Watercooler Event to hone in on eight trends in employee health and wellbeing

By on

The free-to-attend Water Cooler Event at ExCeL London on 23–24 April will see more than 6,000 workplace experts coming together to explore the latest thinking, solutions and best practice for supporting and boosting employee wellbeing, diversity and workplace culture.

With the number of people off on long-term sick at a 10-year high and the NHS stretched to the max, it’s more important than ever that workplace employee health and wellbeing programmes make a tangible impact – both for individual staff members and their businesses.

The Watercooler Event and co-located The Office Event will take place at ExCel London on 23 and 24 April. Photograph: The Watercooler 2024

Here we’ve outlined eight key developments in employee health and wellbeing that we’ll be exploring at the free-to-attend The Watercooler Event and co-located The Office Event at ExCeL London on 23 and 24 April.

  1. The key to improving workplace wellbeing lies in culture, leadership and management behaviour

Rather than relying on band-aid initiatives which might treat symptoms but do nothing to address root causes, forward-thinking employers are increasingly recognising the impact that managers have on workplace culture and employee wellbeing and are taking steps to weave wellbeing into the everyday workflow.

Middle management are the highest stress group but are also the ones responsible for keeping organisations going. Companies need to equip middle managers better so that they have active listening skills and are equipped to have the right, timely conversations with employees. Managers also need to get the support that they need to look after themselves so that they can also look after others. This includes providing support for the groups of enthusiastic ‘wellbeing ambassadors’ who have emerged in a wide range of organisations.

  1. Measurement and data are growing in importance

A decade ago, wellbeing largely couldn’t be (or wasn’t) measured. Now data is much more robust and impact can be measured and proven much more effectively. However, many employers are still struggling to work out which data they should draw on both to assess needs and measure impact, as well as how best to access this data.

It’s also key for employers to be able to know how to use data effectively for storytelling, to build the business case and reinforce trust in the effectiveness of workplace health and wellbeing initiatives.

Claire Farrow is partner and global director of content at Make a Difference Events & Media

  1. The rise of AI

Many leaders with an employee health and wellbeing remit are taking a serious look at AI in 2024. But question marks still remain about how to maximise its potential. For instance, AI is a useful tool to make healthcare more scalable, and in some cases, more accurate. However, balancing technology with empathy will be essential to get this right. Employers need to ensure that AI is used to widen participation and not hinder it, which potentially means offering additional access routes for colleagues who do not wish to interact with AI but instead with humans

  1. Women’s health and wellbeing

The fact that employers can now be sued for disability discrimination if they fail to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ for menopausal employees means that, if they weren’t before, employers now need to take women’s health and wellbeing at work seriously.

This development is also helping to break down taboos around talking about other aspects of women’s health, including period and reproductive health and what employers can do to proactively support women through the various life-stages of their careers. For many, questions still remain though around how to weave support of women into a wider, inclusive approach to workplace health and wellbeing.

  1. The growing intersectionality of DEI and wellbeing – including neurodiversity

One of the most prominent trends in 2023 was a growing acknowledgment of the deep connection between workplace wellbeing and diversity. Employees can only thrive when they are allowed to be at their natural, authentic best, and not hampered by masking who they really are. Furthermore, to be truly effective, employee health and wellbeing programmes must acknowledge and accommodate the very different needs of diverse workforces.

As part of this, neurodiversity has also become a hot topic. With some estimating that around 15–20 per cent of the population is neurodivergent, employers are increasingly recognising that embracing differences is not only the right thing to do, it also benefits the whole organisation. But many are still confused about how to do this effectively.

  1. Flexibility and the return to the office

In 2024, employers’ understanding is growing of both the value of flexibility for colleagues and the importance of face-to-face time. Employers are also realising that work environments are an essential part of the workplace wellbeing mix. They now need to provide better and healthier office experiences, both in physical terms and in terms of support available.

For this reason, The Watercooler Event now incorporates The Office Event, for leaders who understand the need to adapt their workspaces to meet the diverse and changing needs of employees and want to learn from best practice case studies and compare solutions.

  1. Financial wellbeing

In 2023, employee finances were battered by escalating prices, soaring interest rates and rising taxes. Unfortunately, the impact of the cost-of-living crisis is extending into 2024, continuing the pain for households striving to make ends meet or battling to uphold their standard of living. It isn’t only low-income and no-income families that are affected. Nobody is escaping unscathed.

Employers continue to grapple with how they can realistically offer support for financial wellbeing, and meet the diverse needs of their workforce, beyond pay rises.

  1. The rise of occupational health

The Government’s recent establishment of an expert ‘task and finish’ group, led by Dame Carol Black, to support the development of a “voluntary minimum framework for quality OH provision which employers could adopt to help improve employee health at work” signifies growing recognition of the pivotal and preventative role occupational health can play when it comes to supporting the health and wellbeing of employees and getting them back to work. The question remains for many though: what does this mean for us and how will we need to adapt?

We’ll be tackling all of these topics and more at The Watercooler and The Office events, with a programme of education sessions, partner-led workshops and an exhibition of suppliers.


Claire Farrow is partner and global director of content at Make a Difference Events & Media


The Watercooler Event and co-located The Office Event will take place on 23 and 24 April at ExCel, London. For full details and to register for free go to: watercoolerevent.com


British Safety Council wellbeing experts to speak at The Watercooler

Marcus Herbert, head of wellbeing, British Safety Council, will be taking part in a panel discussion on ‘Communicating and engaging those “hard-to-reach” colleagues with your health and wellbeing proposition’, in Theatre 1 of The Watercooler on Tuesday 23 April, from 15:15–16:00.

Stephen Haynes, director of wellbeing, British Safety Council, will be participating in a panel discussion on “Wellbeing washing - where does the responsibility for employee wellbeing lie: Board vs HR”, in Theatre 2 on Tuesday 23 April, from 15:15–16:00.


Shop Worker with Body Worn Camera Reveal Media

Purchasing body-worn cameras: 10 top tips

By Alasdair Field, Reveal Media on 13 May 2024

Body-worn cameras can reduce the risk of violence and threats to staff by providing a deterrent effect and documentary evidence for pursuing aggressors, but it’s important to carefully consider issues like functionality, data storage and user training during the selection process.

Waitress in Cafe Peoplesafe

Vulnerable workers: protection is key

By Naz Dossa, Peoplesafe on 13 May 2024

From working alone to commuting after hours, workers can be vulnerable to threats, aggression and harassment – but training and the right technology can help.

AI Worker Image

AI and worker wellbeing: a new risk for employers

By David Sharp, International Workplace on 10 May 2024

Data generated by machine learning and artificial intelligence at work looks set to play a huge role in boosting both worker health and safety and business productivity, but it’s vital that workers’ data used for algorithmic processing is handled lawfully, fairly and transparently.