Three in five UK businesses now feel more responsible for their employees’ health, study shows
The Covid-19 crisis has caused more employers to take their employees' mental and physical health seriously - and not just in the workplace - research by Aetna International has revealed.
According to the study, three in five (63%) UK business leaders said they now feel more responsible for their employees' health and wellbeing, while the same number also recognised that expectations around employer-provided health support have changed notably since the beginning of the pandemic, particularly when it comes to mental health.
The survey, which involved 4000 office workers - many of them working remotely - and 1000 businesses in four markets (the UK, US, Singapore and UAE), suggested that firms have a better understanding of employee health concerns than they did 18 months ago and many have already taken action.
It’s encouraging to see that employers have recognised the increasing importance of robust health and wellbeing support.
Close to two thirds (63%) of employees working for an employer globally said working for an employer that provides mental health support is now more important than it was a year ago, while over half (54%) of businesses claim their company has improved the provision of mental health support and benefits to support employee wellbeing.
Damian Lenihan, executive director for Europe at Aetna International said: "It's encouraging to see that employers have recognised the increasing importance of robust health and wellbeing support, particularly when it comes to benefits and interventions designed to support mental health and wellbeing. There's no doubt the pandemic has taken a toll on people's mental and emotional resilience; this year, businesses everywhere need to consider their role in addressing this burden."
Impact and effectiveness
The Aetna research also revealed that employers consistently over-estimate the impact and effectiveness of the health benefits they offer, with four in 10 UK businesses rating the support their company provides for stress as ‘good', compared to just under a quarter of employees working from home (23%) and three in 10 still working in the office (32%) who said the same.
Concerningly around a fifth of UK employees working remotely rated the support they receive for stress as ‘poor'. While a third of UK workers said the support they received for mental health issues for anxiety and stress as ‘good', closer to half (44%) of UK business thought this was the case.
Meanwhile, more than half of UK workers believed that their employer should be spending more on health benefits and resources to help them stay healthy, but only a third of businesses agreed (36%).
Additionally, a fifth (21%) of UK employers stated that health support from their employer has not improved at all since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting some companies are under-investing.
Lenihan continued: "Whilst it's positive to see that the perceptions of employers are now more aligned with the experiences of their employees, our research suggests there is still more do to ensure health benefits and HR strategies are not only fit for purpose today, but also for the future. The views of employers and their employees remain polarised when it comes to the steps businesses need to take to strengthen workplace wellbeing provisions."
The research also revealed how employee attitudes towards health benefits are changing.
While previously the majority of UK employees agreed they were more likely to stay with an employer if they provided good physical health support (93%) or if their family or partner was also covered by the company's healthy living policies (94%), post-pandemic employees said they are now most attracted to a company that offers good annual leave entitlement (41%), followed by the ability to work from home (35%).
These two factors also have the biggest impact on the likelihood of staying with an employer for longer (36% and 33%, respectively), the study showed.