Global employers increasing emphasis on work-life balance: survey

The majority (95 per cent) of global employers said they include emotional and mental-health programs in their corporate well-being platforms, according to a new survey by Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments Inc.

The survey, which was fielded last fall and prior to the coronavirus pandemic, found the most common mental-health and well-being offerings were teletherapy, which 69 per cent of employers said they’ll offer this year, followed by stress management (50 per cent), resiliency programs (49 per cent) and programs to help improve sleep (33 per cent). 

Employers also said they’re increasing their emphasis on helping employees improve their work-life balance, with 78 per cent of respondents reporting they include these types of benefits in their well-being platforms. Popular work-life balance benefits included caregiver support (46 per cent), programs and tools for new parents (36 per cent) and childcare support (35 per cent).

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“Employers are facing a completely different set of well-being challenges this year as they and their employees try to adapt to changes to their physical work environment or their job status,” said Shams Talib, head of Fidelity’s workplace consulting division, in a press release. “The study results are consistent with the thousands of calls we’ve been having with plan sponsors since the pandemic began. The expanded focus on mental and emotional well-being comes at a time when a growing number of employees may be facing increased anxiety and stress based on the evolving social and economic landscape.”

The survey also found the average budget for well-being programs increased to US$4.9 million in 2020, up 36 per cent on 2019 survey results. Among large employers (with more than 20,000 employees), the average budget earmarked for well-being programs jumped to US$10.4 million. As well, 31 per cent of employers indicated they have two or more full-time staff dedicated to the company’s well-being program, while 13 per cent said they have more than five full-time employees in this role.

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Financial incentives also played an important role in employers’ well-being offerings. While the percentage of respondents that said they offer a financial incentive dipped slightly, from 82 per cent in 2019 to 78 per cent in 2018, 13 per cent said they plan to increase the maximum incentive amount in 2020. 

According to the survey, most incentives are tied to physical health initiatives, but 15 per cent are tied to initiatives designed to address non-physical programs that address mental, financial and emotional health. And while only 12 per cent of multinational employers said they currently offer financial incentives to employees outside of the U.S., 17 per cent indicated they’ll consider offering them in 2021.