Survey Shows Less Than Half of UK Employers Have a Wellbeing Strategy

A survey of UK employers by professional services firm Aon shows that only 44% have a formal wellbeing strategy, despite significant investment in health and benefits. In addition, 22% said they did not intend to have a strategy within the next 12-18 months.

This seems to contradict insights from the 2021 Fortune Deloitte CEO Survey which suggests that 98% of CEOs say employee mental health and wellbeing will be a priority, even after the pandemic is over

Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Investing in wellbeing

For their 11th Benefits & Trends Survey, Aon surveyed 332 HR, employee benefit and reward specialists across a range of industry sectors.

The survey showed that only 9% of employers are actively measuring the return on investment (ROI) from their wellbeing programmes, despite it being a crucial way to assess and tailor them to their employees’ needs. Furthermore, 32% stated that measuring ROI is not important.

According to Aon, lack of measurement can make it harder to justify investment and secure maximum value, and may explain why 70% of employers do not have a designated budget for health and wellness.

On the flip side, a third of respondents said that they expect to make a greater investment in employee health in 2021. Furthermore, wellbeing does seem to be moving up the corporate agenda, with more than half of employers (56%) already having or planning to have Board-level sponsorship for their wellbeing initiatives.

The snag is that not enough of the planned initiatives take a holistic view of wellbeing. It’s great that emotional and mental wellbeing are taking centre stage. But when putting together plans, you need to build support of physical, financial and social/career wellbeing into the equation too.

Mark Witte, head of health and risk consulting, Health Solutions UK at Aon, said:

“In light of COVID-19, it is encouraging to see that a third of respondents said they expected to make a greater investment in employee health in 2021. Research shows, however, that investment in services and benefits alone will not generate required outcomes. Our Rising Resilient study showed that resilience triples when employers adopt a well-rounded health and wellbeing programme supporting physical, social, emotional, financial and career needs. It’s therefore encouraging to see that 33% of respondents intended to have a formalised health and wellbeing strategy in place in the next 12-18 months.”

Shifting priorities

Of the employers that have a well-rounded strategy, 55% are using employee engagement surveys to drive their health and wellbeing programmes. These have overtaken more traditional markers such as Employee Assistance Programme utilisation and absence data as the main metric for informing employers’ strategies.

Looking ahead, employers plan to focus their 2021 healthcare spend on education and prevention, with 78% of respondents looking to focus on this area. There has, however, been a notable shift in the number of employers looking to provide access to treatment, which ranked least important 12 months ago but is now second in importance, with 39% of employers planning to focus on this offering.

The survey also illustrated the wellbeing pillars employers see as priorities.

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  • Most employers (76%) now have emotional/mental wellbeing strategies in place, which is up 8 percentage points from 2020 (68%). Nearly two thirds (59%) of employers have a specific strategy in place for mental health.
  • When it comes to financial wellbeing, 41% of employers have a strategy in place, despite 61% of employers agreeing that they are responsible for influencing employee financial wellbeing. The number of employers with ‘no plans’ to implement financial wellbeing solutions has increased from 30% in 2020 to 39% in 2021.
  • Career and Social wellbeing also stayed lower on the agenda, with only 32% and 30% of employers, respectively, having defined strategies in place. These have changed in the last year: Career wellbeing has lowered as an employer priority – 36% of employers had a defined strategy last year – yet Social wellbeing has risen by 2 percentage points, up from 28% in 2020.
  • Sixty-one percent of employers have a defined strategy in place for employee physical health, a marginal decrease from 65% in 2020.

Witte added:

“The events of the past 12 months have elevated the importance of employee health as a business-critical issue. This year will undoubtedly see continued focus on wellbeing activity with a greater demand for data and insight to help not just strategy design, but also better measure value and return on investment.”

You can find out more about the Aon UK Benefits and Trend Survey 2021 and download a copy of the report here.

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