Employee Wellbeing Now A Mainstream Employer Strategy

In Business, Employee Benefits, Industry News by Paul Connolly

In just three years, employee wellbeing has gone from being a niche benefit to a mainstream strategic concern for businesses. That’s one of the key findings to come out of a new report by a professional association specialising in employee rewards and benefits.

According to the Reward & Employee Benefits Association’s (REBA) latest annual research into employee wellbeing, 68.4% of firms now have a strategy in place for monitoring employee wellbeing. This compares to just 29.8% of firms back in 2016. In other words, the number of businesses now placing significant focus on employee wellbeing has more than doubled in just three years.

Conducted alongside AXA PPP Healthcare, the REBA Employee Wellbeing Research 2019 shows that if wellbeing initiative adoption continues at its current rate, the number of businesses without a wellbeing strategy could be as low as 17% by next year.

Mental health support increasing

Mental health support, in particular, has seen a significant increase in take-up by firms, with almost half (45.9%) of employees saying their place of work has a dedicated mental health strategy in place. This compares to just 15.8% of employees in 2018. Moreover, mental health is now the number one wellbeing priority in the boardroom, as cited by 62% of employers.

More good news is that senior managers are getting a lot more involved with employee wellbeing, with 72.1% saying they are committed to ensuring their organisation focuses on it. Furthermore, of those firms that have a mental health strategy, 77.2% are providing line managers with specific mental health training.

Apps playing an increased role too

In 2016, the percentage of firms providing wellbeing apps was just 8.5%. In 2019, that figure had increased to 30.5%. It’s a similar story for the number of firms offering access to virtual GPs, with just 11.6% in 2016, rising to 31.5% in 2019.

Furthermore, since 2018, the number of employers offering a dedicated health and wellbeing component on their website has risen by 57%.

A number of challenges and threats still exist

The biggest threat to employee wellbeing is still high-pressure working environments, cited by three-quarters (72.8%) of employer respondents. This proportion is virtually unchanged from 2018, highlighting the importance that employers are still placing on this pivotal factor.

In terms of the reasons why firms do not have an employee wellbeing strategy, the main barrier is a lack of budget, cited by nearly half (46.8%) of employer respondents.

Also, while a significant proportion of boardrooms are focussing on mental health, it’s a reality that has caused a loss of focus elsewhere. For example, just 3% of boards surveyed said their employees’ financial wellbeing is a primary concern.

Speaking about the report, Debi O’Donavan, director of Reba, said: “This year’s results reveal just how fast wellbeing and mental health have risen up the corporate agenda… It’s clear from the data that CEOs are under more pressure from their shareholders to make the fundamental changes needed to improve wellbeing in their workforces as a key way to create long-term sustainable businesses filled with productive employees.”

While it is commendable that the number of firms with an employee wellbeing strategy has more than doubled in just three years, focus needs to remain on this crucial workplace factor if employers are going to overcome the challenges and threats outlined above.

I joined Premier Choice Group as a Healthcare & Protection Consultant in 2017, where I now look after the needs of over 200 clients nationwide. Prior to joining the Premier Choice Group, I worked for a large Private Healthcare Insurer, VitalityHealth, and managed SME and Individual clients across the country.