blog | January 2024

A Growing Emphasis on Workplace Wellness

At a recent conference, a throughline of whole-person health, sustainability, and workplace community guided our team’s discussions with corporate leaders.

Ryan Bryant, Editor-in-Chief, Thought Leadership 

At a recent conference, ISS team members engaged with several leaders from a variety of industries to discuss their priorities and plans for 2024. We asked these leaders to contribute to a Priority Board—that is, a physical representation of their top priorities for 2023, as well as for the coming year. We also conducted a LinkedIn poll on the same subject and found that the results aligned with our conference discussions and what we’ve been hearing from clients.  

Consistently, the top concerns from our respondents for 2023 were culture, employee wellness, and sustainability. For 2024, employee wellness and sustainability remained in the second and third slot, with community as the year’s top priority. Our LinkedIn poll also reflected broad support for supporting employee wellness, building workplace community, and emphasizing sustainability and corporate responsibility.  

Here’s more about what our team learned. 

Culture & Community 

The pandemic had a significant impact on workplace culture across the economy. Now, as leaders focus on enticing people to return to offices, culture and community matters more than ever for attracting and retaining top people. Employees who work for an organization with a positive culture report being more satisfied with their work and more committed to their roles.  

“Culture is always going to be critical,” says Sherry Ephraim, Director of Business Development for ISS Guckenheimer. “In my discussions, I heard a lot of talk about not only the continuing importance of culture and community, but also creating an atmosphere that pulls people to the office and makes them want to be there consistently. Especially for those new to an organization, it’s about connecting them to the culture and engaging them in a way that stands out when compared to other employers in their market.” 

Sherry points to discussions she had with leaders across a variety of industries, from telecommunications to the automotive industry, where an appealing and impactful workplace community ranked consistently as a top concern.  

“It all starts with people,” she says. “It’s about finding the answers to questions like, ‘How do we engage our folks and what are the things we can do to stand out above everyone else?’ Or ‘What amenities are you offering and how are you meeting the needs of your employees?’ These things are interconnected and necessary for organizations to consider when improving workplace culture and community.” 

ISS Client Solutions Director Doug Schaffer also reports hearing more discussions of in-person work as a requirement for career development.  

“Some firms flat out told us in terms of getting people back to the office, the stance they’re taking is that you won’t get a promotion if you’re a remote employee,” he says. “When it comes to reviews, if you want to move up to the next level, it’s all about how much you’re in the office on a regular basis.”  

With so much emphasis on building an effective workplace culture, it makes sense that some leaders would demand more facetime in the office. While remote, hybrid, and other flexible work arrangements aren’t going anywhere for the time being, it still drives home the importance of creating a place where people want to spend their time, and leaders across the economy remain invested in improving their organizational culture to do just that. 

Wellness & Whole-Person Health 

As a driving force for developing their workplace culture, organizations are turning to wellness and whole-person health to keep their people happy and engaged. Dynamic by nature, multiple models exist to describe the concept of wellness. But all acknowledge a multidimensional approach that transcends physical health to include things like emotional, social, and environmental well-being as necessary to thrive in life.  

As food programming touches on all dimensions of individual wellness, it’s often one of the primary drivers for whole-person health in the workplace. It’s also one of the most significant factors for getting people to return to the office. As a result, many leaders rely on food to drive employee interest in the workplace.  

“Companies spend lots of money on their wellness and food programs,” Doug says. “Leaders invest in these programs so that their employees will spend time in the office. In my conversations, I’ve heard that while companies agree that wellness is important, economic concerns are still at the top. Before opening their wallets, they want to make sure they’ll get tangible benefits from their investments in wellness.” 

Whole-person health is infused into workplace culture via things like food programming, space design, and curated experiences that facilitate well-being and build community. Because it is so multifaceted and far-reaching, the whole-person health of employees is increasingly tied to overall business success. 

“When we’re talking about the health of a person—mental, physical, nutritional, financial—it’s about tying all these things together,” Sherry says. “And it’s resonating with leaders. But it’s going to look different for every organization depending on what their needs and goals are.”   

With a comprehensive whole-person health strategy, organizations can deploy a mix of food programming and workplace experiences to help cultivate wellness as part of their culture and magnetize employees to their spaces. 

Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility 

One of the most significant drivers of wellness is the environment in which we live and work. For our team, the criticality of sustainability was a throughline in their conversations with business leaders. With the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proposing new rules to standardize climate-related disclosures in 2022, leaders are making preparations for these rules to go into effect. 

Many organizations say they lack the internal infrastructure to report their sustainability data effectively, creating a sense of urgency to solidify their environment, social, and governance (ESG) efforts and make the right investments to meet new environmental standards. Beyond just environmental sustainability, Sherry says concerns around boosting supplier diversity and community sustainability were consistent topics of discussion with leaders. 

“The topic of corporate social responsibility came up quite a bit,” she says. “Focusing on advancing supplier diversity spending, engaging with vendors in a way that positively impacts the entire community—it’s an important part of how companies want to engage with their partners and clients.” 

As a part of creating a more sustainable workplace, ESG efforts align with community and wellness to support a holistic approach to the employee experience. Increasingly, employers understand the importance of wellness and whole-person health as they cultivate attractive workplaces that better reflect the needs and desires of employees. 

A Push for Workplace Well-Being 

The workplace is in a time of transition, and our new post-pandemic norms are still solidifying as we reexamine how and where we do our best work. Despite the uncertainty of the past few years, a throughline of wellness, community, and sustainability is influencing how leaders think about the future of their organizations and the needs of their people.  

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you cultivate your ideal workplace

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Contact Sherry Ephraim

Director of Business Development, ISS Guckenheimer