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Majority of employers to maintain or increase employee wellbeing spend after COVID-19


New light has been shed on employer actions when it comes to employee mental health.

According to a survey of 330 HR, benefits and rewards practitioners, 59% of respondents said they plan to maintain their current wellbeing spend in light of COVID-19, and another 37% plan to increase their spend. Just 4% plan to reduce their investment in employee wellbeing.

Indeed 80% of respondents to Aon’s Benefits & Trends Survey 2021 said they agreed or strongly agreed that they as employers are responsible for influencing employee health and changing behaviours. On top of this, 42% have a board member aligned to their health and wellbeing strategy, while another 14% plan to have one in the next 12-18 months.

From this group of decision makers, employee wellbeing quite rightly seems to be staying in the organisational spotlight. We see employers learning from the pandemic and taking increased steps to support their people and their business outcomes.

Wellbeing resources for HR:

Digital support with a human touch: using apps to combat lockdown challenges

Setting a standard for employee wellbeing

How to support employees with increasing health anxiety

Not surprisingly, the pandemic accelerated and exacerbated mental health issues, so much so that according to the Centre of Mental Health, at least half a million more people in the UK alone are likely to experience mental ill-health as a result.

There has been a dual increase in mental health issues; a worsening of existing conditions and an increase in people seeking help for the first time. Key issues impacting people include social isolation, increasing anxiety, bereavement and grief, financial insecurity and work-related stress.

Knowing all of this is particularly useful for employers building a mental health strategy. They need to provide holistic support and communicate available resources effectively.

It may be that there is a greater need for mental health support by those who have not used it before, and therefore may not be aware or familiar with all of the resources that are available. It is a good time for companies to communicate their mental health support, and signpost how employees can access these.

Is there still room for improvement? Without doubt.

Not even half (44%) of firms have a formalised health and wellbeing strategy, although 33% intend to develop one in the next 12-18 months. This may be a reflection of proving the effectiveness of a wellbeing programme – this is clear as only 9% of companies actively measure ROI of their health and wellbeing programme currently, although 59% are planning to measure it in the next 12-18 months

Indeed, a health and wellbeing strategy is important. A research report on employee resilience found that investment in services and benefits alone will not generate required outcomes. The 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. Creating and developing a supportive environment that builds resilience for both employee and employer is vital.

It’s encouraging to see that despite the economic challenges COVID-19 has presented to many organisations, there is a strong sentiment that employee wellbeing is more important than ever with the majority of employers planning to maintain or further increase their budget. More boards recognising employee health as a strategic business priority is one of the few positives to come out of COVID-19.

While adoption of technology has accelerated during the pandemic, it takes more than apps to protect and enhance employee mental health and wellbeing.

Fostering a mentally healthy work environment means employers are focusing more on the role of line managers supporting their teams and understand more of the challenges that individuals face. They’re offering greater flexibility and engaging more with their people. 

Charles Alberts is head of wellbeing solutions at Aon