WTW survey: Employers see workers' mental well-being as a top priority this year

Most employers have named worker stress, mental health and burnout as key priorities in the coming year, but nearly half have yet to articulate a formal strategy for wellness, according to a new survey.

A new survey from WTW, or Willis Towers Watson, finds 86% are putting a focus on mental health needs. However, 49% have yet to lay out their formal plan, the survey found. Just a quarter of the 322 employers surveyed have outlined and deployed a wellness strategy.

“As stress and burnout levels continue to climb amid the ongoing pandemic, employers are putting the overall well-being of their employees at the top of their list,” said Regina Ihrke, senior director of health and benefits at WTW, in a statement.

“The organizations that most effectively move the needle are those that develop a comprehensive strategy that supports all aspects of their employees’ wellbeing," Ihrke said. "It’s also important to articulate that strategy to employees, conduct manager training and measure effectiveness.”

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The surveyed employers represent 5.3 million workers.

The survey also examines employers' progress toward well-being programs targeting a number of specific areas, including physical, emotional and financial health. For instance, 48% of employers are planning or considering programs that target emotional well-being. About one-third (35%) have rolled out such a program.

Twenty-seven percent of employers said they were planning or considering programs that target specific high-cost needs such as maternity, diabetes and depression. Sixty-four percent said they already offer such programs.

In addition, the survey found 32% of employers are planning or considering financial well-being of workers. Just 18% currently offer such programs.

“As we move into 2022, employers struggling with recruitment and retention will look to make their wellbeing programs a differentiator to attract and engage top talent. For years, employers have used financial rewards to encourage employees to take action for their own wellbeing; however, as those incentives have often failed to change employee behavior, employers are seeking new avenues to engage and incent employees to take charge of their own wellbeing,” said Ihrke.