health risks alongside physical ones. Canada’s National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace provides (voluntary) guidelines and resources to safeguard psychological harm. And Singapore’s Ministry of Health has recently boosted efforts to address its population’s mental health, including legislation targeted toward employment practices.

Meta is facing lawsuits from over 30 US states for their negative impact on youth mental health.

Employees – as well as customers and regulators – are increasingly holding organizations legally accountable for their (in)action. Already, in 2019, the former CEO of a French Telecom provider was sentenced to prison over the psychological damage its organizational culture promoted. This shows no signs of slowing. More recently, for example, Goldman Sachs, UBS, Samsung, and Tesla have faced legal or employee action for their workplace culture and employee mental health. On a broader scale, Meta is also facing lawsuits from over 30 US states for their negative impact on youth mental health. These dynamics are prompting organizations to critically re-examine their practices.

In addition to this, in an age where AI is being used to collect a wealth of personal data (see Point 3 above), this can breed distrust and fear among employees who may (rightfully) fear how the data will be used or shared. Companies will need to become transparent about how employee data is used, and increasingly bound by regulations that protect employee privacy and ensure non-discrimination, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the US, which mandates reasonable accommodations for mental health conditions.

Furthermore, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union imposes strict guidelines on the processing of personal data, including health information, necessitating transparent and secure handling of employee mental health data. Ethically, there is a growing responsibility to handle mental health issues with sensitivity and confidentiality, avoiding stigmatization while promoting inclusivity.

Overall, it’s fascinating to ‘watch this space’. From strategic investments in well-being and the adoption of holistic approaches to the integration of cutting-edge technologies and interdisciplinary innovations, organizations and their leaders are not only enhancing individual well-being but also driving substantial improvements in their overall performance and culture.


Alyson Meister - IMD Professor

Alyson Meister

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD

Alyson Meister is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Director of the Future Leaders program at IMD Business School. Specializing in the development of globally oriented, adaptive, and inclusive organizations, she has worked with executives, teams, and organizations from professional services to industrial goods and technology. She also serves as co-chair of One Mind at Work’s Scientific Advisory Committee, with a focus on advancing mental health in the workplace. Follow her on Twitter: @alymeister.

Nele Dael

Nele Dael

Nele Dael is a senior behavioral scientist studying the expression and perception of emotion, personality, and social skills in organizational contexts. Together with Alyson Meister and E4S partners, she develops the Workplace Wellbeing Initiative with innovative research to understand and foster mental health in the workplace focusing on stress and recovery. Her work has been published in Journal of Personality Research, Psychological Science, Emotion, Perception, Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, and IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing.


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