As employers prepare to bring employees back to their physical workplaces in 2022, they’re planning to position mental health (91 per cent), physical health (60 per cent) and work-life balance (57 per cent) initiatives as integral components of the transition, according to a new survey by Fidelity Investments Inc. and Business Group on Health.

The survey, which polled 166 global organizations, found the majority (60 per cent) of respondents said most of their employees will be working under a hybrid work model in 2022, while about half of this group expect most staff to work onsite three days a week.

“As people return to work in this new landscape, employers will be flexible and empathetic in supporting them as much as possible,” said Ellen Kelsay, president and chief executive officer of Business Group on Health, in a press release. “Every C-suite executive now fully realizes the correlation of their workforce’s health and well-being to the overall success of their business.”

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The survey also found 81 per cent of large and mid-sized employers reported that their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies influence the design of their well-being program, while 82 per cent said they communicate with their employees about the relationship between DEI and well-being. In addition, 50 per cent indicated they’re designing well-being initiatives to support traditionally underrepresented communities and 45 per cent said they plan to assess benefits and well-being initiatives for inclusivity.

While the survey found overall budgets for well-being programs declined slightly in 2022, the average budget for large employers (more than 20,000 employees) increased to US$11 million, up from US$10.5 million in 2021. As well, the amount spent per employee grew significantly among companies in the mid-market (fewer than 5,000 employees), increasing 60 per cent in 2022, from US$184 to US$294 per employee.

The survey also found incentives play a role in well-being programs, with the median maximum financial incentive staying at US$600 and the average climbing to US$823, a 22 per cent increase over 2021. Also, about a fifth (22 per cent) of respondents said they tie some type of financial incentive or disincentive into encouraging employees to get the coronavirus vaccine. Among those offering financial incentives, the average was US$406, with some employers offering as much as $1,000 per employee.

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Across all global respondents, the percentage that offer well-being programs climbed to 76 per cent. However, most programs differ from country to country, with only 17 per cent of respondents saying they have a consistent global well-being strategy. And while the top objectives for well-being programs globally included increased productivity (68 per cent), reduced health risk (63 per cent) and managing health-care costs (52 per cent), another 39 per cent of respondents noted they hope offering a well-being program improves their company’s reputation and brand.

“Employers are facing a unique set of challenges as employees return and re-adjust to a more traditional work environment and we’re encouraged to see so many employers . . . evolving their employee well-being programs to address the needs of their workers,” said Robert Kennedy, health and welfare practice leader at Fidelity Workplace Consulting, in the release. “As organizations around the globe continue to invest in these programs and expand them to include a greater number of workplace benefits, we’ll continue to see corporate well-being programs playing an important role in business strategy and overall workforce management.”

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