Avishal Seeth asks: Are you responsible for employee wellbeing?
Having a holistic EVP is key says the head of Sanlam Umbrella Solutions.
Arguably, there’s another insidious epidemic running concurrently to the pandemic right now – burnout. Many are exhausted, afraid, depleted and depressed. An Oracle and Workplace Intelligence study found that 2020 was the most stressful year people reported ever experiencing in their working lives.
Eighty-five percent said newfound work-related stress was impacting their home environments. Seventy-eight percent reported the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. And 76 percent said they thought their companies should be doing more to protect their mental health. This poses an interesting question: How responsible should employers be for their employees’ wellbeing?
Employee value proposition
Workplace wellness is not a new concept. The global workplace wellness market was valued at USD $52.8 billion in 2020 and has a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.1 percent forecast from 2021 to 2028. It should hit $66.2 billion by 2027.
Thousands of varying sector verticals have sprung up to assist employers in providing Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to employees. And Covid-19 may have accelerated this.
Covid-19 has highlighted the shortcomings of not including holistic wellbeing as part of the employee value proposition. Increasingly, employers are recognising the link between wellness and productivity in the workplace. People are a company’s greatest asset, and the best people are becoming a scarce commodity.
Having a holistic employee value proposition (EVP) is key from a retention and talent attraction perspective.
Before Covid-19, it was estimated that one-third of South Africans would experience a common mental disorder in their lifetime. Now, Netcare is planning to add mental health facilities to its hospitals, as mental health volumes surge.
Widespread retrenchments, layoffs, remote working and ongoing concern for oneself and one’s loved ones are all taking a toll. Boundaries have blurred between work and home life, leading to digital presenteeism – the burden of needing to feel connected and available around the clock.
Then there’s the question of money. Many are struggling to make it through the month, leaning on loans to replace net income lost. Sanlam has seen members having to pause, cancel or cut down retirement contributions in the wake of retrenchments, furlough or being laid off. This has significant implications for people’s futures – which is extremely concerning in a country where just six percent of South Africans can retire comfortably.
Employees are ultimately responsible for their own financial, mental and physical wellbeing. But there’s no getting around the fact that happier, less stressed people are likely to be better, more productive performers. It’s in employers’ best interests to build on people’s personal resilience by providing work environments that are conducive to learning, growth and general happiness.
What can employers do?
Right now, employers are dabbling in several services - from offering gym memberships and virtual yoga, to meditation app subscriptions, take-out vouchers, and even small stipends to allow team members to rent hot desks in co-working spaces. But one of the best ways to empower employees to be confident and secure is to look ahead.
Helping people to know they are financially provided for post-retirement is one of the greatest gifts an employer can provide, especially amid the pandemic.
Sanlam research has shown that financial wellness is as important as physical wellness, given the effect financial ‘unwellness’ has on a person. An umbrella fund removes these concerns, providing a simple, cost-effective solution that bolsters an employee value proposition. It’s not surprising then, that the Sanlam Umbrella Fund has seen increased interest over this period.
Employees get the peace of mind that they’re providing for their future selves. They get access to educational material, free proactive benefit counselling and the chance to choose a solution that really works for them. Many umbrella funds have also branched into ecosystems built to facilitate success and confidence for members, by offering general wellness services in addition to the financial focus.
Going forward, the global competition for top talent - especially those with scarce skills - will continue to escalate. Employers may not be responsible for their employees’ wellbeing, but those that take holistic employee value propositions seriously will be the ones to ‘win’ and retain high performers.