Amplifying Employee Engagement Through Wellbeing: The View from Latin America 

Five years ago, there was significant progress in recognizing the psychosocial factors that impact employees in the workplace, especially in Latin America. In the hallways of companies, you’d hear phrases like, “Do you know how the new program will be regulated and how it will impact employees?” 
 
In Mexico, for example, the launch of NOM 037, which is a compliance law focused on the work environment for freelancers aimed to identify, analyze, and enhance the conditions that affect the development of work. 
 
Just as there are companies that still do not understand the scope and implementation of these NOM 037 standards — and have not complied with them — there are organizations for which wellbeing is a relevant issue that is moving forward, though not always as they would like. 
 
What Worries Employers About Employee Wellbeing? 
 
In addition to having guidelines on how to implement a standard, including an understanding of what factors affect employees’ mental health, it seems to me that the concern is also about attracting the right people for roles, and helping to ensure talent, already scarce, does not leave once hired. There is concern about turnover, as well as over employees who might spend hours in the workplace but do not directly generate value for the company. 
 
This idea is not mere intuition. In reviewing the surveys that refer to this phenomenon, I came across results from the AON 2023 Salary Increase and Turnover Study. According to this report, 52% of the executives interviewed more than 65 companies in Mexico consider recruiting and retention their top priority on the compensation agenda. 
 
In second place, with 47% of the responses, is taking care of employees’ wellbeing, including their physical, emotional, social, and financial health. 
 
It’s a difference of five percentage points, but in the end, it gives insight into what employers value in their agenda. And it’s important: 61% of employers feel they do not have a current strategy to match talent and skills with future business needs. Mexico also has one of the most significant employee-turnover rates — especially in remote positions — in Latin America. 
 
You don’t have to be in HR to know the cost of turnover can impact efforts to implement more employee-wellness practices. You just have to trust your gut: if there is no focus on wellbeing, what will make people want to be in an organization? Yes, there may be a focus on increasing salaries, but that will not last forever. 
 
What Can Be Done Moving Forward? 
 
As we look ahead to 2024 and focus our efforts on employee wellness, there are several important factors to keep in mind. 
 
Gone are the days of generic wellness initiatives that may not resonate with all employees. It is important to emphasize the necessity of a whole-person health approach. Employees want support that acknowledges and addresses various facets of their health — physical, mental, and emotional. 
 
Also, these is a need for communication structures that allow for high-level engagement but in a personalized manner. This customization extends not only to the content of the programs but also to the channels used for communication. It is critical, as well, who sends the message — should it be the same narrative for managers and directors? 
 
In Latin America, and globally, employers should focus on several key areas that could impact employee wellness: mental and emotional health, chronic work stress, work environment, diversity and inclusion, physical health, whether employees work virtually or in the office, and financial-related risk and stress. 
 
Having compliance regulations such as NOM 037 in place allows companies to promote a favorable work environment, especially at a psychosocial level. But it’s still up to leaders and organizations to focus on improving employees’ wellbeing at work — in the year ahead, and the years to come, across Latin America, and across the world.