Pension & Benefits News Both employers and employees realize importance of wellness programs
Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Both employers and employees realize importance of wellness programs

By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff

As the global pandemic and resulting financial crisis continue, both employers and employees have realized how important emotional, financial, and mental health aspects are to corporate wellness programs, according to two recent surveys. The Health and Well-Being Survey, conducted by the Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments, found that 95 percent of employers around the globe now include emotional and mental health programs into their wellness programs. The second survey, the Employee Wellbeing Mindset Study, conducted by the Business Group on Health, Alight Solutions, and Kantar, finds that employees are placing a higher premium on employer programs that impact their personal and professional lives. Since 2019, employees’ perceived value of wellbeing benefits and programs, decision tools, and information sources all increased by at least 10 points.

Employer survey. While the Health and Well-Being Survey was fielded last fall before the pandemic, the Business Group on Health and Fidelity assert that the results from the study are more applicable to the current workplace environment than before. The survey found that some commonly offered mental/emotional help programs included teletherapy, which will be offered by 69 percent of employers this year, along with stress management (50 percent) and resiliency programs (49 percent). Another 33 percent of employers will offer programs to help improve sleep, up from 25 percent in 2019.

Employers are also increasing their emphasis on helping employees improve their work/life balance, with 78 percent of employers including these types of benefits in their well-being platforms. Popular work/life balance benefits include caregiver support (46 percent), programs and tools for new parents (36 percent), and child care support (35 percent).

Wellness budget. The survey found that the average budget for well-being programs increased to $4.9 million in 2020, up 36 percent over 2019. Among large employers (those with 20,000+ employees), the average budget earmarked for well-being programs jumped to $10.4 million. Furthermore, 31 percent of employers indicated they will have two or more full-time staff members dedicated to the company’s well-being program, while 13 percent will have more than five full-time employees dedicated to managing these programs.

Financial incentives continue to play an important role in encouraging employees to partake in well-being offerings. While the percentage of employers offering a financial incentive dipped slightly to 78 percent, from 82 percent in 2019, 13 percent of employers surveyed indicated that they plan to increase the maximum incentive amount in 2020. The average maximum amount that can be earned per employee stayed fairly steady, dropping to $757 in 2020 from $762 in 2019.

The survey noted that most incentives are tied to physical health initiatives, but 15 percent of incentives are tied to initiatives designed to address non-physical programs that address mental, financial and emotional health.

Employee survey. The Employee Wellbeing Mindset Study predicts that the pandemic will have a significant impact across the five dimensions of wellbeing—physical, mental/emotional, financial, social and career—and many wellbeing trends will accelerate. The study found that 44 percent of employees feel optimistic about their wellbeing, up from 38 percent in 2019.

“While employers have been increasingly focused on the diverse needs of their workforce, the global pandemic has and will continue to advance employer strategies that integrate wellbeing into employees’ lives and create great experiences,” said Ray Baumruk, vice president of employee experience research & insights at Alight. “Many employers are taking this opportunity to enhance wellbeing support that ensures their people and their families are cared for during these tough times.”

The survey found the following:

  • Health care consumerism. Employees who make savvier health care decisions and take cost-related actions jumped to 90 percent (73 percent in 2019). Proactive, better decision-making can be supported by employers that offer tailored healthcare tools and resources.
  • Mental health. Efforts to reduce mental health stigmas have coincided with a sizable increase to 41 percent of employees (25 percent in 2018) who have sought counseling or other related services.
  • Financial security. Financial wellbeing is the lowest-rated dimension with only 40 percent of employees giving themselves positive ratings.
  • Build resilience. Forty-three percent of employees are feeling overworked and desire more efficiency in their work experience. The growing segment of virtual workers checks in even higher at 50 percent, as they are more likely to feel lonely and burned out and believe their work gets in the way of their social lives.


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