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Health employers investing in well-being despite economic pressures

Article

Survey shows majority of employers maintaining or adding to existing programs for employees

A survey from Fidelity Investments and Business Group on Health found that employers of all sizes are investing in well-being as part of their workforce strategy more so now than in the past.

Well-being programs: ©PX Media - stock.adobe.com

Well-being programs: ©PX Media - stock.adobe.com

Many employers said this heightened focus is because of the toll the pandemic took on the workforce. In fact, 90% of employers stated that the current economic environment would not lead to a reduction in their investment and 31% said they would increase their investment in well-being.

The survey results also indicated many pre-COVID programs would return this year. For instance, 61% plan to offer onsite yoga or meditation classes, up from 22% in 2022; 60% plan to offer onsite fitness classes, up from 25% in 2022; 62% plan to offer onsite health fairs, up from 6% in 2022; and 35% plan to offer onsite counseling or therapy, up from 18% in 2022.

“Employees today are looking to employers for support as they navigate work and life in a post-pandemic world,” said Robert Kennedy, Health and Welfare Practice Leader at Fidelity Workplace Consulting, which helps multinational organizations design and manage employee benefit strategies and supporting programs, in a statement. “We are so encouraged to see employers around the globe continue to invest in and evolve their well-being programs, meeting employees exactly where they are and providing them with much-needed support.”

Employers plan to increase the focus of their programs, according to the survey. For example, in 2023, 82% of employers plan to focus on social connectedness, up from 70% in 2022; and 79% plan to focus on community, up from 67% in 2022. The survey notes that these dimensions, as well as job satisfaction and purpose in life, are expected to jump by up to 20 points in the next two years.

“Employers are well-aware of the essential relationship between more sustainable workforces and robust well-being strategies,” said Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health. “It’s exciting to watch major employers demonstrate their commitment to employees by growing their well-being initiatives. By improving upon their existing offerings, everyone wins.”

In 2023, 80% of employers reported having a global consistency approach or actively developing a strategy, according to the survey. Respondents cited top challenges in implementing a global well-being strategy that include employee needs differing by country (63%) and a lack of providers delivering global solutions (38%).

Financial incentives are also becoming popular. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of employers said they would offer financial incentives to reward positive well-being actions in 2023, a jump from just over two-thirds (68%) in 2021 and 2022, according to the survey. Most employers are delivering financial incentives using gift cards or other cash equivalents (52%), with Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) and Health Savings Account (HSA) funding as the next most common incentive (40%). On average, employers provided an incentive of $716 per employee, down 13% from last year. For spouses/partners, the average incentive amount is $662 per employee, an increase of 3% from last year.

Lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) are employer-funded post-tax accounts providing employees with a fixed amount to spend on various well-being resources. 8% of employers said they introduced LSAs in 2023; another 35% said they would considering doing so in 2024.

The survey notes that more growth surrounding incentives is anticipated in the next three to five years, with 43% of respondents planning to expand their investments. An additional 35% will maintain their incentive funding through 2026-2028.

While most employers plan to maintain their overall well-being investments in the next three to five years, some dimensions of well-being will experience varying levels of investment, with employers most likely to expand mental health (74%); financial wellness/well-being (53%); work/life balance (52%); and physical health initiatives (50%).

The survey, fielded in December 2022 and January 2023, includes responses from 184 employers, the majority of which have global operations.

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