Employers put focus on integrating well-being into benefits, survey finds

As employers aim to diversify their benefits options, a growing number are putting emphasis on integrating well-being programs, a new survey shows.

Willis Towers Watson's 2021 Benefits Trend Survey found that 69% of employers plan to differentiate or customize their benefits options over the next two years. Many (73%) cite diversity, equity and inclusion as a key motivator, and 53% said they were driven by a tightening labor market.

Just over half (51%) said they believe their benefits programs address the individual needs of their employees, according to the survey.

“Amid the ongoing pandemic, employers are under increasing pressure to manage their benefit costs while at the same time finding new ways to support their employees’ overall wellbeing,” said Jennifer DeMeo, senior director of retirement at Willis Towers Watson, in a statement.

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“Additionally, tight labor markets and a growing emphasis on DEI are causing employers to look at their benefits strategies in a new light. As a result, many are now planning actions to enhance their benefit programs to create a competitive advantage," DeMeo said.

Most (81%) employers surveyed said they offer competitive benefits packages, but just 26% said their wellness benefits are market-leading or better than competitors. As such, this is a key target area for improvement, the survey found.

Sixty-nine percent say integrating employee well-being options into the benefits package will be the top benefits priority over the next two years. This extends to physical, emotional, social and financial well-being programs to varying degrees, the survey found.

More than three-quarters (77%) of employers said they have added or enhanced their online or virtual care services, and half (53%) said they plan to continue building on these benefits in the next two years. Seventy-three percent said they plan to enhance their supports for mental health, such as depression or stress.

In addition, 47% said they plan to grow their benefits for financial health and 29% said they're working to enhance social well-being options, the survey found.

“Fostering employee wellbeing and resilience will remain a top employer priority for the foreseeable future,” said Julie Stone, managing director of health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson, in a statement. “Employers would be wise to start with a review of Total Rewards strategies."

"Their challenge will be to develop an equitable approach that meets the needs of all workforce segments while aligning benefits, culture and other rewards with new ways of working and an enhanced employee experience. This will be critically important for employers to be able to manage benefit costs and optimize their investment in benefits," Stone said.