The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted employee wellbeing in many ways. While some found remote working as a good chance to cultivate healthier habits, some others found the social isolation making them feel lonely, and the stress of multiple responsibilities affected their holistic wellbeing.
Alight conducted an annual Employee Wellbeing Mindset Study to understand the individual psychology and perceptions about employee wellbeing across various holistic wellness dimensions, including – emotional, physical, financial, social, and occupational wellbeing. The study was conducted on 2,501 US employees at the start of 2021. The study mainly focused on employee perceptions after a long time since the pandemic started, amidst the rising hope about the vaccines and things getting back on track.
Here are the key outcomes of Alight’s 2021 Employee Wellbeing study –
As expected, less than half (only 40%) of the U.S. employees have a positive approach and mindset about their overall wellbeing, which fell from 49% in 2020.
- Emotional wellbeing decreased from 46% in 2020 to 39% in 2021.
- Physical health and wellbeing perspectives reduced from 44% in 2020 to 38% in 2021.
- Financial wellbeing declined from 40% in 2020 to 35% in 2021.
- Occupational wellbeing decreased from 44% in 2020 to 36% in 2021.
- Social wellbeing reduced from 45% in 2020 to 38% in 2021.
Despite the major decline in many wellbeing aspects, 70% of the respondents said they had an overall good employee experience.
Impact on Employee Mental Health
The pandemic had taken a toll on employee mental health, and it started impacting their work productivity. So, many employers have started suitable wellbeing support to address employee mental wellness.
- Almost 4 in every 10 US employees said that the COVID-19 pandemic had declined their emotional and mental health.
- 43% of employees or their family members/dependents had sought counseling for emotional wellbeing, which was a huge rise from the 18% in 2018.
- 41% are experiencing workplace burnout issues, and 34% said they were exhausted and did not have the energy they would wish to have during their workdays.
- 55% of working parents and caregivers said the remote working and extra workload was stressing them out and it was too much for them to handle it.
- 29% of employees (including working parents and caregivers) were terrified about starting their workday.
Employee Wellbeing Priorities
Employees are setting diverse wellbeing priorities. Almost 75% of the survey respondents said their high-priority wellbeing priorities included – eating healthy, exercise, work-life balance, budgeting, and stress management. Employers are trying to address these wellbeing priorities through different corporate wellness initiatives to ensure overall employee wellness.
- Eating healthy – Priority for 81% in 2020 and 81% in 2021.
- Managing work-life balance – Priority for 77% in 2020 and 79% in 2021
- Exercising enough – Priority for 74% in 2020 and 76% in 2021
- Stress management – Priority for 73% in 2020 and 75% in 2021
- Getting regular health screenings – Priority for 70% in 2020 and 71% in 2021
- Staying within a budget – Priority for 83% in 2020 and 81% in 2021
Employees are Optimizing their Healthcare Costs
Many employees are also looking for ways to optimize their healthcare elements. The July 2020 study showed that 52% of employees had delayed their medical and preventive care due to the pandemic. The current 2021 study showed that there is still employee healthcare delay, but the number reduced to 34%.
50% of employees used telehealth and digital health solutions during the pandemic, and 82% said they would use it again even after the pandemic situation ceases. 89% of telemedicine users said it was a very helpful and valuable healthcare option.
In 2020, only 35% of employees had given a serious thought about healthcare costs and savings, and the number increased to 43% in 2021. Also, 66% of employees started saving up for healthcare expenses, compared to 60% in 2020.
Employee Challenges about their Health and Wellbeing
Simply put, many employees are overwhelmed with the current situation and its unwanted secondary effects. While many feel they are doing well about their health and wellbeing, they are still not convinced if they are doing enough and are questioning their efforts.
- 38% of employees said living a healthy life required more attention and investment of money and time, which was more than what they were willing to invest.
- Due to the high healthcare costs, 4 in 10 have delayed medical care for themselves or their family members.
- Almost 1 in every 3 employees has often struggled with access to clean water, healthy food, transportation, and health services during the pandemic.
Employer Response to Support Employee Health and Wellness
Long into the pandemic (until the survey was conducted in early 2021), employees felt good about how their employers supported and responded to their health and wellbeing needs. Almost 85% of them agreed that the corporate wellness programs offered at the workplace made them feel good about their employers.
Employers had started implementing different employee engagement strategies and wellbeing initiatives to their corporate wellness programs. More importantly, they created awareness about the workplace wellbeing programs and their initiatives. Almost 68% of the workforce was now aware of the employer-sponsored employee wellness programs, their benefits, and other resources for support during the pandemic, compared to the 62% in 2020.
Also, 67% of them felt safer and secure with their employer, compared to 63% in 2020.
Employees who had access to employer-sponsored corporate wellness programs were very glad and responded well to these employee wellbeing initiatives.
79% of respondents said these employee wellness solutions helped them to avoid getting sick, while 75% said the corporate wellness programs were the key reason why they were not leaving their employer. 84% of them said these employee wellness solutions made them feel good about their employers.
With so many positive changes happening around despite the uncertainties, employers can take this opportunity to boost employee engagement and workplace wellness through their employee wellness solutions. Understanding employee health and wellness needs are the foundation to designing a well-suited corporate wellness program. And with the right employee engagement strategies, employers can support workplace wellbeing and employee productivity, at all times.