COVID-19 – advice for employers. Read now.

Strategies to uncover hidden wellbeing benefits

Employee health and risk benefit providers in the UK have often been accused of not being innovative enough. Not willing to try new things, not flexible and not ‘moving with the times’. 

Download our “Modernising benefits – Strategies to uncover hidden wellbeing benefits” advice sheet to learn more.

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Benefits Trends

The Willis Towers Watson Benefits Trends 2019 survey was conducted amongst more than 4,300 companies in 88 markets and covering 22 million employees. It gives invaluable insights into:

  • What your peers in the same sector or a similar company size are doing
  • Flagship employer strategies
  • New benefit strategy challenges, including the multi-generational workforce
  • Shifting trends in benefit portfolio

Get the detail: Read the full report

Get the stats fast: View the infographic

Find out how your employee benefits offering compares with your competitors: Book a meeting to get a personalised report

Read the findings from specific sectors:

 

Want to know more about the Benefits Trends Survey? James Spencer and Andy Leighton, Directors at Willis Towers Watson, give a quick rundown in this video:

How does the Benefits Trends Survey outline the future direction of employers’ benefit portfolios?:

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One third of workers say businesses fail to support employees with neurodevelopment disorders

One in three (32%) UK workers say their employer fails to offer additional help or support for employees who have neurodevelopment disorders.

According to research by Willis Towers Watson, more than one in ten (15%) workers said they, or someone they work with, lives with a neurodevelopment disorder, such as autism, Asperger’s, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Tourette’s, or dyscalculia*.

Whilst one third of these respondents said the affected person did not receive support, just half (50%) said they received education or advice from their employers on their colleague’s condition.

According to autism research charity Autistica, more than 500,000 adults are living with autism in the UK alone.

“Neurodevelopment disorders clearly affect the lives of many working-age people in the UK, but much more can be done in terms of understanding, education and support,” said Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson.

“Companies should look to establish an inclusive working environment, which supports both the worker with the condition and their colleagues.

“This may mean workplace adjustments for the worker in question, or workshops for colleagues to help them better understand the condition and why such allowances are necessary.”

The presence of neurodevelopment disorders in society has been put under the spotlight in recent years – but this has predominantly focused on children living with conditions.

There are currently more adults with autism in the UK than there are children, according to Autistica, yet how adults are living and coping with the conditions is somewhat underexplored.

The charity said that despite more than half a million adults living with the disorder, just seven per cent of autism research funding is spent on adult research.

“There is still a long way to go when it comes to recognising the scale of, and the level of support needed, for adults with autism and other conditions,” added Blake.

“Employers may not be aware if someone is suffering from a neurodevelopment condition, but supposition can be a harmful route and one that can fuel isolation.

“A supportive environment in which people can be open about living with their conditions, without fear of judgement, is recommended.

“Regular communications about how common such conditions are, their symptoms and the support available to those affected will help break down barriers, help to allay concerns and encourage workers to feel more comfortable about the challenges they face.

“For some, it may also give them the confidence to tell their employer about their condition in the first place.

“Workers should also be consulted about the level and nature of support needed, as some may see their condition as a highly sensitive and private manner.  These boundaries should be respected.”

* It should be noted that this statistic should not be interpreted as representing the total number of workers with neurodevelopmental disorders in the UK.

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Future Gazing

On the 24th January 2019, Willis Towers Watson Health & Benefits hosted Future Gazing, an event exploring the disruptive forces impacting health and wellbeing at work at the Science Museum in London.

The day brought together experts and visionaries to offer valuable insights into some of the exciting opportunities and disruptive innovations that will help shape the future of employee health and wellbeing.

Topics ranged from the consumer genetics space and hyper-personalised medicine to the ‘uber-isation’ of healthcare and how digital is essential in fostering healthy behaviours.

Speakers included:

  • Matthew Griffin, futurist
  • Gordon Henderson, Marketing and Innovation Director at AXA
  • Dr Luke James, Medical Director at Bupa
  • Kevin Newman, Head of Health and Benefits GB at Willis Towers Watson
  • Dr Nick Taylor, clinical psychologist and CEO at Unmind
  • Christina Friis Blach Petersen, Co-founder of LYS Technologies
  • Greg Levine, Director at Vitality
  • Michael Perlmutter, Imagination Leader at Willis Towers Watson

Read our summary of the day in our ‘key takeaways’ document

View our infographic overview

Watch our video of the day:

 

Watch Matthew Griffin’s keynote speech:

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Five employee mental health myths busted

Much has been done in recent years to challenge perceptions and advance the cause of mental health in the workplace.

Despite these efforts, in many workplaces mental illness is still regarded as a taboo subject. According to mental health charity MIND, “many people still feel scared and confused about confronting the issue at work”.

Indeed, Willis Towers Watson research found that one fifth (20%) of employees harbour scepticism towards people who take time off due to mental health issues.  Furthermore, one in five (19%) do not believe stress is a genuine mental health condition.

Such attitudes can lead to cultures of fear and silence. In turn, this can encourage incidents of presenteeism and make it more difficult for line managers to identify sufferers, to provide effective treatment and to make the return to work smoother and less daunting for employees.

Here we outline five key mental health myths that should be busted as part of the drive to establish more open, empathetic workplace environments.

1 Mental ill-health is a sign of weakness.

Mental illnesses, from depression and anxiety to PTSD and bipolar disorder, are diagnosed medical conditions – they are not signs of character or personality weaknesses.

While they may not be as visible as physical health conditions, they are no different to developing a bad back or having high blood pressure in that they can happen to anyone, at any time. Consequently, recovery is not simply a matter of will or self-discipline.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, putting them among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

In a similar vein, seeking help for mental health issues should not be regarded as a sign of weakness – but rather a sign of strength and courage.

While women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with common mental health problems, research suggests men may be less likely to seek help.

According to the Willis Towers Watson Health and Benefits Barometer (2017), of those employees who had suffered stress or mental health issues, only 39 per cent of men had talked to their manager, compared with 47 per cent of women. In some quarters, men can feel burdened by a pressure to conform to outdated ‘macho’ stereotypes and a misguided compulsion to ‘man-up’.

Company managers and co-workers can help to reduce the stigmas associated with mental ill-health by fostering an empathetic and supportive workplace environment.

2 Mental health sufferers cannot do their job effectively

Symptoms of mental health conditions will manifest themselves differently, depending upon the individual and the nature of the illness.

Although mental illnesses may have a negative impact on an employee’s ability to function at work, it may have no effect at all.

It is possible for some people to live with a mental health condition and to live their day-to-day lives as normal – with good work attendance records and high productivity levels. These high-functioning individuals may be struggling on the inside, but their condition is almost undetectable to those living around them.

Some may resort to unhealth coping mechanisms, excessive working patterns for example, that mask conditions such as anxiety, stress or depression. This, however, does not invalidate their struggle and attempting to ‘put out the fire by throwing ever more petrol on it’ can lead to longer-term problems.

Education, guidance and awareness training for line managers can help them to spot the warning signs of mental health problems among staff and to offers support before they escalate.

 3 It’s strange and unhelpful to talk about your mental health

Fears of judgement or discrimination can discourage some from talking about their mental health concerns. For others there can be a misconception that it’s a weird thing to do, or that it will only make matters worse.

Although it can be hard to open up about our feelings, particularly at work, talking can be a big part in taking charge of our mental wellbeing and getting the help we need.

Bottling up our thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming; it can make us feel alone and exacerbate conditions such as depression.

The Mental Health Foundation point out that “talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported”.

Sufferers of mental health conditions, however, need to feel comfortable opening up within a circle of trust. In the workplace, this might mean providing access to confidential and expert support, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) or specialist counselling services.

4 Mental health sufferers are violent and dangerous

Back in the fifth century BC, Greek philosopher Socrates is believed to have attributed a low rate of crime in Athens with a low rate of mental illness. This myth – and stigma – has been perpetuated ever since.

Indeed, the modern media has been guilty of regularly portraying people with mental illness as violent. In truth, this is rarely the case.

Official statistics consistently show that most violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems.

While research has shown there is an increased risk of violence in those living with schizophrenia and anti-social personality disorder (ASPD), in general, mental health sufferers are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves.

5 Creative employees are more likely to suffer mental health issues

The assertion that there is a link between creativity and mental illness is far from conclusive.

It is true that some studies have found a link. Research from the Swedish Karolinska Institute, for example, suggested writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse. Findings from the Office of National Statistics, meanwhile, found that people who work in arts-related jobs were up to four times more likely to commit suicide.

However, several other studies have found that there’s the same proportion of mental illness in creative people as in the general population.

Indeed, many psychologists are sceptical of any link. Some believe that it’s the pressures and stresses associated with creative working environments that trigger mental ill-health, while others suggest that more emotionally volatile people may be drawn to creative industries.

 

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HR FactFile

It’s a legal jungle out there! We’ve trawled the net to find the most useful sources of info on headline legislation plus some handy online calculators and good to know resources like the annual CIPD Absence Management Survey.

Online calculators

Statutory sick pay (SSP) calculator:

www.gov.uk/calculate-statutory-sick-pay

Redundancy payment ready reckoner:

www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay

Staff holiday calculator:

www.gov.uk/calculate-your-holiday-entitlement

PAYE tax calculator:

www.thetaxcalculator.net

Employee cost calculator:

www.itcenta.co.uk/itsupport/employee-cost-calculator

Maternity, paternity and adoption calculator:

www.gov.uk/maternity-paternity-calculator

Employer NIC’s calculator:

www.icalculator.info/contractor/calculators/employer-NICS-calculator.html

Salary calculator:

www.thesalarycalculator.co.uk

 

Legislation Watch

Disability Confident employer scheme

www.bit.ly/2DDIh9z

Preparing to operate PAYE in real time (RTI)

www.gov.uk/running-payroll

Auto enrolment (pensions)

www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/employers.aspx

Equality Act

www.gov.uk/equality-act-2010-guidance

Health and Safety Act

www.hse.gov.uk/legislation/hswa.htm

Redundancy

www.gov.uk/staff-redundant

Paternity pay and leave

www.gov.uk/employers-paternity-pay-leave/entitlement

Working Time Directive

www.bit.ly/2GGDszf

Company vehicle driver legislation

www.hse.gov.uk/roadsafety/employers.htm

Payrolling benefits in kind

www.bit.ly/1UUNm3I

 

Good to know

Employee Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Barometer 2019: issues affecting the modern workforce

www.bit.ly/2wGRO1E

CIPD events: find out about forthcoming HR conferences and events

www.cipd.co.uk/learn/events-networks

CIPD factsheets: factsheets, guides and reports on employee wellbeing

www.bit.ly/2sCoc1Q

CIPD financial wellbeing: how to take care of your employees’ financial wellbeing

www.bit.ly/2ruNqeF

Health and Wellbeing at Work 2019: the HR professionals’ view

www.bit.ly/2IDw7UP

Mental health: what should employers be doing about mental health?

www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk

Health and wellbeing: guidance on improving the health and wellbeing of employees

www.nice.org.uk/guidance/lifestyle-and-wellbeing

Dementia: dealing with dementia in the workplace

www.bit.ly/2DRRPm3

Alcohol and drugs: how should employers deal with alcohol and drug problems?

www.bit.ly/2xoarYG

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Tech stress suffered by one in three employees

Almost a third of UK employees (32 per cent) say workplace technology – from computer software to mobile tech – increases job stress, research from Willis Towers Watson has revealed.

A lack of tech reliability was cited as the main reason for this by 46 per cent of survey respondents, followed closely by the claim that technology had heightened their workload (45 per cent).

Other shadow sides of technology highlighted by workers included a triggering of tighter deadlines (33 per cent) and a lack of human interaction (29 per cent).

“Technology can be a considerable force for good with the potential to act as a catalyst for smarter, more efficient and more flexible working,” said Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at WTW.

“Despite offering a wealth of opportunities to improve our working lives, however – simplifying and, in some cases, eradicating many mundane or laborious tasks – these findings highlight that, in some cases, it can be both a blessing and a curse.

“The drive to introduce new technology is inevitable as businesses search for more efficient ways of working, but these findings should act as a call to action to ensure it is adopted strategically, and deployed with appropriate levels of support, training and consideration to the mental wellbeing of users.

“As part of this process, consultation with staff about the tools and technologies that they need to carry out their jobs more confidently and effectively may prove beneficial in helping smooth the transition to new, improved, ways of working.”

According to the study, workers over the age of 55 were more than twice as likely as 18 to 24-year-olds to say technology added to their workload (58 per cent vs 28 per cent). They were also twice as likely as their younger colleagues to say technology increased their job security concerns (20 per cent vs nine per cent).

“With changing workforce demographics, businesses face the challenge of balancing the needs of both younger and older employees to help protect and maintain the wellbeing and motivation of all,” added Blake.

Encouragingly, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of workers have tackled the tech stress burden by consulting colleagues who have the requisite know-how, while 24 per cent have asked for support or training from management.

Twenty-seven per cent, however, said they coped by working longer hours, 19 per cent have avoided or delayed tech-based tasks and a further 15 per cent have opted to delegate tech-based tasks to colleagues.

Only one in ten workers said technology decreased their workplace stress, with half (50 per cent) of these respondents saying it helped them work more efficiently, 51 per cent said it made information more accessible and 42 per cent said it facilitated flexible working.

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Employee Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Barometer

What’s in it for me? Attitudes of UK employees

Conducted by research consultancy OnePoll, our sixth report shines a spotlight on health and benefit issues through the lens of workers across the UK. We hope it will provide businesses with a deeper understanding of the pressing needs and priorities of the modern workforce.

Read the detailed barometer or check out the wellbeing or alcohol infographics – topics include:

  • the importance of benefits when choosing where to work
  • perceived inequalities in the way benefits are offered by employers
  • how employers are embracing neurodiversity
  • the lack of health advice on alcohol consumption
  • the reasons behind employees not taking regular breaks
  • employee weight and its impact on productivity
  • whether fertility treatment should be offered as a benefit

Give me the detail: read in-depth barometer

Give me the health and wellbeing facts, fast: view infographic 

Give me stats on alcohol: view infographic 

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Half of UK workers uncomfortable with employer getting involved in personal lifestyle choices

Fifty-two per cent of UK workers say they are uncomfortable with their employer getting involved in their personal lifestyle choices, research has revealed.

The study of 2,000 UK workers by Willis Towers Watson found that more than half (56%) of UK workers view lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption, as a strictly personal matter.

Seventy-one per cent of respondents who said they felt uncomfortable wanted to keep a boundary between their personal and work lives, 37% said they didn’t understand why their employer should be involved in their lifestyle choices, and 34% said they feared it would create a ‘Big Brother’ culture.

Despite this, almost one in three (30%) workers see their employers as having a moral responsibility to help them lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.

“Health and wellbeing is a sensitive area and companies must tread carefully if they are to adequately support their workers, whilst also ensuring their privacy is respected,” said Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson.

“Although a healthy workforce benefits business, driving down presenteeism and absenteeism, and boosting productivity and retention, employees don’t always appreciate their employer intervening on matters of personal wellbeing.

“However, there is a growing expectation for employers to step up and help – but getting the approach right is key.

“Effective but indirect communication can help companies offer specialist advice to workers, without them feeling their boundaries have been breached.”

Currently, less than half of employees (46%) say the company they work for helps them lead fit and healthy lifestyles.

One in five workers (20%) said they would most like support, such as benefits, voluntary wellbeing schemes, or advice, pertaining to fitness, and one in five (19%) would like help with relaxation.

Blake added: “As a nation, we are becoming more health-conscious and employers can play a key role in helping workers attain and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Tapping into current trends can help employers engage with employees on a level they are comfortable and familiar with.

“Offering access to health technologies, such as wearables and self-help apps, can help improve wellbeing and strengthen the resilience of a workforce, without direct intervention of an employer.

“Companies should essentially equip their workers with the tools to live a fit and healthy lifestyle but let workers decide the level of involvement from their company in pursuit of this.”

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Friday Factoids Spring 2019

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