Employers are not providing the health and wellbeing support they themselves believe their employees want and need, according to new research from Towergate Health & Protection. The research took place among UK companies of all sizes and all industries across the UK. Directed at the employers, it asked what health and wellbeing support they thought was most important to their staff, and what they actually provide.

Across the four pillars of wellbeing, the support being offered most by employers is for social wellbeing – provided by the majority (56%) of companies. However, only a third (33%) of employers ranked it highest in terms of importance to their employees.

Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate Health & Wellbeing, says: “There is an anomaly here with provision of support not tallying with what employers believe is most wanted by their staff. What is particularly interesting to note is that this is a mismatch between what employers think staff want and what those same employers are offering. It is important to consider why this might be.”

The full results regarding support for the four pillars of wellbeing are:

Support provided by employers for:

  • Social health and wellbeing 56%
  • Mental health and wellbeing 54%
  • Financial health and wellbeing 42%
  • Physical health and wellbeing 41%

What employers rank as most important to employees:

  • Mental health and wellbeing 60%
  • Financial health and wellbeing 56%
  • Physical health and wellbeing 51%
  • Social health and wellbeing 33%

There are many reasons why employers are not aligning provision of support with employee requirements including: perception of what is easier and cheaper to provide; basing provision on assumptions rather than facts or data; lack of awareness of what is available; being overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Debra Clark comments: “Support for social health and wellbeing is the most common provision. Covering things like encouraging a sense of community, building healthy relationships, and organising social events, it may be seen by employers as an easy option. It is important, however, that support is offered based on where it is most needed, and not just so that the wellbeing box can be ticked.”

With support for mental health thought to be most important to employees, there are a huge range of options available for employers to offer: from lighter-touch employee assistance programmes (EAPs) right through to in-patient psychiatric support, from supporting people with stress and anxiety to more serious psychological issues. There is nothing wrong with starting at the smaller end of the sliding scale. Offering resilience training and mindfulness apps, for example, can help to combat issues early on.

In a similar vein, support for financial wellbeing does not have to mean higher wages, it may also be in the shape of financial education, helping employees to understand and manage their finances. In addition, employee benefits such as group life assurance, critical illness or income protection are greatly valued benefits that support the financial wellbeing of employees, particularly in difficult times, with the addition of providing peace of mind which boosts mental wellbeing.

Physical wellbeing was ranked as most important to employees by over half (51%) of employers, yet it is only provided by 41%. While private medical insurance (PMI) is an obvious and effective way to care for the physical health of employees, there are other more economical options too, such as lifestyle apps to help improve employee fitness, screening to help with early detection of serious conditions or access to virtual GPs and physio.

Debra Clark concludes: “It is important to have a good balance in supporting all four pillars of wellbeing. With so many solutions available, at different levels, costs, and returns, asking for expert guidance is always a good place to start.”