United Kingdom

How essential is a dedicated wellbeing budget?

Ask any employer, reward professional or HR practitioner why health and wellbeing is so important, and they’ll probably give you several answers: health and wellbeing initiatives can improve retention rates, increase productivity, boost employee loyalty and ultimately, can boost the bottom line. Studies have shown a strong correlation between health and wellbeing investment and positive financial returns while the CIPD describes it as a ‘core enabler’ of employee engagement and organisational performance.

In the corporate world at least, this is all common knowledge. Many companies have a deep understanding of the business case for health and wellbeing and ROI.

From an ethical social conscious standpoint, it’s morally the right thing to do. Most employers agree: Aon’s latest Benefits & Trends 2022 Survey revealed that 95 per cent of employers say that employee wellbeing is their responsibility.

Yet despite this recognition and general enthusiasm around the issue, investment in health and wellbeing remains something of a slow burn. 70 per cent of employers surveyed in the Aon research admit they don’t yet have a dedicated wellbeing budget – a finding which is at direct odds with employers’ theoretical understanding.

A lack of dedicated budget in this area is not entirely unsurprising: businesses are struggling with what the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) have described as the ‘cost-of-doing-business’: inflation, supply chain issues and soaring energy bills.

But this is also exactly the reason that businesses need to be focusing on wellbeing - these issues all directly affect their employees and will ultimately impact their wellbeing, which in turn can impact businesses productivity and profitability.

A magic pill?

Let’s look at this another way: is a dedicated wellbeing budget the magic pill for successful health and wellbeing initiatives? Actually, probably not.

Having the investment to deliver and maintain a good strategy is important, maybe even a ‘nice-to-have’, but it’s not the entire story. There are other, equally important elements:

  • Having a formal health and wellbeing strategy in place
  • Leveraging key health data to drive strategy
  • Communicating health and wellbeing benefits to the workforce
  • Measuring outcomes through surveys, questionnaires and claims data

The strategic piece is particularly important: health and wellbeing programmes can’t just be initiatives which HR runs on the side or in a vacuum. There needs to be buy-in across the board, backed up by regular communication initiatives which seek to engage and inform the workforce of benefits available to them.

The case for data

Then there’s the importance of data which cannot be underestimated. Health data gleaned from a variety of sources - absence records, claims data, anonymised HR health records or even employee surveys and questionnaires and so on – can provide a rich picture of workforce health, such as the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, a partnership between Aon and Vitality which provides deep insight into workforce health to drive actionable change.

Data then, must sit at the heart of any strategy. Without it, health and wellbeing initiatives are likely to be generic and scattergun in their approach.

Evidence-based and data-driven

A good health and wellbeing strategy will be evidence-based and leverage available data to build a risk profile for the workforce. The pandemic has increased the health risk of the UK Workforce, while the cost-of-living crisis is adding insult to injury. Mental health, burnout, musculoskeletal (MSK) and low engagement are all issues that organisations are experiencing. Health data can also flag, for example, if diabetes is a common issue or if a proportion of employees are at risk of heart disease. It can tell you the percentage of staff who are smokers or if there is stress-related issues in the workplace.

Armed with such information, a data-rich, actionable strategy can be easily developed, based around the issues identified.

So yes, a dedicated budget goes a long way to making this happen, but equally, a lack of budget doesn’t equal a poor corporate approach.

In fact, there’s evidence from previous Benefits & Trends surveys over the past two years that employers have actually ramped up their efforts around health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of having a dedicated budget or not.

So, the key take-away from all of this? A dedicated budget is important, but data, buy-in and strategy are essential pieces of the puzzle.

Take steps to build that puzzle today by >signing up to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, where you can gain a comprehensive understanding – across the work environment, culture and services offered to employees – to find actionable insights of wellbeing gaps in your workplace and where your strategy should focus.



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