Organizations worldwide are facing a multitude of pressures, from financial headwinds and rising costs to continuing staffing and productivity challenges. Amid this volatile and uncertain business environment, a new global survey from Virgin Pulse found that companies are expanding their commitment to wellbeing initiatives with new strategies to attract and retain talent. The 2023 Global Workplace Wellbeing Survey found that companies who offer health and wellbeing programs are seeing clear ROI and increased employee participation, and that these programs help address their top challenges: company culture and mental health.
Virgin Pulse, the leading global digital-first health, wellbeing, and navigation company, is unveiling these insights as part of its celebration of Employee Wellbeing Month. Now in its 15th year, Employee Wellbeing Month aims to bring awareness to the need for physical, mental, emotional, financial, and social wellbeing support.
Today, more than 70% of executives are confidently seeing the ROI from their employee wellbeing strategies, largely attributed to health outcomes. This is a significant change from the 2018 global survey where only 23% indicated that they could clearly measure the impact of their investment. Additionally, two-thirds have seen an increase in employee participation versus last year as companies prioritize and publicize these programs. Looking at regional specifics, the U.S. participation increase was the highest at 80%, with France at 75%.
“It is no longer enough to offer basic benefits. Employees want to work for a company where their health and wellbeing is a priority, and where each individual is seen as a whole person,” said Jeff Jacques, MD, chief medical officer for Virgin Pulse. “This survey really highlights what employers have intuitively known for years but haven’t always known how they could help: thriving employees contribute to a thriving organization. Despite the challenges being faced globally, it appears that many organizations now understand that investing in their employees’ health and happiness pays many dividends.”
Other notable findings from the 2023 Global Workplace Wellbeing Survey include:
- Mental Health a Significant Challenge & Program Element – The survey found that mental health (38%) is one of the biggest challenges impacting organizations today. This is hardly a surprise given the issues affecting nearly all geographies and demographics over the past few years. When asked about their top priorities for their health and wellbeing program, more than half of organizations surveyed (56%) felt that providing support for mental health concerns was the most important issue to address, followed by stress management (49%) and providing Health Risk Assessments (41%). Notably, smoking cessation – once a top priority – has fallen to the bottom of the priority list (21%). This highlights the significance of regularly reviewing priorities, particularly in light of societal changes that can greatly impact people’s needs.
- Rising Importance of Engagement & Culture – Employee engagement and culture are increasingly important areas for organizations, with 40% identifying company culture as their biggest challenge. The survey showed that the main driver for offering health and wellbeing programs was because a healthy workforce drives employee engagement (28%) and because the programs have a positive impact on workplace culture (21%). Notably, the #1 reason for offering these programs in the Netherlands was to retain top talent (22%) and 26% of respondents from Switzerland said that offering a health and wellbeing program was the right thing to do.
- Companies Spreading the Word via Social Media – Benefits and employee programs will only be useful if staff know that they exist. The survey explored the various channels companies are using to connect and communicate with employees. Email remains the top method for driving awareness of benefits. However, social media spiked from being used by 21% of respondents in 2018 to a whopping 66% this year – a 300% increase in five years. Looking at country-specific insights, France respondents said that personalized messaging from the C-suite was a top communication method, while text messaging is a popular approach for employee communications in Switzerland, Canada, France, and Belgium.
HR Priorities & Plans for 2024
The survey also sheds light on employer priorities and plans for 2024 – important insights for those companies who are beginning to make plans for the coming year, such as U.S. open enrollment season in late 2023. Globally, top talent and retention priorities are to increase employee engagement and satisfaction, work/life flexibility, and employee health and wellbeing. These insights demonstrate that companies are hearing what employees and job hunters are asking for. Regionally, Australia prioritized DE&I as top priority (it came in fourth overall); Belgium named training/learning and development as the most important, and France prioritized employee benefits ahead of all others.
Despite ongoing cost management challenges, the survey found that a majority of respondents (59%) plan to introduce or increase their health and wellbeing programs, mental health programs (57%), flexibility (55%), and healthcare benefits navigation (53%). These results were echoed in most countries surveyed; however, France stands out by identifying healthcare benefits navigation and advocacy programs as a top need.
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