Social wellbeing support provided by 59% of employers, but only most wanted by 12% of employees

Research carried out by Towergate Health & Protection among 500 HR decision makers shows that many employers are missing the mark with their health and wellbeing support. Social wellbeing is now the most widely provided support for employees, but mental health support is the most wanted.

Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “The pandemic and working from home really pushed social wellbeing up the corporate agenda. This is positive, but health and wellbeing needs constantly evolve.  Employers must consider what employees actually want in terms of support, and examine the particular demographics and specific risk profiles of their employees. For any health and wellbeing programme to be effective, it has to be relevant.”
Towergate Health & Protection’s research showed the priorities of the support being offered in the workplace:

Support offered to employees:
•    Social health 59%
•    Mental health 56%
•    Financial health 45%
•    Physical health 44%

However, this order of priority does not tally with what employers believe is actually important to their employees:

Support employers say employees actually want, shows that support for mental health is actually seen as the most important:
•    Mental health 36%
•    Physical health 21%
•    Financial health 21%
•    Social health 12%

Debra Clark comments: “It is interesting that employers are not providing the support that they themselves believe their employees want. This could be down to requirements having recently changed, or finding some areas of support easier to implement than others. Financial health may well rise now in terms of demand among some employees, with the cost-of-living crisis, but in fact issues with physical, financial, and social health all have a knock-on effect on mental health. What is clear is that employers need to know for certain what support employees want and value, so that they can make their provision relevant to their unique workforce.”

Finding out what employees want
To find out what support employees want can be as simple as asking them. This may be in the form of a questionnaire – it is a good idea to do this both when people join the company and at regular points throughout employment, as needs change. Likewise, not all employees will have the same needs.

This insight into specific needs within the workforce means that support can be tailored, and that will be key in engagement and utilisation. It can also be used to benchmark against other companies and industries to see how benefits compare. In turn this can be used to help recruitment and retention drives.

Linked outcomes
The four pillars of health and wellbeing work in conjunction. Concerns or lack of support for one element will impact the other vital mainstays. Employers need to consider what weighting they give to each aspect of health and wellbeing and, vitally, what aspects are most important to their employees. To make support relevant, exploring employees’ particular demographics and needs is a good place to start.

Development of health and wellbeing support
One positive from and since the pandemic has been development in areas of health and wellbeing provision available, particularly making it more accessible via virtual solutions. There are now many digital tools available to promote health and wellbeing and to improve access to support. For example, access to physical health and wellbeing support has become much more readily available through virtual GPs and fitness apps; financial guidance is available online; counselling can now take place remotely, as can support for social wellbeing.

Debra Clark concluded: “It’s important that employers are aware of developments in support so they can make the most appropriate help available to the specific needs of their employees. A mismatch in what’s offered and what’s wanted, benefits no-one.”