Well-being is a strategic investment

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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.

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.

Key to sustainable performance

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 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.

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.

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,

Professor Alyson Meister, PhD in Management (Organizational Behavior) is
Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD Business School in Lausanne

Nele Dael, Master of Science Psychology, PhD in Psychology is Research Fellow at IMD Business School in Lausanne

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