Employers shift focus to wellbeing and employee benefits

wellbeingNew research from Aon claims that employers have increased their strategic focus on both emotional and financial wellbeing programmes, while physical wellbeing programmes have remained largely static. Aon’s UK Benefits & Trends 2020 Survey (registration) shows that 51 percent of employers now have financial wellbeing strategies in place, up from 21 percent three years ago, while 68 percent have emotional wellbeing strategies, up from 41 percent. These were the least developed pillars of employee wellbeing when Aon asked organisations in its 2017 UK Health Survey.

This year’s survey also shows that 71 percent percent of employers either agree or strongly agree that they have a responsibility to influence employee health and change behaviours. They also have specific strategies to address particular health conditions, with 57 percent having a strategy for mental health, 19 percent for cancer and 13 percent for heart and cardio, while 24 percent have a strategy for musculoskeletal conditions.

A significant 62 percent of respondents also believe employee financial wellbeing is their responsibility, with 48 percent of companies planning to implement initiatives in the next year, predominantly focusing on seminars (78 percent) and communications (77 percent). Products were less likely to be implemented, with 38 percent of companies planning to do so.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Data sources which focus on behaviours, such as health screening data or flexible benefit choices remain very much underutilised[/perfectpullquote]

Mark Witte, principal at Aon, said: “There are many health, social, and economic factors impacting employers’ decisions to strategically support staff wellbeing. By some margin, employers’ strategies are principally focusing on mental health, which is most likely testament to the surge of interest in the issue as well as an increased understanding of the impact on business performance. However, the low number of employers with defined strategies for other health conditions seems at odds given their prevalence and impact.

“If we acknowledge the impact of musculoskeletal conditions on private medical insurance spend or working days lost, or the considerable impact that cancer and heart-related conditions can have both financially and emotionally for a firm, then a business case can surely be built to put in place strong strategies which focus on education, prevention and behavioural change. It is incredibly encouraging that employers are focusing on emotional and financial wellbeing, but it’s inarguable that they focus on what their specific company data is telling them”.

The Survey also suggests that the most common data sets used by organisations largely focus on employees already in a state of poor health and needing access to treatment or support. Employee assistance programmes and data/ management information is accessible as standard from most quality services. This is used by 54 percent of companies to inform and drive their health and wellbeing strategy. Currently, 53 percent use absence data – which has been a consistent cornerstone of health and wellbeing analytics. Data sources which focus on behaviours, such as health screening data (11 percent) or flexible benefit choices (24 percent) remain very much underutilised.

Mark Witte advises: “We advise employers to use a wide range of company-specific data to drive meaningful corporate health and wellbeing strategies to get the best chance of improvements and value. Data sets reflecting the full end to-end health and wellbeing cycle, from prevention and education through to long-term support, will allow for further segmentation to help refine a company’s benefits and engagement strategy”.

Image by Elias Sch.