Reenvisioning Workforce Well-Being: Trends and Strategies for 2024

Jai Hooker@Work

Reenvisioning Workforce Well-Being: Trends and Strategies for 2024

By Bryon Bass, CLMS, CEO, DMEC

There is no way to stay abreast of myriad industry changes without a commitment to lifelong learning. And when you weigh the costs of prevention versus penalties, the choice is clear. To help employers stay one step ahead, DMEC has identified six trends to watch in 2024 based on collective intelligence, which we believe is more valuable than a crystal ball.

In 2024, the paramount skill for absence and disability managers is the capability to foresee and adjust to industry shifts. Given the rising multitude of leave laws spanning local, state, and federal jurisdictions, integrated absence management (IAM) professionals are compelled to navigate through numerous intricacies. These include diverse sick and safe laws, broadened interpretations of family, an expanded range of reasons for leave, and the ongoing flux of changes and delays.

As employers grapple with leave laws, federal agencies have collaborated to broaden their enforcement scope, which intensifies the importance of education and training. The growing recognition of contributions made by IAM professionals and the substantial impact they can make on employer objectives has led to an increased demand for individuals with proven expertise. IAM professionals who earn designations, such as the Certified Leave Management Specialist, and complete the series of State Leave Laws Microcredential Courses are better prepared to meet the challenges of 2024 head-on.

Simply put, there is no way to stay abreast of myriad industry changes without a commitment to lifelong learning. And when you weigh the costs of prevention versus penalties, the choice is clear.

To help employers stay one step ahead, DMEC has identified six trends to watch in 2024: psychedelic drugs, employer compliance, artificial intelligence (AI), stay-at-work strategies, caregiving, and bereavement. These trends are based on collective intelligence, which we believe is more valuable than a crystal ball. They will be explored in a series that will provide practical insights about new legislation, as well as ways to help employees stay at work and return to work, optimize technology, and contribute to an inclusive culture.

Inherent Complexity

It would be easier to manage leave laws if they fell into nice, neat boxes. But many laws overlap, including the federal Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) Act and Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The key is to navigate this terrain, which some liken to a melting pot, without getting burned.

Keeping the forecasted trends in mind will help employers avoid getting burned. Each of these trends is briefly summarized below. Detailed overviews will be explored and published throughout the year.

  • Psychedelic drugs. How can employers ready themselves for the impact of this potent treatment approach to addressing mental illness and substance use disorders? And what are the industry implications? As cities and states legalize psychedelic drugs, employers must adjust their policies to remain compliant. A huge movement is underway that should prompt a reassessment of policies and processes for drug testing and countless absence and disability management approaches. With increasing interest in and acceptance of psychedelic drugs, employers should have this treatment approach on their radar so they are prepared to answer practical questions about insurance coverage and accommodations as requests roll in.
  • Employer compliance. In the evolving terrain of employee leave policies, how can employers uphold compliance while providing support for a diverse range of employees? There is increasing talk about “compassionate compliance,” a topic speakers will delve into during the 2024 DMEC FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference in March. But what does that look like operationally, and how will it influence employer success? As the list of pressing issues expands, ranging from online accessibility to a reassessment of undue hardship concerning religious accommodations,1 employers will need to learn how to craft comprehensive, all-encompassing policies for compliance that convey a culture of empathy and concern.
  • AI. Amid the onslaught of AI headlines, considerable confusion exists. For example, what’s the difference between generative AI and machine-learning AI? It is important to define and differentiate the terminology and dispel the confusion and fear surrounding the topic. DMEC will take this opportunity to level set and will host an industry think tank that will discuss AI and how it should be used in absence and disability management circles.
  • Stay at work. How can employers implement strategies to promote employees’ stay-at-work participation and, if a leave of absence is required, return to work as soon as it is safe to do so? There is a chasm between the time employees can return to work and when they do, which has been attributed to lack of communication and awareness.2 And while the industry focus used to be mainly on return-to-work efforts, more employers recognize the value of formal programs that include stay-at-work efforts and support for the employees who cover work while their colleagues are on leave.3 When designing formal plans, employers will need to know the strategies that are most effective in supporting the needs of the entire workforce.
  • Caregiving. There is growing acknowledgment of the need for caregiving support to help millions of employees who provide regular assistance to others.4 Studies show that some employees are reluctant to share these responsibilities with employers, which is problematic because caregiving can affect work productivity.5 We see more employers offering caregiving leave and will explore national efforts underway, including the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers.
  • Bereavement. The support an employer provides to employees during times of grief has lasting consequences. More state-paid leave laws include bereavement leave and expand the definition of family member. We will focus on how employers can help employees navigate these difficult emotional times. Spoiler alert: The days when three to five working days allocated by employers would be considered standard are behind us.

While the primary industry focus has centered on employees taking leave, employers must not overlook the impact that employee leave has on the remaining workforce. This series will illuminate strategies for employers to bolster support for employees and safeguard their entire workforce through strategic planning, initiatives to cultivate accommodation-friendly environments, effective stay-at-work and return-to-work programs, creation of a more supportive infrastructure, and additional measures. These efforts position employers and employees for success by reducing burnout and enhancing morale.

As we anticipate the future, IAM experts need to explore innovative approaches to understand the needs of their diverse employee populations. This is crucial for designing effective programs that align with an increasingly complex slate of local, state, and federal leave laws.6,7 There will be challenges ahead, but it is an exciting time for anyone who enjoys designing blueprints for environments that attract and retain top talent across multiple generations. We’ve got our drafting tools ready!


  1. Supreme Court of the United States. Groff v. DeJoy, Postmaster General. June 29, 2023. Retrieved from
  2. DMEC. Creating More Effective Return-to-Work Pathways. July 13, 2023. Retrieved from
  3. DMEC. 2022 DMEC Absence Plan Design and Practices Benchmarking Report. Retrieved from
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caregiving for Family and Friends — A Public Health Issue. Retrieved from
  5. DMEC. The Need to Support Employees with Caregiving Roles. March 20, 2023. Retrieved from
  6. DMEC. Legislative Overview for Q1 2024. Jan. 3, 2024. Retrieved from
  7. DMEC. Legislative Updates.