Employers Increasingly Supporting Employees’ Work/Life Balance, Mental Health

Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are also now influencing companies’ well-being programs, a Fidelity survey finds.

Spurred on by the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are attempting to tailor their benefits to address the evolving needs of their workers, according to new research from Fidelity Investments and the Business Group on Health. They also report that companies’ interest and willingness to support financial health, work/life balance and mental/emotional health are on the rise.

One of the highlights of the 12th annual “Employer-Sponsored Health & Well-Being Survey” is that 80% of companies indicate that diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are now influencing the design of their well-being programs. Of those companies that said DE&I is a factor, nearly half (45%) have initiatives specifically for traditionally marginalized employees, and 49% audit employee benefits and well-being initiatives to assess inclusivity. Thirty-nine percent hold their vendors and suppliers up to DE&I standards.

A large majority (83%) of employers provide programs to support emergency savings, debt management and budgeting, and 77% offer resources to support decisions on mortgages, wills and income protection.

Further, companies are enhancing their support for caregivers and employees’ financial well-being. Sixty-four percent of employers have enhanced child care support, with 55% providing paid leave to care for a child or other family member. Another 48% of employers offer back-up child care support.

The survey also found that 92% of employers have expanded their support for mental health and emotional well-being, which includes programs focused on stress management, sleep improvement and resiliency, as well as pediatric-focused mental health programs.

Seventy-four percent of employers have increased work/life balance programs, including 69% offering new leave options and expanding their leave benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And at some employers, parental leave now includes time off for adopting a child.

Spending on Well-Being Programs Rises

Companies now spend an average of $6 million for well-being programs, up roughly 20% from $4.9 billion in 2020, according to the survey. For companies with more than 20,000 employees, the average budget is $10.5 million.

The average budget per employee was $238 in 2021, up slightly from $230 in 2020.

Over the next three to five years, 74% of employers plan to expand well-being programs.

“The events of the past year have presented an opportunity for many employers to leverage their employee well-being programs to address the unique challenges created by the pandemic,” says Shams Talib, head of Fidelity Workplace Consulting. “As a result, we’ve seen many employers, including Fidelity, for our own associates, evolve their well-being programs to provide greater support for emotional and mental well-being and an increasing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“As we gradually return to a pre-pandemic work environment, employers will continue to try new and different things, and we expect they will leverage their learnings and feedback from employees to continue to find ways to address multiple dimensions of their employees’ well-being,” Talib continues.

Fidelity expects employers will offer hybrid office/home workplaces to their workers, adds Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of the Business Group on Health.

The survey was fielded among 160 national and multinational companies in January.