Just under half (49%) of UK businesses believe that the health and wellbeing of their employees will be their biggest challenge over the next 18 months, as 1 in 5 (18%) employees admit that they would hide a health concern such as stress, fatigue or a diagnosis from their organisation.
New research, commissioned by digital health solutions provider Reframe, and carried out by YouGov, surveyed 2,000 employees and HR decision makers in the UK to assess how businesses are currently investing in employee benefits.
It also explores how far benefits are being utilised by employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benefits awareness and relevancy
The survey reveals that employees aged over 55 (62%) were the most fully engaged with benefits schemes. However, many employers are missing out on the full potential of employee benefits, with 1 in 5 employees in the UK currently finding their benefits scheme irrelevant. Moreover, the under-35s ranked the highest (68%) when asked if a benefit scheme was an important factor when choosing a new employer.
A significant majority of HR decision makers (80%) believe that their benefits scheme is highly relevant to their employees – but only 28% of employees strongly agree with this statement. However, 47% of employees that are not utilising their benefits would do so more if they were more relevant for them. For SME businesses, the benefits they place the most focus on relate to financial wellbeing (30%). However, those with over 250 employees are focussing more on enhanced Employee Assistance Programmes (45%), which help employees deal with personal problems that could impact their work performance, health and wellbeing.
Among the findings, Reframe found four distinct themes that can help employers to optimise and utilise their benefits schemes to greater effect. This includes:
- The data showed that flexibility and personalisation were extremely important for 75% of employees when choosing benefits.
- To meet employees’ new expectations, benefit schemes must be all-encompassing – not only addressing their physical, financial, mental and social wellbeing, but reflecting the entire stages of life.
- Health and wellbeing
- Reframe found that 64% of businesses agree the pandemic has increased the demand for holistic health benefits, with 49% agreeing that health and wellbeing will be their biggest challenge over the next 18 months.
- The pandemic and long-term challenges of remote working have accelerated the need to reshape benefits systems that incorporate more facets of wellbeing such as resilience training, coaching and dealing with unexpected health events.
- Diversity and inclusion (D&I)
- The data shows that 1 in 4 HR decision makers believe that their D&I agenda will play a greater role in their future benefit design.
- Employee benefits is a critical area where employers can demonstrate their commitment to D&I, and will better reflect employees’ lifestyle, preferences and behaviours, whilst increasing benefit relevance and employee satisfaction.
- Digitising benefits
- Reframe found that 68% of employees were positive about using technology that allowed them to better manage their benefits, whilst 23.5% of employees wanted their benefits to be better connected and coordinated.
- Not only can technology increase engagement, it can streamline access and remove repetitive administration and offer a seamless and unique service for individual employees.
Catherine McDermott, CEO at Reframe, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on businesses, changing perceptions of how we approach healthcare in the workplace. What our research highlights is the growing disconnect between decision makers and their employees, particularly in large organisations, and it is clear that many firms are playing catch up when it comes to supporting the needs of their workforce.
“Effective benefits schemes are personalised to employees and their individual requirements, giving them control and helping them take better care of their wellbeing. This can have a big impact on the bottom line – achieving better ROI, reducing payroll costs, and absence rates. Not only this, but in the long-term it can help attract and retain talent, whilst also keeping the workforce motivated and increase productivity.”