Laura Putnam is a leading voice for well-being at work, an international public speaker and author of Workplace Wellness That Works. As CEO of Motion Infusion and creator of the leadership training program Managers on the Move, she infuses well-being and vitality into the workplace to help employees, teams and organizations thrive. To read Laura’s latest work and to receive her monthly newsletter, click here.
Over the past 12 months, the working world has been flipped upside down. From starting the year with strict social distancing measures still in place, to ending the year by reassuring employees it is safe to return to work, 2022 has been a year of dramatic changes.
Heading into 2023, many of the workplace changes that started this year will gain momentum and become the new normal. Below is a list of the top five workplace wellness trends to expect in 2023. What has become exceedingly clear is that employees will no longer settle for check-the-box wellness solutions. Rather, they’re demanding solutions that call for organizational restructuring, strong leadership commitment and well-being as a way of doing business.
1. Hybrid Work Will Be Here to Stay
Starting in 2020, the pandemic ushered in a new way of working for the modern-day office worker. Technology companies like Yelp went from being businesses that were rooted in a downtown culture to businesses where employees could work from anywhere. A Gallup study conducted in June of 2022 found hybrid work increased in 2022 from 42% in February to 46% in June. While working remotely, or at a minimum, working in a hybrid environment, appeared to be a short-term solution to get us through the worst of the pandemic, it is evident that it is now here to stay.
This pandemic-induced opportunity to work in a more fluid environment has unwittingly revealed the human need for autonomy. It’s clear that all of us are hardwired for needing flexibility in terms of where we work, how we work and when we work. With a tight labor market, employers will need to yield to this deep-seated psychological need, allowing their workforce to continue to work under this flexible arrangement, or risk the ability to attract and retain employees. A recent study conducted by YouGov and Microsoft shows that 51% of workers surveyed stated that they would leave if their employer takes away the hybrid option.
2. The Rise of the Four-Day Work Week
Just as employees demanded control over where they work in 2022, a growing swell of employees are demanding more control over when they work. Don’t be surprised if many companies introduce a four-day work week next year in a bid to remain competitive in this red-hot labor market.
The good news is that the four-day work week is likely a win-win for both employers and employees. A recent global pilot program involving more than 900 employees and 33 employers found workers reported increased levels of engagement and improved mental health when working a four-day schedule.
3. Mental Well-Being Will Continue to Take Center Stage
With rates of burnout, depression and anxiety at record levels, many employees will expect their employers to make employee mental well-being a priority next year. A recent report from Indeed found that 52% of all workers are feeling burned out, which represents a 9% increase from a pre-COVID survey.
Emboldened by a favorable labor market, employees are expecting their workplaces to take meaningful action, which includes fostering an environment in which there is freedom to feel and express a range of emotions, according to a 2022 Deloitte report. The old-school adage that we should “check our emotions when we come to work” no longer holds true, especially as we move into 2023.
To meet the moment, employers will need to go beyond providing the traditional formula of identifying individuals at risk and providing them with individual resources, such as employee assistance programs or access to apps like Calm or Headspace. Instead, organizations and their leaders will need to radically rethink how they can create a supportive work environment that fosters mental well-being. This will call for leaders at all levels to take a proactive role in openly speaking about their own mental health to destigmatize the topic, while also examining structural issues that lead to employee burnout and other mental health issues.
Next year, leaders will need to be ready to have more open conversations about mental health as a recent Monster.com survey found that 91% of generation Z employees reported they want to be able to freely discuss mental-health topics with their colleagues and managers. Newton Cheng, Director of Health and Performance at Google, is an emerging role model for other leaders to follow in publicly sharing his personal struggles with mental health and the measures he has taken to address these issues (which included taking a leave of absence).
4. The Labor Movement Will Grow
Employees will continue to use their leverage to create stronger unions across many different sectors. In 2022, the labor’s surge began to yield big victories, such as the union campaigns at Amazon and hundreds of Starbucks stores across the country. Petitions to file union elections shot up nearly 60% and public approval of unions hit its highest point in half a century. This will likely lead to more protests, picket lines and walkouts and force employers to provide employees with greater say in their future. The recent push for unionization in some sectors, particularly among employees working in frontline positions, as well as the ‘Great Resignation’ and ‘quiet quitting’ phenomena, are similar manifestations of a drive toward improved work-life balance. Whether unionized or not, employees are voting with their feet – and employers are left with no choice but to respond.
5. Well-Being Is a Shared Responsibility
CEOs are recognizing that employee well-being needs to be a strategic priority. As recently shared by Francis deSouza, CEO of Illumina, at a recent CEO roundtable hosted by Fortune and Salesforce, “Employee wellness is an imperative. It is one of the criteria that people use to choose a job and whether or not to stay at a job or not.”
Alongside this rise in awareness on the importance of well-being at work, leaders also recognize that true well-being is a shared responsibility. Heading into 2023 more companies will begin to recognize that the over-reliance on individual responsibility and accountability cannot withstand the effects of structural barriers to well-being, such as work overload, toxicity in the workplace, perceptions of unfairness and lack of inclusion. Simply put: the only way forward is together.
A key player in the execution of well-being as a shared responsibility is the middle manager. Whether or not well-being is part of the job description, every manager is uniquely positioned to either promote or undermine their team members’ level of well-being. Longstanding Gallup research shows that the manager alone likely accounts for up to 70% of the variance of their team members’ engagement with well-being, and our own published data indicates that every manager can create a positive trickle-down effect with well-being when they model well-being, talk about it and create team-based systems that foster well-being. Being an effective leader means incorporating well-being into their leadership style.