Three in five businesses in the UK now feel more responsible for employees’ health as a result of the Covid pandemic.
The survey, by international health insurer Aetna, fund 63 per cent of business leaders now believe their firms have a responsibility to look after both the physical and mental health of those in the workplace.
The same number also recognised that that expectations around employer-provided health support have changed notably since the beginning of the pandemic, particularly when it comes to mental health.
The survey also asked employees — many of whom continue to work from home — about their health benefits. Despite a willingness for firms to do more, six out of 10 employees believe their company could invest more in health benefits and support.
The survey was also carried out in among employers and employees in the USA, Singapore, and UAE, as well as the UK
Findings suggest that businesses globally have a better understanding of employee health concerns than they did 18 months ago and have already taken action to alleviate some of these pressures.
One of the key areas where strides have been made over the last year is the provision of mental health benefits and support. Globally, close to two thirds (63%) of workers say working for an employer that provides mental health support is now more important to them than it was a year ago and over half (54 per cent) of businesses claim their company has improved the provision of mental health support and benefits that support employee well-being, such as flexible working.
However, employers still consistently over-estimate the quality and impact of the health benefits they offer. In the UK, four in ten businesses currently rate the support their company provides for stress as ‘good’, but just under a quarter (23 per cent) of employees who work from home and three in 10 (32 per cent) of those still working in an office say the same.
In fact, around a fifth (22 per cent) of UK employees working remotely actually think the support for stress provided by their company is ‘poor’ – although this has improved significantly when compared to before the pandemic.
Damian Lenihan, executive director for Europe at Aetna International says: “It’s encouraging to see that employers have recognised the increasing importance of robust health and well-being support, particularly when it comes to benefits and interventions designed to support mental health and well-being. There’s no doubt the pandemic has taken a toll on people’s mental and emotional resilience; this year, businesses everywhere need to consider their role in addressing this burden.”
While the views of businesses and office workers are now more aligned when it comes to the importance of mental health support, there is clear disagreement on how much additional investment companies should be making in health and well-being initiatives.
Over half (52 per cent) of UK workers currently believe that their employer should be spending more on health benefits and resources to help them stay healthy, but only around a third (36 per cent) of businesses agreed. Additionally, a fifth (21 per cent) of UK employees stated that health support from their employer has not improved at all since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting some businesses have struggled to invest enough in health and well-being during this challenging period.