As people continue to feel the emotional, physical and financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of employer-sponsored well-being programs has come into focus.
A survey by Alight Solutions developed with Business Group on Health and Kantar found that employees are placing a higher premium on employer well-being programs that affect their personal and professional lives.
The “Employee Wellbeing Mindset Study” of 2,500 employees found that 44% feel optimistic about their well-being, which is up from 38% in 2019. Since 2019, employees’ perceived value of well-being benefits and programs, decision tools and information sources all increased by at least 10 points.
“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 well-being 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 well-being support that ensures their people and their families are cared for during these tough times.”
The researchers predicted the pandemic will have a significant impact across the five dimensions of well-being — physical, mental/emotional, financial, social and career — and many well-being trends will accelerate.
The survey also revealed there are potential opportunities for employers to improve their well-being strategies:
- Promote health-care consumerism. Employees who make savvier health care decisions and take cost-related actions jumped to 90% (73% in 2019). Also, 65% of employees value personalized support for navigating the health system and affiliated costs, which will likely be further complicated in the wake of the pandemic. Proactive, better decision making can be supported by employers that offer tailored health-care tools and resources.
- Prioritize mental health. Efforts to reduce mental health stigmas have coincided with a sizable increase to 41% of employees (25% in 2018) who have sought counseling or other related services. Due to the massive, sudden shift to working from home arrangements, as well as pandemic impacts on lifestyle, employers should continue to prioritize mental health for employees who may be dealing with social isolation, higher stress, greater anxiety and emotional exhaustion.
- Support financial security. Financial well-being is the lowest-rated dimension with only 40% of employees giving themselves positive ratings. Employee sentiment around overall control over their financial futures (debt burdens, retirement readiness) will likely worsen due to COVID-19’s economic consequences, so employers should consider enhanced benefits like extended paid leave and make sure support is more easily accessible.
- Help build resilience. Over two-fifths (43%) 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%, as they are more likely to feel lonely and burned out and believe their work gets in the way of their social lives. If they haven’t already, employers can help curb feelings of burnout by offering flexible work hours and stipends for work-related technology, among other supportive actions.
“Employees are currently in very different places along the well-being spectrum, and rightfully so, during these challenging times,” said Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO, Business Group on Health. “At the same time, employers have been boosting their efforts to support employees’ emotional and financial wellbeing through a variety of initiatives, including expanding paid leave, providing temporary pay for furloughed employees and enhancing employee communications on well-being.”