UK wellbeing strategies not hitting the spot with employees

Latest research from Barnett Waddingham’s UK Workplace Wellbeing Index reveals that despite wellbeing strategies becoming more common practice in UK companies, the benefits are not yet reaching employees.


60% of companies report their employee wellbeing at moderate to very low. This is despite nearly three quarters of respondents claiming they have or are implementing a strategy in 2017.

Organisations need to ask themselves if they are providing the benefits and interventions that are most effective for their employees. The research shows that the top five widely offered benefits (rated by effectiveness) are flexible working or home working, carer support, health assessments, line manager training and cancer screening. However, those most commonly utilised are flexible working, line manager training, carer support, home working and occupational health.

An example of how this currently isn’t coordinated successfully is that only 23% of companies offer cancer screening to employees despite the fact it is rated as a top five benefit for effectiveness. In comparison, 73% of employers offer a cycle-to-work scheme even though it is not considered a top ten effective benefit.


Wellbeing benefits offered to staff % Interventions rated most likely to improve wellbeing Average score out of 5
Flexible working 94 Flexible working and/or home working 3.9
Line manager training 81 Carer support (leave, childcare vouchers, elder care) 3.7
Carer support 80 Health assessments 3.6
Home working 80 Line manager training 3.6
Occupational health 75 Cancer screening 3.6


The good news is that UK companies acknowledge the importance of wellbeing with almost all (96%) stating that it is important to their organisation, with those rating wellbeing as ‘very important’ increasing from 63% in 2016 to 71% this year.

Cost is still a big barrier for many organisations. 32% of employers identify a lack of resource as the biggest barrier and 18% state expense. However, a successful wellbeing strategy can have a high return on investment, helping to recruit and retain high quality employees.


Absence Management expert, Adrian Lewis  welcomed the report, saying:

“It’s great to see that wellbeing is recognised as important by employers.  However, well-meaning employers often implement a strategy without engaging employees to find what they want, or without using data to identify wellness challenges.  This haphazard approach is bound to have a low take-up rate.


“Our advice is to engage employees and also to take an evidence based, holistic approach to workplace wellness – which goes beyond just benefits.  For example, if data shows staff in one department have a high rate of musculo-skeletal injuries, before throwing in a benefit and wondering why staff are still unwell, take a walk down there first and see if they need re-training on manual handling techniques, or if you need to invest in better equipment or find a safer way of working.  It’s not all about staff benefits, you need to find out what your team want and need – that way, you will derive benefits – on your bottom line.”


Laura Matthews, Wellbeing Consultant at Barnett Waddingham, said;

“Wellbeing strategies need to take in to account the wants and needs of the employees to be effective for an organisation. Implementing a wellbeing strategy doesn’t necessarily need to be a costly exercise. It could be as simple as analysing what you currently have, bringing it together holistically and ensuring it is effectively communicated.  


“Wellbeing is certainly on the agenda and in order to break down the barriers companies need to understand what is important to their employees, and use data to implement bespoke strategies that are right for their workforce.


“With the right approach for each employer, wellbeing levels will rise and there will be a return on investment.”


Author: Editor

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