Workplace wellness statistics for global HR professionals

24 August 2021


As an international HR professional, employees in your organisation may have been affected differently by the pandemic. They may have had to contend with severe lockdowns, illness or bereavement while also managing their responsibilities as an employee. 

There are many reasons you may be researching workplace wellness statistics. Even though your business may have had a health and wellness programme prior to the pandemic is it still fit for purpose? You may be wondering about participation rates or return on investment. 

There are a huge number of benefits to implementing a workplace wellness program. How employees are feeling when they are carrying out their role can impact everything from their levels of engagement right down to the company’s bottom line. There is very little doubt that investing in your employee’s mental health is well worth it.
At its most basic level wellness programs have been shown to improve employee physical and mental health. A US study of 1,800 employees taking part in a work sponsored wellness programme over two years showed marked improvements in the number of days people exercised and the length of time they spent exercising with a corresponding reduction in stress and depression. 
In the US a study by the Global Wellness Institute showed employees reported higher levels of engagement if they worked in businesses with wellbeing programmes. Companies with more engaged employees report 21% higher productivity and 22% higher profitability than their counterparts. 
Businesses with more engaged employees because the company offered wellbeing support reported almost 40% less absenteeism and 65% lower turnover.
Research conducted by Harvard in the US pre-pandemic showed for every dollar spent on employee health and wellness medical costs fall $3.27, a 6-1 ROI. 

The business and moral benefits of supporting employees meant many employers had employee wellness programs pre-pandemic. Looking at the research, they were very much required:

In the UK the CIPD and Simply Health and Wellbeing Survey showed in 2018/9 depression and anxiety were responsible for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost. Mental illness was also the most common cause of long term sickness absence in the UK.

The situation in the US was similarly challenging with 90% of employees in the Mental Health America survey agreeing that their workplace impacted their mental health. More than half believed they were not receiving enough support from their employer to help manage their stress. Most concerning of all was the fact that only 5% of employees believed their employer provided a safe space for those living with mental illness.

In Singapore there was also a pre-pandemic decline in mental health in the workplace with 1 in 7 employees saying they had been impacted by a mental illness in 2018 when compared to 1 in 8 in the same study in 2010.

There is no doubt the pandemic has negatively impacted employees' mental wellbeing. What is not known is the total effect the on-going situation may have on people around the world. 

A survey of the general population by the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported the saddest January on record, beating a previous low in 2012 when the country faced the first double dip recession since the 1970s. 

More specifically workplace wellness statistics from Champion Health showed:

An astounding 90% of UK employees thought the pandemic had an impact on their mental health. Of these, 40% said it had a moderate or significant impact on their wellbeing. Almost 60% experienced some symptoms of depression and 26% experienced moderate to severe levels of anxiety in 2020.

Countries are emerging from the pandemic at very different rates and the impact has varied from place to place. As an international HR professional, you and your business will have to be cognisant of this when it comes to workplace health.

Now that we know employees feel their mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, how are employers stepping in to help? 

The CIPD and Simplyhealth’s Health and Wellbeing report that surveyed more than 650 UK companies showed:

More than 40% of businesses are extremely worried about the impact the pandemic is likely to have on their employees. More than 80% are using anonymous data from Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) to understand the primary sources of stress for employees allowing them to better tailor communications and additional support to assist. 

With the move to remote work, the natural division between work and home life was eroded. Although there have been benefits to this, 84% of UK businesses said they have observed presenteeism, where employees regularly work more than their allocated hours or work when they are ill. This practice is detrimental to overall health and wellbeing and there is likely to be a move to tackling this as we move to a hybrid working model.  

The Global Wellness institute predict workplace wellbeing trends in 2021 will focus on:

  1. Establishing the new normal in terms of office work practice. This may involve at home ergonomic assessments, successfully building connections with employees no matter where they are working.
  2. Greater focus on mental health and wellbeing. There is no doubt the pandemic has brought the importance of mental health to the fore. Businesses who may not have considered it a priority previously are more likely to this year. 
  3. Wellbeing focused leadership. Having employees who are feeling happy and supported is so important to business success that many employers are looking at ways to lead for wellbeing. This involves greater empathy and compassion from leaders with the aim of creating new ‘thriving’ cultures where everyone feels supported to do their best work. 

Looking at the statistics there is a definite change in focus when it comes to employee wellness programmes in 2021. Whether you are looking for workplace wellness statistics to create a business case or just to get an overview of other companies' experiences there is little doubt that investing in wellbeing is likely to pay dividends in the long term. 


If your international business has expat employees on assignment, all our international health insurance plans provide access to our expat assistance programmes. Members have 24/7 multilingual access to support on a range of issues from mental or physical health, relationships or financial health that can be contributory factors in expat depression and anxiety.