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Greater awareness of mental health and wellbeing at work is proving to be one of the pandemic’s lasting legacies. Seventy-five percent of employers say staff have demanded greater support for their health and wellbeing since the pandemic, and 54% say employee wellbeing will be a focus of substantial changes to their workforce strategy in the next three-to-five years – a big increase from the 36% who said the same in 2021. “Since the pandemic, wellbeing has become its own dedicated function,” says Doran. “We have people working on wellbeing full time, and they are focused on a number of different strands.”

The many meanings of wellbeing

What employers mean when they say they are focused on wellbeing varies by location. In Australia and parts of EMEA, the concept of workplace wellbeing can encompass a full scope of psychosocial considerations, from finding fulfilment at work to supporting employees’ gender expression. In the US, a wellbeing programme may also now focus on providing employees with mental health support. Hendry notes: “It was often head-in-the-sand in the US when it came to mental health issues. Covid and the emotional toll that came with it really changed that and made employees feel more comfortable talking about what they were going through.” 

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It was often head-in-the-sand in the US when it came to mental health issues. Covid and the emotional toll that came with it really changed that and made employees feel more comfortable talking about what they were going through.

Tyler Hendry
Senior Associate, New York

Wellbeing as a win-win

Despite regional differences in definitions, employers are embracing a range of wellbeing initiatives across all markets surveyed. When we presented employers with a list of 10 different wellbeing policies, at least 88% of respondents had adopted or said they were planning to adopt each policy on the list. The most-implemented initiatives are providing space for employees to discuss work issues, which has already been taken up by 67% of respondents, and providing managers with training to support wellbeing, implemented by 65% (see figure 7 below). “Wellbeing can only be a positive and you can’t train enough and educate enough in that space,” says Doug Evans at Hays. “It’s a fundamental issue.” 

The prevalence of wellbeing programmes suggests employers are going above and beyond employee demand. Why are they so keen? Just over a third (35%) see wellbeing as a significant activism risk, so their motives might be defensive. And in some jurisdictions, legislation demanding increased attention to employee mental health may be forcing their hand. But many employers are eagerly pursuing wellbeing because they see it as a win-win – an opportunity to improve employee satisfaction without making costlier changes to pay and benefits. 

“Legislation will set minimum standards, but the leading organisations are doing a lot more than that because they see that wellbeing initiatives work from the retention and productivity perspectives,” says Jhinku. “These are the organisations that others will seek to emulate or even surpass as they come to realise the value of taking wellbeing seriously.”


Figure 7. Which of the following has your organisation adopted, or plans to adopt in future, to support employee health and wellbeing?


Ensuring good deeds go unpunished

Even the best-intended initiatives come with risks. In addition to the risk of making a large investment that yields little payoff, there is the possibility that a wellness initiative could have an unintended discriminatory effect. “You can’t discriminate,” says Röhsler. “Your wellness initiatives have to be available to everyone. And if you choose something that’s technically available to everyone, but only a minority will want to take advantage, then you have a social problem with your employees saying that one group is being favoured over everyone else.”  To avoid both ills, employers should engage with the workforce about the kinds of support they would welcome and be ready with alternatives that ensure no one is left out.   

You can’t discriminate. Your wellness initiatives have to be available to everyone. And if you choose something that’s technically available to everyone, but only a minority will want to take advantage, then you have a social problem with your employees saying that one group is being favoured over everyone else.

Emma Röhsler
Head of Employment Pensions and Incentives (EMEA), London


Research methodology

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Key contacts

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Natalie Gaspar

Partner, Melbourne

Natalie Gaspar
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Tyler Hendry

Senior Associate, New York

Tyler Hendry
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Shivchand Jhinku

Partner, Sydney

Shivchand Jhinku
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Fatim Jumabhoy

Managing Partner, Singapore, Singapore

Fatim Jumabhoy
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Sian McKinley

Senior Associate (Employed Barrister), London

Sian McKinley
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Emma Rohsler

Regional Head of Practice (EMEA) - Employment Pensions and Incentives, Paris

Emma Rohsler
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Barbara Roth

Partner, New York

Barbara Roth
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Nick Wright

Partner, London

Nick Wright
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Christine Young

Partner, London

Christine Young

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