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Aetna International Study Reveals 2 In 5 Employees Lack Confidence That Their Employer Will Prioritise Staff Mental Health

A new survey from Aetna International has asked global workers to rate their employer’s response to mental and physical health challenges in the workplace, to understand if corporate commitments to employee health and well-being have been put into practice over the last 12 months.

Employees in four global markets (UAE, UK, US, Singapore) were asked about what their employer said, versus what they actually did, to support workplace health and well-being over the last year. The survey of 3,520 office workers suggests that business promises to tackle health and well-being issues have largely been backed up by concrete actions – but a noticeable shortfall still remains when it comes to mental health support.

Overall, 40% of global employees feel that health benefits at their organisation have improved in the last 12 months and results suggest that businesses are walking the talk when it comes to support for physical health conditions. More than two in five (43%) respondents rated the communication from their employer on physical health as ‘good’ and the same number (42%) said the action their employer had taken to support employees’ physical health was also ‘good’.

Additionally, more than a third (35%) believe their employer has done a good job of communicating about work-related postural problems; while a similar number (38%) rated the action their employer had taken to address this issue as ‘good’.

When it comes to mental health, however, responses suggest there is still a gap between what employers say and what they do. For example, over a third (36%) of global respondents believe their employer’s communication around mental health issues has been ‘good’ over the last year, but only a quarter (25%) say the same about the steps their employer has taken to support mental health and well-being.

Additionally, while the majority (75%) of workers trust their employer to prioritise their physical health in the workplace, close to 2 in 5 (38%) have little or no trust that their mental health will be treated as a priority by their organisation.

The youngest workers surveyed also had the most negative view about whether health and well-being benefits have improved over the last year. Less than a third (30%) of 18-24-year olds think the health support provided by employers is better than it was a year ago, compared to around 2 in 5 workers in older age groups.  

“Over the last year and certainly throughout the pandemic, businesses have been much more vocal about the importance of employee health and well-being. It’s fantastic to see that employers are taking steps to ensure these commitments are more than just a tick box exercise – our research suggests that companies are incorporating health and wellness into their overall action plans, and that real progress is being made to improve the health support on offer,” said David Healy, Chief Executive Officer, Europe at Aetna International.

“However, many workers still feel that their mental health is not as important to their employer as their physical health and safety. We also found that some workers – for example, very young employees or those who work part time – have a more negative view of their company’s approach to health and well-being, suggesting more needs to be done to cater to the needs of the entire workforce.”

Overall, while global employees were found to be largely positive about the level of health support on offer, the research shows that some demographics felt more negatively about their employer’s actions over the last year. For example, less than 2 in 5 female respondents (39%) agreed that health and well-being plays an important role in their company's culture, compared to nearly half (47%) of men.

Furthermore, while close to half of contract (46%) and full-time (44%) employees believe health and well-being is an important part of their company’s culture, less than 2 in 5 (38%) part-time workers agree. In fact, nearly a quarter of part-time workers (23%) think their company’s internal culture is detrimental to their health and well-being.

“Now is the time for businesses to build upon the good work they’ve already started and make sure their strategies and internal culture are supportive of whole person health – covering everything from physical health, to an individual’s mental and emotional well-being,” continued Healy. “Employers must also make sure that communication and support is visible and available to everyone – regardless of their position, location, working status or personal circumstances.”

“Not only is this the right thing to do, it could also have significant implications for productivity, recruitment and retention. The pandemic has made many employees reassess their priorities and the hunt for talent is becoming increasingly competitive. This is a trend that will almost certainly continue this year, possibly longer. When it comes to finding and retaining the best people, companies that do not prioritise, value or respect their employee’s well-being will simply be left behind.”

More information about Aetna International’s research, the full data set, key findings and additional insights can be viewed here.

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