Almost seven out of ten (68%) of employers report employee stress and mental health-related illness, Aon Employee Benefits research reveals.
The consultant's Benefits and Trends Survey 2018 - which gathered responses from 200 employers during the fourth quarter of 2017 - found the number of employers reporting employee stress and mental health issues increased by 13% compared to the previous year.
However, the survey showed over two fifths (42%) of employers have invested in proactive initiatives to tackle the rise in mental health and stress issues, compared to 36% in 2017.
Initiatives include mental health first aid training, which teaches managers and staff how to spot the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, as well as providing support and guidance such as professional resilience coaching.
Another 84% of employers acknowledged they considered themselves responsible for influencing their employees' health behaviours.
Commenting on the results of the survey, Aon employee benefits head of healthcare and risk consulting Mark Witte said: "If there was one defining theme in 2017, it was the growth of and increased focus on corporate wellbeing programmes across several key areas.
"There has also been a 25% increase in the proportion of organisations with designated funding for their health and wellbeing programme, with over half of respondents now having a specific budget in place, or intending to within the next three years. This is a contributing factor to the increase in the proportion of employers offering programmes to help lifestyle behaviours, including weight loss, smoking cessation or physical activity."
Witte continued: "It's particularly significant, that more organisations are embracing technology to help deliver their strategy, with both health apps and virtual GP services seeing considerable growth. We expect this trend to accelerate further in 2018, as increased adoption of technology supports the growing understanding that employee engagement is critical to any successful wellbeing strategy."
The survey showed more employers provided health and wellbeing apps, up from some 21% to almost half (48%) since last year. The use of virtual GP services also increased significantly by 11%.
According to Witte, this is testament both to a wider range of ‘fremium' apps coming from major insurance lines such as private medical insurance, as well as an increased employer appreciation of technology, which is helping to engage employees in improving health behaviours.
Nevertheless, he said the challenge of managing benefits costs remains a key priority for most firms and so benefit redesign continues to be a strong strategic theme, with 45% of employers considering design changes to their flexible benefits schemes.
And he said that, to tackle the rise in mental health issues across the industry, it was important organisations pool a greater portion of their health and benefits spend towards prevention rather than cure.
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