Over six in ten (63%) employers have increased their support to staff across one or more areas of mental, financial, physical and social wellbeing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research amongst HR decision makers undertaken on behalf of GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector.
- Half (50%) of these businesses increased the communications around support available to staff
- 44% increased the time they made available to help staff directly
- 38% extended support to reflect changes requested by employees
- 34% increased engagement and utilisation of support that was already available
- 32% increased time to investigate resources to help staff
- 32% extended support to include employees’ families
- 25% invested in new employee benefits to provide extra support
- 24% increased investment to fund support directly
This level of activity clearly demonstrates that the health and wellbeing of staff has come to the fore since the pandemic began.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “It’s great to see that employers are stepping up to the plate: not only do the majority understand that they have a great responsibility for the wellbeing of staff but many are also implementing practical changes to make a tangible difference.
“However, we urge the remaining businesses who have either not made any changes or who have decreased support to take stock. Employees have long memories and their loyalty can be quickly won or lost during times of adversity so all employers should be playing their part in supporting staff wellbeing.”
GRiD suggests that employers who are either investing in new employee benefits (25%) or funding support directly (24%) should investigate whether support is already available via their existing employee benefits and is perhaps being under-utilised.
Where gaps exist, it’s important for employers to be aware that health and wellbeing benefits are enhanced and updated regularly, and never more so than during this pandemic, as providers recognise the very specific support that employees need right now.
Many employee benefits can provide great support for all areas of wellbeing, including group risk (group life assurance, group critical illness and group income protection insurance). Such benefits have a wealth of embedded support, such as early intervention, prevention and rehabilitation. They also provide financial help for employees and their dependants when it’s most needed, at times of ill-health, injury and death. So not only do employees benefit from comprehensive support, but the employer isn’t left to pick up any unexpected costs that could arise from funding help on an ad-hoc basis.
Mental health a priority following pandemic
GRiD’s latest research also looked at the areas of wellbeing employers feel are most important. The mental health of staff ranked as the number one priority for employers. Physical wellbeing ranked second, financial wellbeing third and social wellbeing last . Further, 48% of employers feel more responsibility for the mental health of staff now than they did before the pandemic; which has led to half (50%) of employers increasing the health and wellbeing support or employee benefits that they offer staff specifically for mental health.
The pandemic has undoubtedly shone a spotlight on the importance of mental health but it’s also exposed how other areas, specifically those of financial, physical and social wellbeing, are so intrinsically linked. Therefore, benefits that offer support for these other areas will also play a part in maintaining mental wellbeing.
Never before have our personal and work lives been so interwoven, and those employers who subscribed to the leave–your–private–life–at–the–door mantra, must now surely acknowledge that that’s inconceivable in today’s world. Employers need to offer wide and deep support to help employees cope with their day-to-day issues as well as more acute concerns, whether they arise at home or in the workplace, because one very often has a discernible impact on the other.
Katharine Moxham continued: “The surge in mental health issues among employees needs to be met with a similar increase in resources from employers. And not only does a workplace mental health strategy need to support those experiencing severe issues, it also needs to help employees deal with personal problems that may lead to mental health issues in the future, such as relationship issues, dealing with eldercare, separation, loss, abuse, violence and addiction. Much of this wide-ranging support is often included in group risk insurances, at no extra cost to the employee or employer. “