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Wellbeing transitions from niche to mainstream

Almost half of employers have a dedicated mental health strategy

Wellbeing has transitioned from being a niche benefit to a mainstream strategic concern in just three years, research suggests.

The report, Employee Wellbeing Research 2019, from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) and AXA PPP healthcare shows one in seven firms (68.4%) now has a strategy in place for monitoring employee wellbeing – more than double the percentage (29.8%) that had one in 2016. 

Results indicate that if the creation of wellbeing strategies continues at their current rate, the number of employers without a strategy could be as low as 17% by just 2020.

As well as the rise in wellbeing strategies broadly, the survey reveals a significant increase in employers offering specific mental health support.

This year nearly half (45.9%) of employers report having a dedicated mental health strategy in place – up from 15.8% in 2018.

Overall, mental health is now boardrooms’ number one wellbeing priority (for 62% of respondents).

Debi O’Donovan, director REBA, said chief executives are under more pressure from their shareholders to make the fundamental changes needed to improve wellbeing in their workforces as a key way to create long-term sustainable businesses. 

The survey found 72.1% of senior managers are committed to the wellbeing agenda. Of those employers with a mental health strategy, 77.2% provide line managers with mental health training.

But despite the data suggesting wellbeing strategies could soon be almost universal among larger-sized employers, there are still challenges ahead.

For example, almost three-quarters of organisations admitted high-pressure work environments are the biggest threat to wellbeing – the same as in 2018.

Nearly half (46.8%) of respondents of organisations that do not currently have a wellbeing strategy in place said the main barrier to introducing wellbeing strategies has been lack of budget, and only 3% of boards believe employees’ financial wellbeing is their primary concern.

Chris Horlick, distribution director for AXA PPP healthcare, said businesses must remember to be inclusive and reach out to those employees with most to gain from making the incremental changes that can transform an unhealthy lifestyle into a healthy one.