During the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated existing workplace trends and highlighted essential benefits that were ignored too long. Two such areas include mental well-being and digitally offered solutions.
To better understand the future of employee well-being in a post-COVID-19 world, particularly the renewed focus on a holistic approach, Wellable Labs conducted its annual Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report. The report, compiled after surveying companies trusted advisors, their health insurance brokers, explores three key areas: (i) investment trends, (ii) decision influencers, and (iii) vendor criteria.
This year, the report also includes special sections dedicated to burnout, mental health, financial wellness and caregiving benefits. The findings underscore four clear employee benefits trends company decision makers should plan for in 2022.
- Employers are prioritizing mental health programs for employees. – Mental health programs are seeing a rapid increase in adoption and investment in the workplace as the COVID-19 pandemic triggers mental health conditions. Most employers surveyed are increasing their investment in mental health programs (90 percent), followed closely by stress management and resilience programs (76 percent), and mindfulness and meditation programs (71 percent).
- Virtual employee benefits are now the preference as employers expand their offerings. – The fight to attract and retain top talent continues, particularly in the post-pandemic landscape. Employers are focusing on expanding employee benefits and wellness offerings, but now, virtual wellness solutions are taking precedence. According to their brokers, 72 percent of employers who expect to be investing more in health and well-being will do so completely or mostly virtually. Examples of such benefits include on-demand fitness classes, health education and literacy, health coaching, and health fairs.
- Brokers are encouraging their corporate clients to define a clear strategy for managing chronic workplace stress. – A mere 1 percent of surveyed brokers believe their clients have a strong understanding of how well employees are managing chronic workplace stress, and they are taking action to combat this. In the year ahead, brokers are imploring their clients to have a clear strategy in place. They specifically will urge employers to find solutions for their two primary barriers: (i) lack of budget (64 percent) and (ii) lack of internal resources (55 percent). Though brokers say employers are focusing their efforts on mental health programs and flexible work schedules (73 percent), this is not enough to mitigate employee burnout.
- Telemedicine adoption and utilization are soaring. – Because of the sharp rise in remote work and safety concerns at heath offices, the adoption of telemedicine accelerated rapidly since the pandemic began and continues to climb. Employees and employers have come to appreciate telemedicine’s ability to offer flexible, on-demand and cost-effective solutions. As a result, 80 percent of employers plan to invest more in this benefit in the coming year.
“After two volatile years filled with unpredictability, resilience is declining, and employees are looking to their employers to generate certainty,” said Brighid Sullivan, director of Wellable Labs, in a prepared statement released with the findings. “Organizations now have no choice but to reevaluate their total benefits strategy and their unique employee needs to ensure their approach meets the demand of the modern employee.
“Based on the trends we’re seeing in this year’s Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report, employers should focus on benefit selection and design through a lens of empathy, support, and expectation management, and they should emphasize rebuilding trust within their organization. Those who do will have the best chance of rebuilding their workforce for long-term success as we come out on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sullivan said.