Employee wellbeing: your virtual guidebook
Whether you’re building an all-inclusive holistic strategy, or looking for the basics as you get started on your wellbeing journey – we’ve got it covered, all in one place.
With 137 million workdays lost to sickness each year, and mental health issues increasing by 71.9% since 2011, it’s clear wellbeing isn’t just a passing HR trend, but a much-needed pillar of the workplace and employee experience. As of 2018, Wealth at Work found that more than half (53%) of employers now agree they have a level of responsibility for their employees’ wellbeing. Following the impact of Covid, we expect that this number has risen even higher. An employee’s wellbeing impacts everything from their engagement, productivity and motivation, to your company culture and recruitment. With such wide-reaching repercussions, and evidence that Covid-19 could have similar impacts to mental health as previous viral outbreaks have, modern businesses do not have the option to let wellbeing take a back seat anymore.
What is employee wellbeing?
What is employee wellbeing?
Before you can consider re-evaluating your employee wellbeing strategy, wellbeing itself must be understood. With words like ‘finwell’ and ‘holistic’ being thrown around the board room, it can be difficult to nail down exactly what wellbeing is and how you can implement it business-wide.
At Benefex, we see employee wellbeing as being primarily comprised of five pillars: financial, emotional, physical, community and leisure wellbeing. The ultimate goal of wellbeing is to minimise stress, improve engagement and eliminate physical and mental ill-health where possible.
While all employees’ wellbeing is affected by all five pillars, the balance of these elements will vary from person to person. It's down to employers - who have both a legal and moral obligation - to support employees in finding this balance.
Your virtual guide to wellbeing
The following list details multiple benefits, technology and techniques to support all five pillars of employee wellbeing. By combining these different elements together and tailoring your strategy for your people’s needs, you will find these suggestions can balance employee wellbeing across the board; allowing your people to thrive both at work, and at home.
Covid-19 and employee wellbeing
69% of UK adults have reported feeling worried about the effect of Covid-19 on their lives. Throughout the pandemic, our content has been helping employers to support the wave of wellbeing challenges that they and their employees have had to tackle. Have a read and a listen of the blogs and webinars that we've geared towards the specific issues that Covid-19 has thrown at us:
Communications in a crisis | Maintaining mental health while working from home | Protecting the mental health of you and your people | Working from home: tips to get settled | Preventative measures to support long-term wellbeing | Taking progressive wellbeing initiatives even further | Financial wellbeing in times of turmoil | Emotional wellbeing: the long-term impact of the pandemic | Maintaining physical and lifestyle health | Community wellbeing: helping your people to work together
Whatever your stance on blockchain and bitcoin, it’s undeniable that cash remains king in the current world. Each year, more than two million UK workdays are lost due to money worries, yet only a third of organisations address this by promoting financial wellbeing to their employees. The scope of financial education and support is enormous, from dedicated employee benefits, to gamification in apps and chatbots, and can be tailored to suit your available business resources and concerns as an employer.
Nudge – Accessible on any device, Nudge provides bespoke financial education to give your people the confidence and clarity to make smarter money moves. The feed updates regularly with relevant news based on the individual’s profile, giving bite-size snippets of financial education.
Money Works – Money Works was created by Benefex in partnership with Barclays, to help employees understand everything finances through a wealth of original content. Money Works enables users to follow a series of life events (e.g. retirement, marriage, moving house) to understand all the financial implications.
FutureLearn – FutureLearn, founded by The Open University, breaks down financial education courses into manageable weekly steps. Averaging at 3-4 hours a week, these courses can fit in around a busy work or home life and be tailored to employees’ own needs and interests, including book-keeping, managing money, accounting and budgeting.
Single Financial Guidance Body* – Previously known as Money Advice Service, the SFGB provides free, impartial financial advice including debt, money and pensions guidance. With answers to every question imaginable, the SFGB is an invaluable first stop for employees with financial queries.
Money Saving Expert* – Money Saving Expert offers finance information, forums for discussion and journalistic articles providing insight and advice into the world of finances. From budgeting to book-keeping, MSE is a free service which aims to make education accessible no matter what your experience.
Money & Mental Health Policy Institute* – Available to all, Money & Mental Health Advice is a website offering countless articles, blogs, tips and tools to guide and advise people on money issues. Mental Health & Money Advice looks at financial education through the lens of mental wellbeing, and encourages an honest, judgement-free approach to developing a healthy relationship with money.
Pension – We all know we need to be saving for the future, but that can be easier said than done. The majority of organisations offer a generous pension contribution, but many employees are unaware of the benefits – or even what a pension means! Make the most of financial education and support services to educate your people on their pension and retirement costs.
Life insurance – It is widely regarded as standard practice that employers provide life insurance, meaning that for many workers this benefit goes under the radar – despite it being the benefit with highest take-up! With most providers, the employee can upgrade their cover to include partners, and through sourcing life insurance via their employer, they can rest assured the benefit is trustworthy.
Income protection – Income protection can be a huge help for both financial and mental wellbeing, as it can reassure those worried about worst-case-scenarios which may cause extended time off work. With income protection, an employee can guarantee their peace of mind to focus on life and recovery, should the worst happen.
Breakdown cover – Nothing’s worse than when your car breaks down on the way to a crucial meeting, or getting a puncture when you’re already running late to pick up the kids. Breakdown cover provides a financial buffer for those emergencies, and a sense of ease for your employees who are guaranteed to get wherever they need to go.
Financial Wellbeing Insight Report
Explore the impact of financial wellbeing with our research paper
Employee Assistance Programme – An EAP is an ideal way to integrate financial wellbeing into your existing employee support scheme. Many EAPs offer trained financial advisors as part of their online employee assistance package, while others can provide bespoke financial education courses or workshops.
Workshops – Some businesses use group workshops to educate and support employees on their financial journeys. Whether an employee is struggling with debt or trying to save for retirement, providing a variety of internally or externally-led workshops on specific aspects of financial wellbeing, can allow your people to choose their own education.
Step Change* – Step Change provides free, impartial help and advice for getting out of debt through education, personal action plans and online tools.
Citizens Advice Bureau* – The CAB is a Government-sponsored financial advice service, ranging from debt and budgeting to borrowing and mortgages.
National Debt Advice* – Endorsed by the UK Government, National Debt Advice offers free debt advice, tailored to your circumstances, and links you to further help.
Payroll lending & debt consolidation
Savings and investment
Smarterly – Smarterly make investing easy by giving users access to unbiased comparison tables, automatic monitoring and notifications of any investments made via the app.
Moneybox* – Moneybox is a user-friendly app which rounds up your purchases and invests the spare change for you. You can even choose to invest ‘cautiously’, ‘balanced’, or ‘adventurous’!
Nutmeg – The Nutmeg app is an investment service which creates a personalised investment portfolio based on your lifestyle and interests and automatically manages the results.
Acorns – With Acorns, you can round up outgoings to larger amounts and automatically invest the extra cash, or put the money into your IRA or retirement savings, without having to think about it.
Clearscore* – Clearscore is a free, simple web service and app to check your credit score and report. Sign up for monthly reports and get personalised tips on understanding and improving your credit.
Experian* – With Experian, your employees can view their credit score in the context of its history, and compare credit offers and the likelihood of being accepted for loans.
Credit Karma* – Credit Karma allows you to compare personalised offers for credit cards, loans and more via their Marketplace, without affecting your current credit score.
Money Dashboard* – Money Dashboard allows employees to view their overall financial situation and outgoings in accessible visuals, so they can make fully-informed decisions, every time.
Mint* – Mint is a free app that covers all elements of your financial situation. Create budgets, see spending suggestions, track bills, turn on payment reminders and get credit checks. All in one place.
Wally* – The Wally phone app is a simple but effective personal finance app which compares your income and expenses, helps you set and achieve goals, and understand where your money goes.
Emotional wellbeing covers an employee’s most unique and invaluable business contribution: their mind. In the UK alone, absence caused by mental ill-health costs organisations £8.1bn per year, and the number of workdays lost due to stress is at an all-time high. When addressing mental wellbeing, it’s crucial to acknowledge that mental health is not synonymous with mental illness – mental health includes general mental wellness such as stress or emotional struggles, whereas mental illness refers specifically to conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders etc. Both elements need consideration when looking at creating a well-rounded wellbeing scheme.
The future of workplace health
Join Gethin Nadin and Champion Health's Harry Bliss discuss where workplace mental health is heading
Employee assistance programme
EAPs are a great starting point if your organisation is new to wellbeing and can’t invest in a full wellbeing scheme. Try promoting your EAP through targeted communications, emphasising its elements of mental, financial and physical wellbeing.
Mental health first aid
Providing mental health first aid is invaluable for any employee, and creates fantastic transferable skills. Accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health, Mental Health First Aid England provides licensed mental health first aid training in workplaces.
In recent years online therapy services, such as Better Help and talkspace have garnered traction. Traditional therapy via the NHS requires months (or even years) on a waiting list, and private therapy is incredibly expensive. In-person therapy also requires regular visits which are difficult to fit around work commitments, and for many, face-to-face sessions are anxiety-inducing. Online therapy provides a convenient outlet where it is easier to be open, and appointments can be scheduled around existing responsibilities.
Wellbeing days, where employees can take time off to focus on their mental wellbeing, are a relatively new practice. Absence caused by mental illness is through the roof, and the stigma of taking time off for mental health actively encourages presenteeism to a point of ill-health. In 2015, Lendlease launched their wellbeing leave scheme, and the Mental Health Foundation has since called upon the Government to officially endorse wellbeing days. In introducing this time off, employers encourage an attitude of openness and de-stigmatisation, while simultaneously decreasing sickness absences.
Calm Harm is a colourful mobile app, designed to help people avoid self-harming by using basic principles of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. The app encourages the user to engage with comforting, distracting breathing and more unique activities until the urge has passed.
Designed to combat stress, anxiety and depression, Pacifica uses mindfulness, meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to help the user track their mood. It can be a powerful tool to notice emerging or returning patterns, and manage daily mental health.
The Moodpath app screens your wellbeing through daily questions and personalised psychological exercises to help the user understand their mental health better, and become more conscious and mindful of thoughts and emotions.
Flexible working – Across the world of work, more and more businesses are embracing flexible working. It’s widely regarded as an aid to productivity, motivation and balancing your professional and personal life. Not to mention, the benefits on mental wellbeing. While not every job can be tailored for flexible working, all organisations can make small adjustments such as encouraging breaks, introducing an outdoor space or improving existing staff spaces.
Take a break: In today’s fast-paced society, burnout culture is the latest trend. But research shows your employees actually do better work after a refresh – and before a holiday, too! Make the most of unique employee benefits like Travel Accounts that can give your employees a chance to get out of their work environment, take a breather and practice some self care.
Mindfulness & meditation
Some organisations, such as Apple, Google and Nike offer employees meditation and mindfulness workshops in their office space, allowing the employees to take home and re-use the techniques they learn. In-house classes are a great option for wellbeing, but if you don’t have the resources to provide these, there are many apps available for individual use:
Headspace – Headspace is a guided meditation app, offering mindfulness exercises, de-stressing and relaxation techniques, articles and videos.
Happify – Using what they’ve termed, the ‘Science of Happiness’, Happify provides its users with daily tasks to build the skills they need to overcome stress and gain optimism.
Calm – Divided into sleep, meditation, music and body sections, the Calm app provides guided exercises and techniques to cultivate a happier, more peaceful state of mind.
AloeBud* – AloeBud uses the practice of self-care to become a self-care companion, with gentle encouragement and personalised reminders to take care of yourself.
Three Good Things – With a simple appearance and easy-to-use interface, Three Good Things promotes noticing the little things, in the form of a daily ‘happiness journal’.
#SelfCare* – Sometimes looking after yourself is harder than it seems. The #SelfCare app features relaxing music and graphics in a video game style to guide the user through self-care on a bad day.
Noizio* – Noizio is a beautifully simple soundscape app which offers a range of tranquil nature sounds to help meditation, sleep or concentration.
Benefits to champion mental wellbeing
Take a look at our top 14 employee benefits to promote positive wellbeing
Part of creating a well-rounded wellbeing offering is balancing each aspect. It can be easy to forget that fitness and physical health come under the wellbeing umbrella, but the link between our body and mind means physical and mental wellbeing are intrinsically intertwined. To have a healthy body, you need a healthy mind, and vice versa. While different elements of wellbeing are important to different people, all employees – whether fitness fanatics, working parents or busy professionals – can benefit from various facets of physical wellbeing.
Fitness & exercise
Leisure centre discount – Similar to gym memberships, discounted access to leisure centres are a fantastic way to encourage good physical and mental wellbeing among your people. Whether it’s use of the gym and swimming pool, or discounted classes and tennis courts – the convenience and lower prices of leisure discounts can convince people to venture out when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Cycle-to-work – The cycle-to-work scheme has garnered huge popularity in the age of climate change and endeavours to reduce our carbon footprint. Not to mention, it’s saved employees a significant amount of money: Halfords state that through their cycle-to-work scheme, employees can save up to 42% off a new bike! Whether it’s for the planet, for their fitness, or their wallet – any employee can make the most of the cycle-to-work scheme.
Yoga – With an increasing number of organisations recognising the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, discounted classes and onsite yoga workshops have become more and more common. Among these companies are such business giants as Apple, Google, Yahoo, Nike and Twitter. While not all companies can afford to invest in luxurious wellbeing centres, giving employees access to discounted or taster sessions of yoga, meditation or mindfulness can drastically improve workplace focus, mood and overall employee health.
Gym memberships – Discounted or even complimentary gym memberships are one of the most popular health and leisure benefits, surpassed only by travel insurance and holiday trading. Leading organisations such as Twitter and Facebook even offer onsite gyms and wellness zones to encourage employees to get out of the office and take proper breaks. With nearly 10 million fitness members now in the UK, offering a gym benefit gives workers extra incentive (and less excuse!) to take care of their physical health and mental wellbeing.
Health & illness
Critical illness – A critical illness diagnosis can upend your entire work and home life, not to mention your financial stability. In these times, the last thing an employee needs is to be worrying about where this month’s rent will come from. We can only hope our people never need a Critical Illness benefit, but in offering one, you can at least alleviate the ‘what ifs’ and, should it come to it, support your employees through a hard time.
Health screening – In 2010, a study found that 26% of employees would come into work while ill. As of 2018, that has risen to a startling 86%. With so many employees coming into work while sick, it’s clear health concerns and illness can be a significant distraction for employees. A health screening benefit can help identify early warning signs for potential health issues and give employees peace of mind over their wellbeing, so they can fully focus on work at work.
DNAFit – Trying to find a good balance between health and happiness can be difficult when you’re working. With personalised DNA testing, employees can find out more about themselves, their genetics and how that may affect their health and wellbeing. Genetic reports offer in-depth insight and simple, actionable advice on everything from food intolerances and optimal exercise regimes to how your body recovers after injury.
PMI – With the NHS under increasing pressure, and waiting lines up to 18 weeks, it’s no wonder the demand for Private Medical Insurance has been on the rise. But it comes with a downside – namely, the cost. However, a PMI benefit can enable employees to save money and time while looking after their health. Able to be extended to family members, PMI lets your people feel confident that they – and their loved ones – will be looked after when they need it most.
Voluntary PMI – Not only can employers offer PMI to their people, but Benefex has created a voluntary employee-funded PMI benefit which enables more employees to access private medical care. With the guaranteed stability and availability of PMI, and the ease of other salary-sacrifice benefits, voluntary PMI allows employees to take their health into their own hands. And better yet, it won’t break the (employer’s) bank.
Dental cover – We often take our dental health for granted, but the impact of poor dental care can be expensive and painful, impacting your entire wellbeing. In England in Quarter 1 of 2017-18 alone, the NHS provided 9.4 million courses of treatment. The cost of dental treatment, and the time spent in waiting rooms rather than in the office can stack up quickly. Employee dental cover can alleviate the long waiting times of NHS dental care, and is highly affordable in comparison to other private dental care.
Healthcare cash plan – A Healthcare Cash Plan is a common employer-provided benefit across organisations, but often employees don’t realise all that’s included: Many Healthcare Cash Plans also include alternative treatments such as massages, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. Whether an employee is focussed on their physical or mental wellbeing, these kind of therapies can be excellent lifestyle additions – and they’re often covered under the core HCP, too!
Help your people boost their wellbeing with our range of fitness and health benefits
Community wellbeing refers to how a group's collective wellbeing has an impact on the individual's wellbeing, and vice versa. It is often referred to as social wellbeing. The sense of community and society stretches across a lot of other areas of wellbeing in the workplace. Working alongside people who are stressed, tired and frustrated is inevitably going to affect our own wellbeing. But it's also about more general feelings of safety and inclusion at work; how safe we feel bringing our whole selves to work; do we feel a part of our working community? Do we have purpose at work? Are we represented within our organisation?
Community wellbeing focuses largely on culture and infrastructure, so apps, tools and 'quick fixes' aren't necessarily going to make a huge change. Developing your community's wellbeing is a long process which requires a lot of education and looking inwards:
Community wellbeing content
What is community wellbeing?
Listen in to Tricia Driver from A New Normal and Gethin Nadin as they take a look at how Covid-19 has affected our sense of community at work.View on demand
Cultivating a safe space for people to be able to bring their real selves to work will ultimately lead to happier, more productive teams. Cheryl Morgan discusses how we can ensure our LGBT+ employees do not feel alienated from our organisations.View on demand
Diversity at work
We know that having a diverse community of employees has a positive impact on business performance. Making our organisations truly diverse takes time and sometimes total cultural and infrastructural change. Andrea Pattico discusses how Reward Managers must take ownership of diversifying their offerings.View on demand
Corporate social reponsibility
CSR has been around for a while, but the Covid pandemic pushed a lot of environmental and social issues back to the top of HR's agenda. The way our organisations treat our immediate communities, and the wider world is going to have long-term impacts on our employees' wellbeing, and on our ability to recruit and retain top talent.The benefits of sustainability in business
Recognition at work
Feeling appreciated plays a huge part in the health and wellbeing of a community. Showing recognition to your employees is the most effective way of making them feel like they really belong. Listen in to our discussion about how recognition has played a huge part in keeping employees connected during the pandemic.View on demand
Leisure wellbeing - sometimes referred to as lifestyle wellbeing - refers to the time people spend on creative, interesting and entertaining pursuits in their life, which are incredibly important to our overall health. We believe that all the things we do - our hobbies, our cultural and spiritual pursuits - all form part of a lifestyle that's important to maintain if we are to have a healthy blend of work and life. It's essential that we can take time away from work to enjoy these things, but it's also essential that employers support employees in their creative, cultural and spiritual growth, as this will ultimately lead to a more emotionally and physically healthy, productive workforce.
Leisure wellbeing: Benefits, tools and education
Time off and travel
Travel insurance – In 2016 alone, nearly half a million claims were made on travel insurance, with the average claim costing over £1,200. For those without travel insurance, this kind of unexpected expense would be a huge financial blow. When your people take much-earned time off from work, they shouldn’t need to worry about the risk of money problems. Travel insurance provides that reassurance, and remains one of the most popular employee benefits every enrolment.
Travel Accounts - Travel Accounts help support employee financial wellbeing, as they can take advantage of early booking discounts or seasonal sales, and pay for it in monthly instalments. Plus, they support emotional, physical and financial wellbeing.
We covered days off and flexible working in our mental health section, but these are also essential for us to maintain a healthy balance between work, family and lifestyle.
Leisure wellbeing & Covid-19
How has the pandemic affected our leisure wellbeing? Are there any consumer trends that could help employers predict employee behaviour and support leisure wellbeing? We were joined by Ordergroove's Karen Weeks to discuss.View now, on demand
The festive period
The Christmas holidays can do wonders for our emotional wellbeing, but it can be a dangerous time of year for both our financial and leisure wellbeing. Either doing 'too much' or feeling like we're under pressure to socialise can have an adverse affect on our finances and our lifestyles. Listen in to experts from Browne Jacobson and Nudge to find out how recognition and financial education can help keep our leisure wellbeing under control during the holidays.View on demand
You can get started on our wellbeing strategy today, with our handy guides:
From meditation and money management to dental cover and duvet days, the variety of employee benefits and wellbeing solutions is vast. To truly engage, motivate and inspire your people, you need to care for them. They are your biggest business resource, your biggest advertisers, and your most powerful customers. Show them that you appreciate that, and in turn they will benefit your business. While not all organisations have the resources for fully-fledged wellbeing strategies, implementing even one wellbeing solution can make a remarkable difference. Employee wellbeing is not a passing trend or an HR buzz word – it is a strategic business priority.
*These websites and apps are free-to-use