Research explores gap between workplace expectations and experience in reality for employees

The UK’s ‘work-wellbeing gap’ – the difference between how important work is to people’s wellbeing and the extent to which their current role is actually having a positive impact on it – is estimated at 34%, an investigation by Hymans Robertson anda yulife has found.

Exploring the impact of four areas – financial, mental, social and physical wellbeing – on people’s wellbeing, the survey of 2,009 working UK adults born between 1946 and 1994 highlights that there is a significant gap between what people want or expect from their workplace and what they are getting from their employers.

According to the research, the most important area at work for employees is financial wellbeing (96%) and this carries a wellbeing gap of 26%, with 70% of those surveyed saying their current job has a positive impact on their finances.

Mental wellbeing was considered second most important to employees (94%) and 58% said that their job has a positive impact on it – a wellbeing gap of 36% – while third was social wellbeing (90%), with 56% saying their workplace had a positive impact on it (a wellbeing gap of 34%).

Lastly, physical wellbeing was considered fourth most important to employee wellbeing (89%), with 50% saying that their job impacts it positively – a wellbeing gap of 39%.

According to Richard Purcell, insurance innovation lead, life and financial services, Hymans Robertson, the report highlights the need for insurers to adapt the way they assess workplace wellbeing.

“It is clear that new technology and changing attitudes are transforming the way we work and this is impacting on our health in new and different ways,” he said. “Traditional means used by insurers to measure the impact of work are becoming redundant while the risks faced by insurers are changing. They will need to find new techniques to assess risk, perhaps looking more at how, when and where we work to form a better picture, as well as starting to design products that recognise these different risks to protect employees.”

With such a huge emphasis being placed on workplace wellbeing, there is an opportunity for insurers to engage better with employees and manage risk more effectively, Purcell pointed out. “Some may want to go further and think about how they can use wellbeing as a way to support individuals and employers in proactively managing risks to lower claims costs that can be passed back to customers Innovative insurers could use wellbeing itself to act as a proxy for health when assessing risk in the future,” he said.

Job satisfaction

The research also found that over a third (39%) said that satisfaction with the job itself had a positive impact on wellbeing, followed closely by friendships with colleagues (32%), flexible hours (29%) and then good holiday allowance (23%).

Over half (53%) said they would choose an employer that positively contributed to their wellbeing, even if it meant earning less money, while a fifth (21%) said that going to work is something they dread. A third (32%) of millennials and 38% of gig workers, meanwhile, also claimed they feel hate going to work.

“Taking these findings on board insurers may wish to consider both changes to underwriting and changes to the products they offer,” continued Purcell. “The use of occupation as a rating factor may become less useful occupations evolve over time. Other metrics such as salary or those that rate the use of screens, travel time and physical activity levels could be used instead. Dynamic underwriting would allow for their retraining of employees over their career as they seek greater wellbeing in their work.  The rise of the gig worker also poses a question for insurance underwriters. They are an important and growing section of the economy that is currently underserved by the insurance markets. How much appetite do insurers have to address this risk?”

According to Purcell, it is also crucial that insurers move with the times and “develop products that support people’s desire for wellbeing programmes” that lead to lower claims. “These types of products are likely to have a strong appeal with customers,” he said. “Insurers will also need to develop products that embrace the increasingly flexible nature of work and the phasing of retirement with premiums or cover levels that can be adjusted.”

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