- Employers' well-being strategies will factor heavily into their worksite return plans, according to an annual joint survey conducted by Fidelity Investments and the Business Group on Health.
- Flexibility is a common theme, with 60% of the 166 surveyed organizations stating that a majority of their employees would operate under a hybrid work model in 2022. About half of respondents said they expected most employees to work on-site three days per week. Additionally, 57% said work-life balance initiatives would be "integral components" of their return-to-worksite strategies.
- Overall budgets for well-being programs declined slightly for 2022, the two firms said, but the average budget for large employers with more than 20,000 employees increased from $10.5 million in 2021 to $11 million this year. Meanwhile, employers with fewer than 5,000 workers saw a 60% increased well-being spend per employee. The average maximum financial incentive within well-being programs increased 22% year over year.
Employee well-being took a direct hit from the pandemic. The Business Group's May 2021 survey, conducted in tandem with outsourcing firm Alight Solutions, found that just 40% of employees said they held a positive view of their overall well-being, down from 49% prior to the pandemic. That decline was steeper for respondents of color and those who belonged to Generation Z.
Many also are still hesitant to return to physical worksites due to the risk of disease. A January survey by Pew Research Center found that while 77% said they were at least somewhat satisfied with the measures their workplaces had taken to protect them from COVID-19 exposure, only 36% said they were "very satisfied." Black, Hispanic, lower-income and younger respondents were less likely to say they were very satisfied with protection measures.
While many companies have acknowledged employees' well-being concerns, some studies have shown employers may not be prepared to address those concerns. An October 2021 Willis Towers Watson survey, for example, found that nearly half of employers had not formally articulated a well-being strategy.
Mental health is a common focus for employer-sponsored benefits programs in 2022 given the impact two years of a pandemic have had, even as access and cost concerns prevented some employees from taking advantage of employers' offerings. Some employers have acknowledged shortcomings in their mental health support during that time. It may be worth noting the various approaches organizations took to add support in recent months.
For example, consulting firm EY previously spoke to HR Dive about its offer to pay 75% of the cost, or up to $1,000, toward items such as home office equipment, fitness classes, workout equipment, electric bikes and meal delivery kits. HR technology vendor Phenom similarly announced in January a $1,000 benefit that employees could put toward mental health costs.
Beyond emotional and mental well-being, physical well-being also might be a priority for worksite reopening operations, especially for employees who are recovering from COVID-19 or who exhibit persistent symptoms of the disease. Those experiencing long COVID-19, for instance, could benefit from the support that well-being programs provide, sources recently told HR Dive.