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The 2021 Employee Benefits, Health, and Wellbeing survey – are employee incentives making the UK a healthier nation?

Over the last year moving into 2021, the global shift in working practices has taken businesses an estimated 5-10 years into their projected futures. This has left many employee benefits schemes needing to be overhauled, with many finding that crucial support for health and wellbeing is no longer appropriate to the new working landscape.

For a long time, typical work benefits have included gym memberships, office breakfasts and even boozy socials – how many of these are still relevant to people’s lifestyles and ways of working, and how does the UK’s workforce feel about them?

“Over four in every five UK employees state that their company’s employee benefits scheme no longer fits their lifestyle”

At Wet Ones we know that employee support plays a crucial role in a healthy work/life balance, so we asked employees at 133 workplaces across the UK how their health and wellbeing needs and habits have changed, and whether updated benefits packages from their employers would help to support their wellbeing.

What we discovered highlighted a gap between company benefit schemes and employee lifestyles. So how can companies get up to date with their employees’, offering benefits that truly enhance their life and wellbeing?

Key findings

Employee benefits programmes are out of date. Over four in every five UK employees (81%) state that their company’s employee benefits scheme doesn’t fit their lifestyle 

82% state that employee benefits play a key role in whether they want to work for a company

– Current company benefit schemes are most suited to people aged between 45 and 54. The highest majority (36%) of employees whose company provides a benefits scheme that suits their lifestyle are in this age bracket

– 84% of employees are more physically active since working from home

The biggest ‘want’ from employees is greater flexibility on working hours – this was top of the list for 70% of UK employees

– Employees from large companies are nearly five times less physically active when working from home than employees from SMEs – different size companies should include wellbeing measures adapted to their employees’ routines

– SME employees are least likely to take up mindful activities, with just 11% starting regular meditation or yoga

Why should companies focus on employee benefits, health and wellbeing?

With the lines between work life and home life becoming ever more blurred, it’s more important than ever that work and wellbeing go hand-in-hand. 

Not only is this increasing crossover a result of the pandemic, it reflects the different approach that many people now take to their careers. In today’s non 9-5 world it’s much easier to become consumed by your work – meaning that wellbeing isn’t something you just do in your spare time but an essential component of the job itself.

In addition, they’re essential for attracting young talent:

– 93% of young UK employees (under the age of 25) state that employee benefits play a key role in whether they want to work for a company

While it’s important for older age groups, this figure decreases the older the employee is – 66% of those aged between 45 and 54 say it plays a key role

An employee benefit scheme is also a means to attract the best and brightest talent – 85% of those with bachelor’s degrees state it plays a key role in attracting them to a company. This rises to 90% of those with postgraduate degrees

Changing lifestyles – how much do people now prioritise their time for health and wellbeing?

People are exercising more often through the week when working from home – rather than spending a longer session ‘binge exercising’ at the weekends. 84% of UK respondents say they are more physically active since they started working remotely – and just 15% are less physically active.

Regular and short periods of physical activity prove to be the most effective for many people. This means a shift towards home exercising and methods that don’t require a membership, and employers need to recognise this.

How have lifestyles changed in the UK?

Since the pandemic began we’re not simply finding more time for wellbeing – we’re finding new ways of achieving it during the working day too.

The UK has become a nation of walkers – nearly three in five (56%) of employees now walk more during the working week, and not just on weekends

– Two in five (39%) feel they have had an improved diet – with more ditching takeaways and pre-packaged meals to cook healthy home cooked meals  

– 25% of people in the UK are also taking part in more wellness activities such as engaging with nature and gardening

Does the size of company impact an individuals wellbeing habits?

Our study found big differences in how active employees are since home working began, depending on the size of the company:

Employees from large companies were nearly five times less likely to be physically active than employees from SMEs – suggesting that more support is needed from larger companies, through managed workloads or adapting health incentives.

SMEs

52% of employees working at SMEs have been able to focus on healthy home cooked meals when WFH. Half are walking more often, and one in three are doing an increased amount of cardio activities. 

Interestingly, employees of SMEs were also least likely to do mindful activities, with just 11% starting regular meditation or yoga, and 19% taking up creative activities such as painting or drawing.

Medium to large businesses

Only 3% of employees from medium to large businesses have done more strength exercises since working from home, and one in five are more engaged with nature through gardening and being outdoors.

Large companies

Although employees of larger companies generally do less physical activity (with 48% doing less since working from home), those that do are engaging in a broader range. Those working for large companies are most likely (58%) to have taken up meditation, yoga or other calming activities.

More than half (51%) are also walking more since being out of the office, and half are doing regular strength exercises.

Have companies adapted to fit their employees changing lifestyles?

Our findings show a significant need for companies to adapt their benefits packages, with four in five UK employees (81%) saying that theirs doesn’t fit their lifestyle.

We asked them what they want from their companies to support their physical, mental, and personal wellbeing:

– 70% call for greater flexibility on working hours from their employer

– 61% of employees ask for private healthcare, dental and allowance for health maintenance (like glasses, correct desk equipment, physio etc)

– 53% would like their employee to support with additional ‘health day’ allowance for personal wellbeing

Age differences: Are companies set up to attract the next generation of top talent?

As things stand, most of the UK’s company benefit schemes are suited to employees aged between 45 and 54. 36% of people in this age bracket say that theirs suits their lifestyle. So where does that leave younger generations?

What do Gen Z employees want?

With just 16% of UK employees under 25 feeling that their current benefits package fits their lifestyle, 84% are left wanting something more suitable. Among the findings for this age group are:

The majority want to see vaccinations (not just for Covid-19) included in their benefits packages.

– 25% want to see additional ‘health days’ included in their holiday package

– 21% want greater flexibility around their working hours

What do young professionals want?

More young professionals (24%) between the ages of 25 to 34 believe their company provides an employee benefit scheme that fits their lifestyle. But there are plenty who want more from their employer:

– Just under one in three (30%) want more support from their companies to access healthcare

– 28% want to see additional ‘health days’ included in their holiday package

– 26% want therapist sessions and mental health support

How can companies more effectively support health and wellbeing of employees?

People are investing more and more in their physical and mental wellbeing, and companies need to reflect this new way of living by offering benefits that fit this mould. With many UK employees feeling that their company’s benefits package is out of date, it’s time for companies to adapt to ensure they’re offering real and relevant benefits to everyone – of every age – who works for them.