Emotional and financial wellbeing programmes are gaining impetus in terms of companies’ strategic focus, while less attention was being paid to physical wellbeing programmes.
Aon’s UK Benefits & Trends 2020 Survey found that 51% of employers now have financial wellbeing strategies in place, up from 21% three years ago, while 68% had emotional wellbeing strategies, up from 41%. These were the least developed aspects of employee wellbeing when Aon asked organisations in its 2017 UK Health Survey.
This year’s survey also revealed that 71% of employers believe they have a responsibility to influence employee health and change behaviour. They also reported having specific strategies to address particular health conditions, with 57% having a strategy for mental health, 19% for cancer and 13% for heart and cardio, while 24% had a strategy for musculoskeletal conditions.
A significant 62% of respondents also saw employee financial wellbeing as their responsibility, with 48% of companies planning to implement initiatives in the next year, predominantly focusing on seminars (78%) and communications (77%). Fewer companies were planning to implement products (38%).
Employers’ decisions to support staff wellbeing were being influenced by several health, social and economic factors, said Mark Witte, principal at Aon, but mental health was the single biggest area of attention. “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, Witte said, the low number of employers with defined strategies for other health conditions appeared 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 was “incredibly encouraging”, he said, that employers were focusing on emotional and financial wellbeing, but it was clear they were focusing mainly on what their specific company data was telling them.
The survey found that the most common datasets used by organisations focused on employees who were already in a state of poor health and needed access to treatment or support. Employers should 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, said Witte.
Companies’ health and wellbeing strategies did not generally utilise data sources which focused on behaviours, such as health screening data (11%) or flexible benefit choices (24%). Instead, employee assistance programmes and data/management information were used by 54% of companies to inform and drive their health and wellbeing strategies, while 53% used absence data – which had been a consistent cornerstone of health and wellbeing analytics.
On the use of data Mark Witte said: “Datasets 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.”