Research released today by Thomsons Online Benefits reveals a growing requirement among UK employees for social wellbeing support from their employers*.


Against a backdrop of rapid digitalisation and lengthening working hours[1], the survey of 2,000 UK workers indicates a clear concern regarding relationships with colleagues and loved ones. Almost a third (31%) of UK employees are kept awake at night by workplace stressors, including their interactions with management and colleagues, while 25% worry about relationships with the people that they care about. These factors are deemed far more stressful than current debts (20%) or caring responsibilities (13%).


The research also displays a growing appetite among UK employees for workplace initiatives and benefits that support their social connectedness. Half (49%) of employees feel that their employer should support them with their work/life balance, while 63% would value monthly company lunches. This is greater than the percentage who would value financial assistance, such as emergency loans (55%), childcare benefits (58%) or in-office fitness sessions (57%).


UK employees also make a distinction between the high visibility ‘quirky’ benefits increasingly used to denote a fun office culture, and those that present real opportunity to build meaningful social connections. Over half (56%) of respondents would value success celebrations and 45% would value Friday drinks. This exceeds the 37% who would value in office yoga, Pilates or puppies in the office.


Jack Curzon, Consulting Director at Thomsons Online Benefits comments; “Humans are innately social, meaning that our social connections and how we feel about these can have an incredible impact on our mental health, workplace engagement and productivity. Widespread digitalisation, the rise of the gig economy and increasingly flexible working patterns are all contributing to UK employees’ increasing anxiety over their social connectedness.


“For the first time in research, we’re seeing social wellbeing appear high up on employees’ agendas, usurping mental, physical and even financial wellbeing. If UK employers really want to show their people they care, they need to create a culture that prioritises social interactions and inclusiveness – rather than implement one-off, quick fix benefits with no long-term value.”


The requirement for social wellbeing support is particularly evident within younger workforce segments. While 49% of over 55s would value monthly company lunches, this figure rises to 72% in the 18-24 age bracket. Similarly, 69% of 18-24s would value success celebrations, compared to 35% of over 55s.


This trend is explained by looking at priorities. Over a quarter (26%) of 18-24s rank lifestyle, including eating out, socialising with friends and going on holiday as their number one priority, above mental wellbeing (24%) or financial stability (25%). This priority diminishes with age, so that just 10% of over 55s identify this as their number one concern. What’s more, 25% of 18-24s believe their employer should support the activities they do in their leisure time, compared to just 5% of over 55s.


Jack Curzon comments; “Generation Alpha – those born after 2020– will grow up in the most advanced technological environment ever. Remote working and access to the latest digital technologies won’t differentiate a workplace for this generation – they’ll be the absolute norm. Instead, these individuals will be looking for support accessing the social connections that typified the workplace 20 years ago. They’ll want Christmas parties, lunches, and Friday drinks.


“These benefits are not hard to establish – indeed many employers already have them and just need to refresh their communications – but they cannot underestimate their importance. Employers must start thinking now about how they engage the future workforce. It is only with this degree of foresight that they stand a chance at embedding the right culture and getting the right infrastructure in place.”


*Social wellbeing describes the degree to which an employee feels that they are connected and included in the relationships around them.