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Alight Study Reveals Employee Wellbeing Has Plateaued and Trust in Employer Efforts Has Eroded

Alight’s 2023 International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study finds employee wellbeing has stagnated, with only half of workers feeling positive across their mental, physical and financial wellbeing

Financial pressures and extensive layoffs have created an atmosphere of uncertainty, resulting in employees to feel less in control of their wellbeing. In addition, employees have lost trust in their employers’ wellbeing efforts, according to findings from the 2023 Alight International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study.

The study reveals employee wellbeing has remained relatively stagnant over the past year, with only half (51%) of the workforce reporting positive feelings across their mental, physical and financial wellbeing in 2023, compared to 53% of employees in 2022. Notably, less than half of employees (41%) believe their employer cares about their wellbeing a six-percentage point decline year-over-year and just 56% of employees say they feel in control of their wellbeing.

“Maximizing the effectiveness of wellbeing programs requires that organizations consider critical moments that impact employees’ mental, physical and financial health,” said Alison Borland, chief wellbeing officer, Alight. “By addressing all facets of wellbeing through integrated, personalized HR and benefit programs, organizations can eliminate complexities and empower workers to better engage with available resources.”

Mental wellbeing

The study shows three-quarters of U.S. employees report they are experiencing moderate to high stress levels, rising to 80% among Gen Z and Millennial workers. Personal finances (56%), job challenges (52%) and physical health (32%) rank as the top three sources of stress, while 29% of employees say their mental health has declined due to the current economic environment.

Meanwhile, 75% of workers report experiencing some adverse effect of job-related stress, with sleep disruption (53%), low morale (43%) and anxiety attacks (37%) having the biggest impacts. Nearly one-third (30%) of workers believe their job negatively impacts their mental health.

Financial wellbeing

Thirty-one percent of workers report feeling financial stress and often have no money left over at the end of the month. This is despite taking actions such as reducing their spending, which more than two-thirds (67%) have done. Additionally, nearly half (49%) of employees are concerned the money they have won’t last, 46% feel their finances control their life and 39% fear they will never have the life they desire due to their finances.

Physical wellbeing

When U.S. employees need to see a doctor, many cannot access one. Almost half (47%) say they have been unable to receive services like doctor visits, lab work, urgent care, specialist care or surgeries when required.

Of those that did not or could not seek healthcare, 41% attribute it to costs, 23% were unsure where to go and 23% faced long wait times. Plus, 38% say they had problems trusting their doctor, often due to a lack of time spent with them.

In terms of employee benefits, 71% are enrolled in an employer health plan, with the rest evenly divided between a spouse/partner’s plan, a private health plan or no plan at all. However, only 62% say they know where to go to get information on picking the right plan, and 44% regret a healthcare decision because they took bad advice, jumped into treatment, did not check costs or neglected to see if a provider was in-network.

How employers can reignite engagement

Nearly one-third (32%) of employees report they do not use the benefits available to them. The top reasons include not having enough time to evaluate the offerings, overly complex access or benefits that simply do not meet their family’s needs.

Employers can strengthen engagement and value by tailoring HR tools, benefit programs and communication to the needs of their employees. For example, 85% of employees agree that a ‘one-stop-shop,’ such as a mobile app, would prove useful in terms of making better health and financial decisions, utilizing personal recommendations and accessing varied vendors and partners.

“It is crucial for employers to prioritize initiatives that facilitate easy access to relevant and effective resources to engage their employees around their wellbeing,” said Laine Thomas Conway, vice president, engagement services strategy and thought leader at Alight. “Part of their role is to help employees use their benefits effectively, especially when they are needed in those moments that matter. It’s also about showing that the company genuinely cares about their employees and telling an authentic story about that commitment.“