Futurist predicts 2024 trends for workplace wellbeing

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Charlotte Kemp goes by the job title of “Futures Alchemist” and specialises in helping companies think about the future and planning for the best outcome. She shared her ‘4 big wellbeing trends for 2024’ with us.

1.The threat of employees burning out will continue to loom large

Burnout has been experienced more than ever by employees in recent years and will continue in 2024.

So we’re on the same page, the definition of burnout I’m going by is:

A gradual increase in the amount of prolonged stress in the workplace, leading employees to feel exhausted, cynical and to lose their sense of accomplishment or contribution. 

This burnout trend has been driven by factors that will undoubtedly also continue next year, such as:

  • Uncertainty, for example around job security  
  • High workloads due to increased pressure by employers to be productive and profitable 
  • A lack of autonomy over employees’ work and personal lives

Burnout is also associated with too much change in too short a period of time leading to “shattering stress and disorientation” (ref. Alvin Toffler’s work on Future Shock).

And the rapid, seismic technological, societal and cultural change shows no signs of abating next year. Hence why I’m predicting burnout to be a key threat to workplace wellbeing in 2024.

2. Employees will react to this rapid change around them with either ‘coping or adaptive’ strategies

Coping strategies are more short term, reactive strategies and can be both good approaches or poor approaches. 

Poor coping strategies may mean employees try to work more, work faster and with fewer breaks. They may sacrifice exercise, sleep or other downtimes in order to try to keep up with what is happening or what is required of them in the workplace. 

Other ‘coping’ approaches may include turning to medication, both legal and illegal or alcohol. 

Emotionally and mentally, people may become more demanding, less forgiving, far less strategic and failing to see the big picture or the future implication of actions. 

Relationships, mental health, physical health, performance, accuracy all suffer because of this. 

Better coping reactions, in the short term, include taking a break, walking, meditation, breathing, asking for help, stepping away from an immediate problem in order to see it in perspective. 

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But the companies in 2024 and beyond that will best look after employee wellbeing (and therefore productivity and profitability) will be those that encourage ‘adaptive’ strategies.

These strategies are pro-active and see people prepare before a potential crisis or stressor.

They include:

  • developing a flexible mindset
  • life long learning
  • learning how to anticipate the future
  • developing networks, diverse skills and connections
  • developing psychological resilience

These skills can be learned privately but far better for them to be part of the work place culture. The most progressive employers will embrace these skills and nurture them in their people.

3. The rise of employees who consciously think of the future

There is a trend towards what I am calling ‘conscious futures’. From individuals through organisations and companies to countries, many people are being way more intentional about the life they live and the future they create, and this will continue to be the case, or even accelerate, in 2024.

Some of this was stimulated initially by the pandemic lock downs. 

Because many people were forced out to the competitive workplace and had to adjust to working from home, many experienced a revelation of how life could be if there were not on the traditional work treadmill, career success path or in a competitive environment that strove for and rewarded overwork and long hours, visual evidence of financial success, and other trappings. This in part led to the ‘great resignation’.

We will continue to see ‘conscious futures’ in a myriad of ways in 2024, such as:

– Conscious leadership

– Benefit companies who prioritise purpose over profit

– Mental health, meditation and mindfulness prioritised at work

– Embracing diversity as a desirable element instead of a legislated one. Diversity includes obviously gender and race, but also neurodivergent people, immigrants, age, educational background and fluid identities

– Conscious consumption – understanding the effects of the value chain of products that are purchased and increasing recognition of this by businesses

– Circular economies – anti the throw away culture

There are already some great examples of conscious futures, with more to come next year, such as:

Patagonia – use of sustainable products and production, repair options for thier products instead of getting customers to buy new ones.

Bhutan – the country that has a negative carbon footprint, measures their success on citizen happiness instead of gross domestic product

B-Corps – a legal business entity in the USA where the primary purpose is to create benefit and profit is a by product

Etsy – used to be a sustainable business platform that prioritised small producers of art and products. The new leadership have turned it into a regular profitable platform and disincentivised the small producers. 

Body Shop – strong commitment to their values: Support Community Trade, Defend Human Rights, Against Animal Testing, Activate Self-Esteem, and Protect Our Planet

4. The move towards a new business model which rejects traditional capitalism and is more conscious and responsible about how it relates to its profits, people and the planet 

For some employees, awareness of these different, conscious ways of doing business (mentioned in trend 3) means they are abandoning traditional labels and opting out of the competitive rat race, and this trend will continue in 2024. 

For example, manifestations of this trend of people contradicting the imposition of capitalism include:

  • Minimalism, 
  • eco-focused living
  • Down-sizing
  • reducing debt and consumption

They also include actions that will directly impact employers and their ability/inability to retain top talent:

  • resigning from organisations that don’t respect them
  • choosing to resign to run their own businesses
  • finding remote work from more conscious employers elsewhere in the world
  • having a portfolio career, incorporating intentional mini-retirements or time to return to study into their career lives,

Employers who wish to thrive amidst these trends will be ones that ensure they are open to change and are building the resilience of their people through learning and adapting. They will also be mindful of the growing number of employees who value these changing approaches to capitalism and consequently will take meaningful action around trends such as eco-focused working conditions and avoiding overconsumption.

(Note from editor: Javier Echave, CFO at Heathrow Airport, identified this trend in his profile article here where he talked about the dominant capital model of business being too short term and called for companies to be more conscious of their effect on people and the planet, saying “the model doesn’t work anymore”. Additionally, he said: “we need to find a way of creating businesses that allow us to grow sustainably over time and generate value for all our stakeholders. Not just your investors but also your employees and your local communities in the country that you’re operating.”)

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