According to Bupa Global’s Executive Wellbeing Index 2021, UK business leaders are predicted to increase their spend on employee mental health and wellbeing by 18 per cent in the coming year, among the highest rates in the worldwide study.
With almost three in 10 business leaders now making employee mental health their number one priority (28 per cent), these larger budgets will pay for new roles focused on supporting mental health, upskilling existing HR and management-level staff, paid mental health sick days and private medical insurance with mental health cover.
Rise of empathetic leadership
In recognition of the changes to working lives wrought by the pandemic and the challenges that many have faced juggling life and work, UK business leaders now view flexible working patterns as the most important factor in improving employee wellbeing and are implementing this in their companies. Two in three business leaders (63 per cent) have already introduced flexi-working, with a further 20 per cent planning to do so in the next year.
It’s clear that business heads are taking a more empathetic, inclusive approach to leadership. Board-level executives in the UK now rate integrity, empathy, listening skills and trustworthiness among the most important qualities of a CEO.
Consequently, one in five now see their CEO as taking on the dual responsibility of 'Chief Empathy Officer’. In fact, three in 10 British businesses say they already have a ‘CEmO’ in post, with a further 13 per cent planning to create the position in the next 12 months.
The economy and the environment
Investments in employee wellbeing are set to be combined with a greater focus on sustainability as leaders up the ante on green commitments to future-proof their business.
Part of this is borne out of attitudes towards the economy. Only one in five UK business leaders (22 per cent) is optimistic about full recovery following the pandemic, a dramatic decrease on 2020 optimism levels (44 per cent). A fifth (20 per cent) believe the full economic impact on their business is yet to come.
In a challenging, competitive landscape, three in 10 board-level executives recognise that demonstrating strong ESG values are important when it comes to recruitment (30 per cent) as well as for investors and customers (22 per cent).
Around a third (31 per cent) are now looking to balance profit with purpose and 22 per cent say the environmental agenda will become more important in their company moving forward.
Sheldon Kenton, Managing Director of Bupa Global, said: “We know that the uncertainty we’re living through continues to impact our lives, our businesses, our mental health and our families. So it’s encouraging to see that the UK’s business leaders are investing in their employees’ wellbeing with concrete spending and initiatives.
“By focusing on this as well as the environmental agenda and more purpose-driven goals, British businesses will be more credible with employees, customers and investors.
“Bupa Global is committed to supporting business leaders and their people by continually investing in and updating our mental health and wellbeing provision. Our Global Virtual Care proposition gives people access to international doctors wherever they are in the world. We recently removed lifetime limits across our plans for in-patient and day-patient mental health treatment, and we also now include cover for ADHD, addiction and self-inflicted injuries within our plan benefits. We also provide a range of preventive health and wellbeing services, designed to enable customers, their families and employees to take a more holistic approach to their health management.”