As people continue to feel the emotional, physical and financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of employer-sponsored wellbeing programs is greater than ever. A new survey by Alight Solutions developed with Business Group on Health and Kantar predicts 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.
In its tenth year, the Employee Wellbeing Mindset Study finds that nearly half (44%) of employees feel optimistic about their wellbeing, up from 38% in 2019. Moreover, 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.
“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 shows there are potential opportunities for employers to improve their wellbeing strategies:
- Promote healthcare consumerism. Employees who make savvier healthcare 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 healthcare 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 wellbeing 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 wellbeing 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 wellbeing.”
About the Employee Wellbeing Mindset Study
An online survey was fielded in the fourth quarter of 2019 and responses were received from 2,500 U.S.-based employees working at companies with 1,000+ employees. The respondents reflect all generations of the workforce – Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers – who have diverse perspectives, motivations and behaviors around wellbeing due to the different stages of their lives and careers.
A survey infographic includes more information and provides access to the complete report.
About Business Group on Health
Business Group on Health is the only non-profit organization devoted exclusively to representing large employers' perspective on health policy issues and optimizing workforce strategy through innovative health, benefits and well-being solutions. The Business Group keeps its membership on the leading edge of innovation, thinking and action to address health care cost and the delivery, financing, affordability and experience with the health care system. Business Group members, many of whom have operations globally, include 74 Fortune 100 companies, and provide health coverage for more than 60 million workers, retirees and their families in over 200 countries. For more information, visit www.businessgrouphealth.org.