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Employee Engagement

In a recent survey of 4,000 employees and 1,000 employers in the UK, U.S., Singapore and the UAE, more than 3 in 5 employees revealed that they want their employer to spend more on mental and physical well-being support.

The research, polarised perceptions in corporate health and wellness, was conducted by international health benefits provider, Aetna International. It uncovers how employee expectations are changing when it comes to workplace well-being provisions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey results disclose the gaps between employee and employer views on the quality of the range of health and well-being support options offered both in the office and for those working remotely. The data reveals how employers can adjust their practices to improve employee health and wellness, engagement and productivity moving forwards.

As the pandemic continues to impact our everyday lives, employees across the globe expressed increasing concern for their health:

  • 84% of employees agree that their mental health is more important now than it was a year ago
  • 89% of employees say that their physical health is more important to them now than it was a year ago

As a result of this increased concern for mental and physical well-being, 87% of employees agree that access to quality health care is more important to them now than before the outbreak of COVID-19. However, whilst 63% of employees would like more to be spent by their employer on health benefits and other resources to help them stay healthy, just 34% of employers agreed that this is something they should be doing.

Well-being support working from home

The survey revealed a striking difference between employee and employer perceptions on the quality of corporate health care provisions for those working from home. When asked about employer-provided support during remote working, the biggest concerns were surrounding mental well-being provisions:

  • Just 25% of employees would rate the support they receive from their employer for stress as ‘good’ compared to 42% of employers who rate the provision the same
  • 27% of employees would rate the support they receive for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as ‘poor’, however, just 9% of employers would say the same

Furthermore, 18-24-year-olds were the least satisfied with the level of support provided for stress whilst working from home during COVID-19 with 41% rating provisions as ‘poor’ compared to the 24% global average for all ages.

Well-being support in the office

Employees were also concerned about the level of mental and physical well-being support provided by employers for those working in the office:

  • 55% of employers would rate the support they provide for general wellness in the office as ‘good’, however, just 36% of employees agreed
  • 19% of employees would rate support for musculoskeletal problems as ‘poor’ compared to 7% of employers

Many employees also felt that mental well-being support in the office needs to be improved upon, with just 32% of employees rating support for mental health as ‘good’ compared to 52% of employers who rated their provision as ‘good’.

Whilst employers across the globe have a much more positive view of the quality of health care provisions they are offering, employers in the UK were the least likely to believe that their employer is offering good quality support for their mental and physical health:

  • 43% of UK employers would say their mental health support for workers in the office is ‘good’ compared to the 52% global average
  • Just 16% of UK employers would rate the support they offer for problems with addiction as ‘good’ compared to the 26% global average and 33% U.S. average

Regional differences: U.S. vs Singapore

Employees in the U.S. were revealed to be the most satisfied with the level of support being offered by their employer whilst those in Singapore are the least content:

  • 37% of U.S. employees rate stress support in the office as ‘good’ compared to 25% of employees in Singapore
  • 48% of employees in the U.S. think support for general wellness when working at home is good compared to just 33% of those in Singapore

Employers in Singapore rated their well-being provisions better than their employees did – often more so than in other countries – revealing a substantial contrast in perceptions:

  • 59% of employers in Singapore think the stress support they are offering office-based workers is ‘good’, yet just 26% of employees agree
  • 60% would consider their support for general wellness in the office as ‘good’, however, just 31% of employees agreed

The impact of COVID-19 on the future of workplace well-being

With most employees across the globe continuing to work remotely – some or all of the time – for the foreseeable future, worker and employer perceptions are changing drastically about the quality, breadth and accessibility of corporate well-being support:

  • 65% of employees would only return to working from the office if their employer changed their policies regarding workplace well-being
  • 63% of employers understand that there is now a greater expectation for them to take more responsibility for employee health beyond the workplace
  • 66% of employers understand that COVID-19 has increased employee expectations regarding the provision of health benefits

Since the onset of the pandemic, 35% of employers have made improvements to their mental health support, and 36% to their physical health support, by making it accessible to remote workers through technology. Additionally, only 23% have improved their general well-being support for remote workers in the past six months.

Dr Hemal Desai, Global Medical Director, Aetna International, said: “The outbreak of a global pandemic has heightened employee expectations when it comes to corporate health care provisions with many turning to their employers like never before for effective well-being solutions. Workers’ needs for health and well-being support are also more visible to employers than ever. Organisations across the globe are stepping up their health and wellness benefits efforts. Yet it’s clear that more needs to be done given the volatile, unpredictable and complex state of the world.  

“At Aetna, because we track global views on corporate health and wellness benefits year-on-year, we have a clear view on changing employee demand, adoption and utilisation trends. Never has there been a more critical time for employers to pivot and evolve to meaningfully engage and better meet the total health and well-being needs of their people – particularly their mental health.”

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