In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace, employees’ needs and challenges have been continuously shifting. As we start to look ahead to 2024, employers should consider how they’re supporting their employees and whether they’re truly addressing the challenges employees are facing.

We recently surveyed 1,000 UK employees, and there were four clear leading areas where they need additional support:

  • Balancing their work and personal commitments
  • Managing their personal finances
  • Improving their mental health
  • Looking after their physical health

In this blog, we will delve into each of these challenges and explore how employers can provide much-needed support.

Work/Life Balance

The boundary between work and personal life has blurred significantly over the past three years, with remote and hybrid work arrangements becoming the norm for many organisations. While remote work offers flexibility, it also presents unique challenges for both employee and employer.

26% of employees are struggling to manage their work/life balance

An ‘always on’ culture can prevent employees disconnecting from work, and the rise of hybrid working can make it difficult for employees to establish clear boundaries and prevent work commitments from negatively impacting their home lives. This can lead to stress and potentially burnout, if employees are not getting enough downtime from work. This may be further compounded by feelings of loneliness and isolation, if remote workers are not benefiting from the social interaction they would get from an office.

For workers with caring commitments, it can be even more challenging to manage their work/life balance – especially for those in the ‘sandwich generation’ who have both childcare and eldercare responsibilities.

How can employers provide support?

The backbone of support is cultural; employers need to ensure that employees are empowered to set clear boundaries between their working and personal lives. They should also establish guidelines around after-hours communication, ensuring that employees are not under pressure to respond to work-related messages during their personal time.

Companies also need to reinforce the importance of taking breaks to recharge and taking a proactive approach to prioritising mental health. Wellbeing workshops can help to fill in knowledge gaps and provide tools to help employees manage their mental health.

Personal Finances

The economic challenges of the past few years, culminating in a widely publicised ‘cost of living crisis’ have made personal finances a top concern for employees. Financial stress doesn’t existing in isolation; it can also take a toll on mental and physical health, affecting overall wellbeing.

Nearly a quarter of employees are struggling to manage their personal finances

Rising living costs have undoubtedly squeezed employees’ finances; increased costs across housing, bills, food and gas have all put significant financial pressure on employees – with 13 million adults in the UK now struggling to pay bills. Higher interest rates will also put increased pressure on employees with high levels of personal debt, potentially leading to stress and anxiety over repayments.

How can employers provide support?

We believe that employer should provide holistic support with financial wellbeing – it shouldn’t just be restricted to pensions and retirement planning. There’s a clear need, 32% of employees would like more support from their employers with their everyday personal finances.

Educational support is easy to implement; employers can provide resources and education on budgeting, saving, and managing debt. Improving financial literacy could help employees better manage their everyday finances, but also positively impact their longer-term financial planning too.

Employers can also provide near-instant relief by facilitating access to a discounts portal, giving employees access to discounts on their monthly expenditure such as supermarket shopping and family entertainment. Over a year, employees could save hundreds on money they were already going to spend.

Mental Health

Mental health remains a top concern for employees, as the UK population faces high levels of depression, stress and anxiety – in the last year, 74% of adults said they felt so stressed they were overwhelmed or unable to cope.

New research suggests that mental illness is the leading cause of long-term absence in the UK; preventative support could have a positive impact on reducing absence rates.

How can employers provide support?

Employers need to ensure they are providing inclusive support and that their mental wellbeing strategy incorporates both proactive and preventative support and access to treatment programmes. With long waiting lists for NHS mental health support, there is a clear opportunity for employers to help plug the gaps in state provision.

Employee assistance programmes are a good starting point to providing mental health support, but they need to be part of an overarching mental health strategy. A key challenge for organisations is how to create a supportive culture that enables and empowers employees to manage their mental health.

Physical Health

Generally, we are seeing a rise in worsening health– in part catalysed by the pandemic. A shift to hybrid working has disrupted routines and increased sedentary behaviour, and long waiting lists for medical treatment are at record levels.

19% of employees are struggling to manage their physical health. Source: Mind the Gap 2023

A rise in stress can also lead to physical health issues. Chronic stress can cause high blood pressure, heart disease and gastrointestinal problems; a preventative approach to stress management may also positively impact physical health.

How can employers provide support?

Employers can also encourage physical activity via gym discounts, virtual workout sessions and fitness challenges. Implementing flexible working may also enable employees who cannot use gym facilities outside of their working day to flex their schedule so they can balance their working commitments and physical health.

Flexible working can also help employees with chronic health conditions better manage their health – whether it’s attending medical appointments or managing their self-care needs. It may also facilitate the return-to-work for individuals who are unable to work set hours, especially in an office environment.

Due to long NHS waiting times, providing access to private medical insurance can provide quicker assistance to employees for their health needs.

Our research shows that employees are grappling with a multitude of challenges that affect their wellbeing and can even negatively impact their productivity. Employers play a crucial role in addressing these issues, with a broad range of employee benefits now available to help tackle and resolve some of the challenges. By recognising and addressing these areas, hopefully organisations can create a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce in the years to come.

Want to find out more? Sign up to our webinar