Research shows that around two-thirds of HR directors now feel more responsibility for their employees’ health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A survey conducted by Aetna International, a health insurance agency, reveals that under two-thirds of HR directors (63 per cent)  believe that employers now have more responsibility for their employees’ health.

This aligns with the views of employees – almost two-thirds of whom (63 per cent) say that working for an employer that provides support for mental health is now more important to them than it was a year ago.

The majority of HR directors have responded to this (54 per cent) by saying their company has actually improved the provision of mental health support and benefits that support employee well-being, such as flexible working.

Despite this, there is a marked difference between the views of HR and employees towards the provisions provided. While around four in 10 (40 per cent) of HR directors identified the quality and health benefits offered as ‘good’, this was not echoed by the workers.

Under a quarter of employees who work from home (23 per cent) and around three in 10 (32 per cent) of those working in an office believe that their health benefits are good. Around of fifth (22 per cent) of remote workers actually rated these services as poor, showing a gap between employee’s expectations and the provisions they are receiving.

Another disparity was found when considering how much money should be poured into the health benefits offered. Over half of UK workers (52 per cent) felt that their employer should be spending more on health and benefits whilst only over a third of HR directors (36 per cent) felt the same.

Most worryingly, around a fifth of workers (21 per cent) stated that the health support they received from their employers has not improved since the beginning of the pandemic. This ultimately shows that employers may not be being mindful to the changing needs of their workers as the pandemic develops.

Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of employees (93 per cent) identified good physical health support as the main influence for staying at a company. However, since the pandemic, this has shifted.

Now, almost half of workers (41 per cent) confessed that they would be more attracted to a company if it had good annual leave entitlement. This was followed by the ability to stay at home (35 per cent).

However, almost half of UK employers believed that a positive work culture would have the biggest influence on their company’s ability to attract and retain talent, hinting that employers may not be surveying the needs of their workers adequately.

Damian Lenihan, Executive Director for Europe at Aetna International said:

Whilst it’s positive to see that the perceptions of employers are now more aligned with the experiences of their employees, our research suggests there is still more do to ensure health benefits and HR strategies are not only fit for purpose today, but also for the future. The views of employers and their employees remain polarised when it comes to the steps businesses need to take to strengthen workplace well-being provisions.

Listening to employees will be absolutely crucial for businesses over the next few months. For a lot of people, health and lifestyle pressures have intensified dramatically as a result of the pandemic, something that businesses cannot afford to ignore. If they haven’t already, businesses must act and respond to these challenges or risk alienating a workforce that is already under strain.


This research was obtained from Aetna’s ‘Tackling Polarised Perceptions of Corporate Health and Wellness’ which is an annual survey that questions over 4,000 employees and over 1,000 HR Directors in the UK, US, Singapore and the UAE.