Debi O’Donovan: What happened in 2013 to influence 2014?

As the year draws to a close, we look back at what 2013 brought us. Clearly, pensions auto-enrolment dominated the scene for most Employee Benefits readers, given that our subscribers tend to manage larger workforces.

But it has been interesting to note how workplace wellbeing has been growing steadily over the years and is predicted to become more of a focus in the years ahead.

The reasons are well known to us and include the ageing workforce and increases in obesity, diabetes and cancer among workers.

We in the UK are years behind our colleagues in the US when it comes to being proactive on employee wellbeing. I recently spoke to Sally Luck, HR director – corporate services and wellness at Hallmark Cards in the US, who is speaking at our first New York Employee Benefits Connect in March. The work her team is doing to help staff improve their wellbeing is impressive, but even more impressive are the hard business and cost reasons behind the projects.

Unlike American benefits managers, we are not faced with eye-watering medical claims bills on our employee health schemes. This can make us think this is the NHS’s problem. But the poor NHS simply will not have the extra funds it will need in future to cope with the rising tide of ill-health we are facing. So we need to face facts now.

Interestingly, many US benefits managers include financial wellbeing as part of the overall wellbeing proposition. Of course, some UK organisations do that too. Perhaps, as employers now try to get a return on investment for their auto-enrolment spend, a good place to start is educating staff about finances more generally. After all, as we learnt during National Stress Day last month, money worries are one of the biggest stresses many employees face.

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By reflecting on 2013, we can also see what needs to be picked up and acted on in 2014.