2024: A Pivotal Year for Employee Well-Being

January 30, 2024
2024: A Pivotal Year for Employee Well-Being

In the ever-changing landscape of employee well-being, let's take a moment to reflect on 2024 as a pivotal year. It's a time when companies are placing unprecedented value on their most crucial assets—their employees. The spotlight is shifting towards health benefits, with a notable emphasis on supporting mental well-being. As we step into the upcoming year, a revolutionary shift awaits, breaking free from the shadows where burnout was once hidden.

Prioritizing Employee Health in the Face of Rising Costs

Over the past decade, the cost of mental health benefits per employee has been on a steady incline, however, this cost is expected to reach an anticipated 5,4% increase. Despite this, according to Mercer’s Survey on Health and Benefits Strategies for 2024, employers – particularly larger companies with 500 or more employees – are dedicated to enhancing their health and wellness offerings. This commitment is driven by a competitive job market that makes it necessary to attract and retain top talent. Major companies like Barclays, Microsoft, and Unilever are doubling down on employee well-being to achieve this goal.

Source: Mercer Survey on Health & Benefit Strategies for 2024

What's Driving the Cost Increase?

Health benefit costs are on the rise due to various factors, including the consolidation of health systems and the introduction of expensive treatments. This year, a sudden increase in the use of certain medications adds to the pressure.

Employers are cautious about making cost-cutting changes to ensure healthcare remains affordable for employees. Larger employers have, for the past five years, avoided shifting costs to employees, showing a commitment to employee well-being. Smaller employers, particularly those with fully insured plans, reported a higher initial renewal rate. However, cost increases vary widely among employers, with some expecting significant rises while others anticipate minimal increases or even decreases.

Employees Balancing Benefits and Cost Management

Employers are actively enhancing benefits packages to adapt to evolving needs and retain talent, with a significant emphasis on behavioral health care. About 76% of large employers aim to improve access to behavioral health care, expanding services like Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and virtual behavioral health options.

However, there will be no increase in employees' share of coverage costs in 2024, with an average of 22% covered through paycheck deductions. Additionally, 15% of large employers plan to offer free coverage in at least one medical plan in 2024, reflecting a positive trend from 11% in 2023.

The Changing Landscape of Work

Employers now recognize that a job involves more than just a salary and benefits, sparking conversations about work-life balance and organizational culture on overall well-being. Employers are acknowledging their role in shaping a positive workplace environment, that focuses on driving business value through workforce well-being and culture.

Key Questions:

  1. How can we enhance the workplace and work experience?
  2. What cultural adjustments are needed to retain and engage employees successfully?
  3. How can employers support holistic well-being amidst ongoing challenges?
  4. How can technology, like AI, be leveraged to enhance employee well-being?

As we delve into the 2024 well-being trend analysis, it’s evident that the workplace’s influence on overall well-being is a central theme.

2024 Well-Being Trends

Trend 1: The Inextricable Link Between Workplace Well-being and Employee Engagement

Employers are recognizing the crucial link between workplace well-being and employee engagement, emphasizing the need to prioritize the overall health of their workforce. The pandemic prompted employees to demand wellness treatment, leading to the realization that it significantly impacts productivity. The Great Resignation highlighted that employees are willing to leave if employers do not meet these expectations.

Integration into Workforce Strategy:

  • Aon’s 2022-2023 Global Well-being Survey found that organizations are increasingly committing to employee well-being, with 87% having at least one well-being initiative and 83% having a strategy, a significant rise since 2020.
  • Mercer’s recent study found that employers are expanding their well-being offerings, with 64% planning enhancements in 2024.
  • Well-being is now seen as an integral part of workforce strategy, with 66% of employers viewing it as such in 2023, up from 42% in 2021.

Trend 2: Proactive, Preventive Approach to Mental Health

Amidst economic uncertainty and global challenges, employers are prioritizing employee mental health more than ever. A survey found that 77% of large employers noted an increase in mental health needs, with 16% anticipating further rises. Employees also expect support, as 92% consider an organization's commitment to emotional and psychological well-being important.

Key Initiatives in 2024:

  1. Year-Round Mental Health Focus: Employers are breaking down mental health stigma with sustained efforts throughout the year. Campaigns and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) will work to raise awareness and facilitate communication between leadership and employees.
  2. Manager Training: Recognizing managers' crucial role, there will be increased efforts in educating them about mental health issues. This includes mental health first aid training, support for flexible and empathetic leadership, and open discussions on mental health in all-employee forums.
  3. Expanded EAP Services: Employers will enhance Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services by offering more free counseling sessions and promoting easier access. Communication efforts will emphasize that EAP is not only for serious concerns but also for everyday challenges affecting well-being.
  4. Supplemental Care Networks: To address limitations in traditional health plans and the shortage of mental health providers, employers will expand networks specializing in mental health services. This provides employees with greater access to care, whether in-person or virtually.

Trend 3: Cautious Embrace of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In 2024, the spotlight is on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can shape the future of well-being solutions. AI offers exciting possibilities but also raises some considerations.

Key Impacts of AI in Workplace Well-being:

  1. Personalization Boost: AI enables more tailored well-being interventions by incorporating individual health status, preferences, and behaviors. Employees receive personalized recommendations, fostering motivation and satisfaction. Check how EMOTAI uses personalization in their programs here.
  2. Virtual Well-being Assistants: AI-powered chatbots offer 24/7 personalized support, providing advice on nutrition, exercise, and stress management. Especially beneficial in mental health, these chatbots act as short-term interventions while awaiting therapist appointments, continually refining recommendations based on user input.
  3. Early Detection Capabilities: AI-driven wearables monitor biometric data to identify potential health issues early, allowing timely interventions and potentially preventing serious conditions. Explore EMOTAI’s AI-powered Brain-Computer Interface for advanced early detection capabilities.
  4. Targeted Mental Health Support: AI enhances efficiency in Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) by streamlining counselor recruitment and patient matching.

While AI has its merits, human behavior is intricate and unpredictable, making even the best AI applications imperfect. AI can produce inaccurate or biased content, necessitating validation by human experts. Trust is crucial, especially with personal well-being data - employees may set boundaries on how, when, and where their private health information is used by employers.

EMOTAI at the Forefront of Change

Leading this charge is EMOTAI, a company that uniquely decodes, analyzes, and responds to human emotions. EMOTAI stands out by offering personalized insights and well-being recommendations, incorporating specialized breathing exercises and emotion analytics tailored for businesses. In a recent podcast by ECO, Carolina Amorim, the co-founder and CEO, shed light on the integration of artificial intelligence not just as a technological leap but as a profound revolution prioritizing health in a deeply human way.

How Can Your Organization Embrace Change in 2024?

Consider integrating mental health solutions into your well-being initiatives, placing a specific focus on breathing exercises. Reflect on the changing landscape of work culture within your organization and identify areas that contribute positively to employee well-being. Explore ways to proactively address mental health concerns, keeping the well-being of your workforce at the forefront. Embrace technology thoughtfully, recognizing the potential of AI in enhancing well-being while remaining mindful of potential challenges.

As we embark on this journey into 2024, let's prioritize the well-being of our employees, recognizing that they are the cornerstone of organizational success. For a deeper exploration of these trends and strategies, start today with EMOTAI.

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