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Employers Boosting Investment in Well-Being Programs

As the global pandemic and resulting financial crisis continue to affect how and where employees work, 95% of employers around the globe now include emotional and mental health programs in their corporate well-being platforms.

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This is according to the “Health and Well-Being Survey” of 152 large and mid-sized United States-based employers by Fidelity Investments and Business Group on Health, which revealed that teletherapy (69%), stress management (50%) and resiliency programs (49%) are the most commonly offered mental/emotional health programs organizations are providing.

Editor’s Note: This survey was fielded last fall prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some employers may be adjusting their well-being strategies going forward. However, many of the results are applicable to the current workplace environment.

The survey’s findings suggest that emotional and mental health programs can be particularly valuable to employees who may be adjusting to working from home or may have had changes to their workspace due to health safety.

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

“Employers are facing a completely different set of well-being challenges this year as they and their employees try to adapt to changes to their physical work environment or their job status,” said Shams Talib, head of Fidelity workplace consulting, a division of workplace investing. “The study results are consistent with the thousands of calls we’ve been having with plan sponsors since the pandemic began. The expanded focus on mental and emotional well-being comes at a time when a growing number of employees may be facing increased anxiety and stress based on the evolving social and economic landscape.”

Multinational employers are also focused on well-being strategies, with 67% offering programs to their global workforces and 51% tailoring their well-being program to the needs of their regional workforce. Similar to well-being strategies in the U.S., almost a third (32%) of multinational employers include emotional and mental health programs in their well-being programs in other countries.

Well-Being Budget Increase
As well-being platforms evolve and expand, the average well-being budget continues to increase, along with the number of employees dedicated to managing these programs. The average budget for well-being programs increased to $4.9 million in 2020, up 36% over 2019. Among large employers (20,000-plus employees), the average budget earmarked for well-being programs jumps to $10.4 million. Furthermore, 31% of employers indicated they will have two or more full-time staff members dedicated to the company’s well-being program, while 13% 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% from 82%, 13% 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.

Most incentives are tied to physical health initiatives, but 15% of incentives are tied to initiatives designed to address non-physical issues such as mental, financial and emotional health. And while only 12% of multinational employers currently offer financial incentives to employees outside of the U.S., 17% indicated they will consider offering in 2021.

Increased Support for Teleworkers
According to the survey, employers are planning to increase their on-site well-being programs and services in 2020, which will benefit employees who may soon move back to a more traditional work environment. However, since the survey was conducted prior to the pandemic, many employers may have evolved their workforce management strategies and will continue to have a significant percentage of their employees in a work from home environment, Fidelity and Business Group on Health concluded.

As a result, employers are likely to consider allocating additional resources and well-being support for the increasing number of employees who continue to work from home on a regular basis.


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