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Employees continue to struggle with stress, while awareness of wellbeing schemes remains low

While employees across the United States and Europe continue to report high levels of stress, a surprising percentage do not take full advantage of their workplace’s wellbeing initiatives, despite employers’ continued prioritisation of these programmes, a new survey has found.

According to findings from Alight and Business Group on Health’s research series, 2022 Alight International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study, close to three-quarters (73%) of workers reported high levels of stress due to such factors as the ongoing pandemic, economic concerns, and social unrest.

Additionally, more than one-third (34%) of workers reported suffering symptoms of burnout, while only one in three employees said their employer cared about their wellbeing.

“These sentiments demonstrate a disconnect in employees’ views of their workplace wellbeing benefits, as large employers have continued to make significant investments in workforce wellbeing benefits and programmes,” said Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health.

Just 15% of employees in the United States and the United Kingdom reported being aware of employer-sponsored stress-management programmes. And of those who were aware of the benefit, less than one-quarter (23%) said they used it, even though 32% of employees wanted their employer to offer more mental health resources.

The survey findings identified key areas of opportunity for companies in prioritising the total wellbeing of their workforce and increasing employee awareness and adoption of available wellbeing programmes. These include:

  • Building awareness of available mental health programmes. Creating engaging and personalised programmes through a combination of technology, navigation and communication can boost employee awareness of available and accessible resources.
  • Supporting long-term financial goals and understanding short-term demands. Long-term financial planning remains a challenge for many employees, who need assistance with reducing debt levels, sticking to a budget, saving for more immediate financial needs and having longer-term savings goals. Balanced financial wellbeing programmes that provide smart steps for employees to take today can help boost overall financial wellbeing and reduce one of life’s major stressors.
  • Providing balance and flexibility. The pandemic demonstrated that workers value flexibility and, for those who can, being able to work remotely at least some of the time. More than half of employees (54%) said a flexible work environment differentiated one employer from another, creating an opportunity for employers to set themselves apart from peers. Additionally, more than half (59%) of all workers said being able to work remotely had a positive impact on their wellbeing.

Kantar conducted the research, surveying more than 10,000 employees from February 2022 to March 2022 in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and the Netherlands. This marked the first time the study included countries outside the United States. Additional reports about the research will be issued later this year.

“Workers worldwide found that COVID-19 intensified challenges to wellbeing,” said Stephan Scholl, CEO of Alight Solutions. “As a result, they sometimes face difficulties in showing up to work as their best selves, which ultimately affects companies’ bottom line. At the same time, caring about employee wellbeing is critical to recruiting and retaining talent.”

“Employers can use this valuable survey data to refine how employees learn about and experience wellbeing initiatives, as well as how to better meet the specific needs of employees,” said Kelsay of Business Group on Health. “Many employers have invested considerably in wellbeing resources in recent years, and a key takeaway from these findings is that there is more they can do to ensure employees are aware of and utilising those offerings.”

Other survey findings:

  • S. employees tended to have a more positive view of their overall wellbeing than those in Europe. More than half (53%) of U.S. employees rated their overall wellbeing highly, compared to 40% in the U.K. and 35% in France.
  • American workers (43%) experienced the most stress about long-term financial planning, though financial priorities differed for workers in other countries. Still, fully 47% of U.S. employees said they felt in control of their financial future, compared with 35% of their European counterparts.
  • S. employees appeared to be more comfortable than those elsewhere with personalised health benefit messages (58% vs. 48%) as well as with sharing personal information for customised financial guidance (68% vs. 51%).