Are Employees Really Okay? How to Address The Wellbeing Gap
If you ask an employer and their employees about how well organizations are supporting personal wellbeing, you might be surprised by the difference in their answers.
Over the past two years, employers have recognized that employees need more support for their wellbeing. In 2020, LifeWorks reported that 60% of employees would leave their job for less pay to get a better wellness benefits package and 70% said that mental health was a key priority. Since then, surveys show that employers have listened. 68% of employers say they have enhanced their wellbeing proposition, 84% say they have increased communication efforts, and 52% have added voluntary benefits (Buck, 2022).
Despite the investment in mental health and wellbeing supports, there appears to be a gap in the perception of whether employee needs are being met. According to Buck’s 2022 Wellness and Voluntary Benefits survey, employers are overly positive about the mental, emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing of their workforce, rating wellbeing four times higher than employees. Only one-third of employees view their employer resources as helpful and barely 50% think their employer is actually focused on employee wellbeing (2022).
With an evident gap between what employers are providing and what employees need, organizations need to get to the root of the wellbeing dilemma if they hope to improve job satisfaction and engagement.
The Gap in Employee Wellness Plans
According to surveys, employees are needing much more wellness support than they are receiving. Employees rate their top wellbeing concerns as financial health, social health, and mental health (Buck, 2022). Buck reports that some of the specific concerns from employees include the following: they live paycheck-to-paycheck (54%), they want better work relationships (56%), they want help with social isolation (41%), and they are exhausted (30%).
Health benefits plans are also falling in short in meeting employee needs, according to a 2021 report from The Conference Board of Canada. Their survey revealed a gap of up to 83% between the benefits provided vs. the ones that are wanted by employees. The top benefits employees want include dental care, vision care, a pension, and retirement savings plans. Most employees only receive partial coverage for their health benefits, and employees who have health spending accounts use it towards dental, vision, and prescriptions in lieu of mental health services. Additionally, most employees want flexible work arrangements to support their physical and mental health.
How Can Employers Support Wellbeing?
Employee wellbeing is not a one-size-fits-all program. It requires the employer to individualize and the employee to take advantage of the wellbeing programs. The most well documented and researched tool for wellbeing is supervisor support. It is not just the program, but the corporate culture, psychological safety, and flexibility of the workplace that empowers employees to get the care they need.
According to a study from Guardian Life Insurance, 54% of workers are aware of wellness programs provided by their employers, but only 28% have taken advantage of those services (2022). Part of the problem may be communication and implementation, said the study. Employers agreed that more communication was needed, with 58% saying they should communicate about EAPs more often and 48% saying they should communicate about EAP using more channels (2022).
Use the following strategies to ensure that resources are being used:
- Find out what employees need and want. Before making a financial investment into benefits, assess the needs of your workforce and identify gaps so that you can be sure you are implementing programs that make a difference.
- Make resources available during work time. One of the biggest barriers to accessing wellness resources is time. Make it easier for employees to get the tools they need.
- Communicate the benefits that are available. Create a communication strategy around benefits to educate employees about their benefits and how to use them.
- Make resources easily accessible. Are the benefits easy to access, no matter the location of the employee? Consider using virtual healthcare services that allow your employees to be flexible in how they access the care they need.
- Consider customization of programs. An employee wellbeing program is not one size fits all. Understand the needs of your team and find a program that fits your employees.
- Build in social support. Create a culture of supportive peers and supervisors who prioritize wellbeing and work together to eliminate stigma.
- Train supervisors in how to encourage and support employees. These skills are not always ingrained, but they can be taught. Training managers and leaders first gives your team the ability to support the organization from the top down.
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
Gowan Consulting offers a mental health walk-in clinic service (also offered virtually) to organizations to provide employees access to mental health services during the workday. Mental health clinics or success coaching from an Occupational Therapist can lead to the retention of valuable staff who otherwise would not have time to access mental health supports outside of work. Proactive, onsite support can help employees before their mental health concerns begin to impact their work, which benefits the health and financial bottom line of any organization. To learn more, contact us!
You may be interested in some other tools and strategies:
- Check out our extensive array of Mental Health webinars. They cover topics such as resiliency, breaking down the stigma, mindfulness, and more. We can also provide customized sessions for your whole organization.
- We provide Psychological Safety at Work Training and Manager Mental Health Training for your team. Sign up for our next live workshop on June 30, 2022! Our online workshops and courses cover all the areas of psychological risks within the workplace. They assist employers in assessing and reducing the risk by implementing strategies and tools within the workplace.
- Identify and support those who require adjustments or flexibility in their work to manage mental health concerns – get help from an Occupational Therapist. You can make a referral here.
“Morneau Shepell finds employees would accept lower pay for enhanced well-being support,” LifeWorks, January 28, 2020, https://media.lifeworks.com/English/news/news-details/2020/Morneau-Shepell-finds-employees-would-accept-lower-pay-for-enhanced-well-being-support/default.aspx
“Infographic: How wide is the wellbeing gap?” Ruth Hunt and Tom Kelly, Buck, March 8, 2022, https://buck.com/ca/infographic-how-wide-is-the-wellbeing-gap/
“Seeking Support: The Future of Employee Health,” The Conference Board of Canada, November 16, 2021, https://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=11360
“As Well-being Declines, Workers Look to Their Employers for More Support,: Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, January 25, 2022, https://www.guardianlife.com/news/release/well-being-declines-workers-look-their-employers-more-support