EXCLUSIVE: Less than half of UK firms have a wellbeing strategy

Despite being nearly a year into lockdown, less than half of businesses (44%) have a wellbeing strategy in place, according to Aon research exclusively shared with www.employeebenefits.co.uk.

The study polled 332 employee benefits and rewards specialists for the company’s UK benefits and trends survey 2021 and found that only a minority of businesses have health and wellbeing programmes, with 70% having no designated health and wellness budget.

In addition to this, 22% said they did not intend to introduce a wellbeing strategy within the next 12-18 months.

Commenting on the results, Mark Witte, head of health and risk consulting, health solutions (UK), Aon, said: “The fact that less than half of the employers we surveyed have a comprehensive wellbeing strategy in place is perhaps one of the key observations from this year’s survey. Overall it seems wellbeing activity all too often lacks strategic focus.”

Linked to lack of strategy was the additional finding that even among those that did have one, Aon found less than 10% measured its return on investment, while 32% said it was not important.

Whitte said: “We know measurement is a crucial way of assessing and tailoring benefits to employees’ needs. Lack of measurement can make it harder to justify investment and secure maximum value.

“Perhaps this explains why 70% of employers do not have a designated budget for health and wellness.”

More positive was the fact that for 56% of employers, wellbeing had moved up the corporate agenda, with 55% of those polled admitting they are now using employee engagement surveys to drive wellbeing solutions.

The data also showed there is a lot of restricted-measures spend, with 76% of firms now having emotional/mental wellbeing strategies in place – up 8 percentage points from 2020 (68%). Nearly two-thirds (59%) of employers also said they had a specific strategy in place covering mental health.

But despite this being more encouraging, Whitte said having lots of different areas not linked to an overall strategy will not produce the results that organisations might seek.

He said: “Having a robust wellbeing strategy in place will contribute to employee resilience. But as our survey also highlights, it is important for employers to ensure their strategy is inclusive of all five pillars of wellbeing; emotional and mental, physical, financial, career and social.”

He concluded: “There is a danger that the impact of the pandemic means employers focus the majority of their efforts on emotional and mental initiatives.”

Looking forward, the survey found 78% of organisations said they will seek to prioritise prevention strategies in their health and wellbeing plans.