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The State of Social in ESG

Data & Insights:

Employee Health and Safety

Introduction

As noted at the outset of this report, the pandemic and cultural reckonings ushered in a new era for the workplace where management teams were compelled to focus on building more inclusive and human-centric work environments. In the context of an unprecedented global health crisis, the health and safety of employees became a top priority for organizations navigating deep uncertainty while aiming to mitigate risks and operational disruptions. Although a degree of normalcy will probably emerge as the pandemic becomes endemic, it is clear that the future of work will not look like the past. Against that backdrop, we wanted to understand what kind of actions organizations have been taking in the realm of employee health and safety. This section examines organizations’ practices regarding their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing, and whether employers have strengthened their health and safety programs since the pandemic started. 

What organizations are doing

0

Employers offer physical health perks beyond conventional benefits

0

Employers offer mental health perks beyond conventional benefits

0

Employers increased health and safety benefits since the pandemic

How employees feel about it

0

of Canadian employees believe their employers are doing very or somewhat well on delivering physical and mental health benefits. 

0

of US employees believe their employers are doing very or somewhat well on delivering physical and mental health benefits. 

Figure 13: Physical Health & Fitness

Does your organization offer perks or benefits above and beyond conventional health & dental insurance to promote PHYSICAL health & fitness?

We asked survey participants whether their organizations offer perks or benefits above and beyond conventional insurance coverage to support their employees’ physical health and fitness. For clarity, we provided examples such as credits, allowances, gym memberships or other programs to promote physical health and fitness.

As presented in Figure 13 above, a strong majority of participants (70%) offer perks or benefits above and beyond conventional health and dental insurance to promote physical health and fitness among their employees. Eight percent of participants are considering or working on offering such perks or benefits, and 21% of participants do not currently offer these perks or benefits and are not considering it. We asked the participants who provide these physical health perks or benefits to tell us more about their offerings. The top three responses were credits or allowances for fitness activities, ergonomic assessments/equipment options, and onsite exercise facilities/programming. Additional details are shown in Figure 14. Since there is such a strong majority of participants offering these perks or benefits to promote physical health and fitness, organizations that do not offer such programs may find themselves competing for talent that can most likely obtain such benefits elsewhere.

Organizations who do not offer physical health perks above and beyond conventional benefits may lose out in the competition for talent.

Figure 14: Types of physical health and fitness benefits/perks

Does your organization offer perks or benefits above and beyond conventional health & dental insurance to promote PHYSICAL health & fitness?
Credits or allowances for fitness activities
70%
Ergonomic assessments/equipment options
64%
Onsite exercise facilities/programming
50%
Credits or allowances for fitness supplies
46%
Gym or fitness membership
40%
Office team or exercise groups
24%
Surveys to assess physical health of employees
14%
Other
10%

N=50

Figure 15: Mental health and wellbeing

Does your organization offer perks or benefits above and beyond conventional health & dental insurance to promote MENTAL health & wellbeing?

Mental wellbeing is increasingly recognized as an important component of overall health. While this recognition started to enter the mainstream prior to the pandemic, the pandemic put the spotlight not only on physical health (i.e. coronavirus infections) but also on mental health as most people suffered from stress and/or other mental health challenges. For example, a 2020 survey from Morneau Shepell found that 81% of Canadians felt the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health.6 Similarly, a 2020 survey from the American Psychological Association found that 78% of Americans felt the pandemic was a significant source of stress in their life.

Flexible working hours is the top benefit employers offer to support mental health in the workplace.

We asked each survey participant whether their organization offers perks or benefits above and beyond conventional insurance to promote mental health and wellbeing among employees. For clarity, we provided examples such as credits, allowances, memberships, mental health education, therapy services, or other programs to promote mental health and wellbeing.

As shown in Figure 15, approximately three-quarters of participants (76%) offer perks or benefits above and beyond conventional health and dental insurance to promote mental health and wellbeing, while 13% are considering it or working on it. Only 11% of participants do not offer these perks or benefits and are not presently considering it.

We asked the participants who offer extra mental health perks or benefits to identify the types of benefits or perks on offer. These results are presented in Figure 16 below. Notably, the top response was flexible working hours to accommodate employees’ wellbeing, followed closely by credits or allowances for mental health services, mental health education, and access to mental health facilities or programming.

Since such a strong majority of participants offer these perks or benefits to promote mental wellbeing, organizations that do not offer such programs may face retention and recruitment challenges as they compete for talent with organizations that do.

Figure 16: Types of mental health benefits/perks

Which MENTAL health and wellbeing perks or benefits does your organization offer to employees above and beyond conventional insurance coverage?
Flexible working hours to accommodate wellbeing
68%
Credits or allowances for mental health services
62%
Mental health education for employees
57%
Onsite or virtual access to mental health facilities/programming
55%
Mental health or wellness days (above & beyond sick days)
42%
Policy to limit email/messaging after hours
42%
Surveys to assess physical health of employees
38%
Leadership training in mental health
34%
Shortened work weeks for 2 months or more annually
19%
Other
8%

N=53

Figure 17: More focus on health and safety following the pandemic

Has your organization increased the number of programs or initiatives dedicated to employee health and safety since the pandemic started?

As discussed in the introduction to this report, the pandemic required a new kind of management that is founded on humanity and empathy. As such, we wanted to test our hypothesis that most organizations have made efforts to adapt to this new reality. So, we asked participants whether they have increased the number of programs dedicated to employee health and safety. The survey data suggests that our hypothesis has been confirmed.

As shown in Figure 17, a strong majority of survey participants (79%) have increased the number of programs or initiatives dedicated to employee health and safety since the pandemic started, while 9% are considering or working on growing such programs. Only 13% of participants have not expanded their health and safety programs and are not presently considering it.

These datapoints, alongside others in this survey, illuminate the changing nature of human capital management in the post-pandemic era. Most organizations are adapting to the new era by investing more in their employees’ wellbeing, as evidenced by the increased programming dedicated to employee health and safety.

The employee perspective

on physical and mental health benefits:
Big priority, big gap

US and Canadian employees overwhelmingly agree on the importance of employer programs and initiatives to support their physical and mental well-being.

 Overall, 84% of employees in both the US and Canada feel that it is very or somewhat important that their organizations invest in creating programs and initiatives to support their physical and mental health and well-being. Also clear from the research: there is a significant gap between the level of importance employees place on these investments and how well they believe their employers are doing. On trend, that gap is wider among Canadian employees than it is among US employees, as show in Figure 18.

Given the extent to which organizations appear to be investing in and growing physical and mental health programs, the disconnect around employee’s perceptions of performance is worth flagging. Are employee expectations evolving faster than organizations’ efforts to address them? Is there a disconnect between the type of programs being offered and employees’ specific needs? Is the breakdown occurring at the employee communication and engagement level (i.e. organizations don’t fully know or understand employee needs) or at the product and service level (i.e. organizations know what employees want by either can’t or won’t deliver aligned benefits and programs)? These are questions worth exploring, especially, as noted above, this is important terrain on which the war for talent is won and lost.

Figure 18: Importance of physical and mental health initiatives versus perceptions of performance

Creating programs or initiatives that support employee’s physical and mental health and well-being

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