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What employers need to know about health and productivity in APAC

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More and more employers in Hong Kong are committed to employee health and wellbeing but their effort does not necessarily translate into success because of lack of strategy and communication with employees, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2015/2016 Global Staying@Work survey.

The survey showed that only one in three (33%) Asia Pacific organisations have an articulated health and productivity (H&P) strategy.

Even those who have a H&P plan in place, they do not make the effort to measure its impact. Only 13% of Asia Pacific employers have an articulated measurement strategy, compared to 22% globally.

Less than 10% of employers measure the impact of health and wellbeing programmes on costs, employees’ health risks or productivity.

Other barriers to success include inadequate budget and/or staff (41%), and insufficient evidence to build a case for the required investment (37%). Lack of actionable data and employee engagement were often cited as barriers too.

ALSO READ: Why employers are cutting health insurance budgets

These employee-employer gaps were evident in another research as well, where according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey employees’ top cause of stress is low pay, but employers consider low pay to be only number 10 on the list of workers’ stressors.

Employers also incorrectly rank the lack of work-life balance as the leading source of workplace stress – employees say it is actually fourth on their list. Bosses also under estimated the stress caused by a poor company culture that lacks teamwork and accountability.

“Reducing stress and improving wellbeing is more than the sum of the individual programmes. By understanding employees’ challenges, employers can build trust with them on personal health issues,” said Cedric Luah, head of health and benefits — Asia and Australasia, Willis Towers Watson.

“Employers need to look at the entire employee experience, including their family members and lives outside of work. Such efforts can pay off in the form of stronger employee engagement and retention as well as less stress-related illness and absenteeism,” Luah added.

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Source: Willis Towers Watson 2015/2016 Staying@Work Survey. Willis Towers Watson 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey.

One in five Asia Pacific employers are currently connecting financial wellbeing to health, and the number is expected to go up to 39% in the next three years.

Results on using financial incentives are mixed. Employees are willing to take on fairly simple activities, such as completing a health assessment in exchange for incentives.

However, they are far less willing to participate in long-term activities, such as participating in a weight-reduction programme. As such, 50% of companies offering incentives plan to reassess their design in the next three years.

Looking ahead  more firms are introducing health and wellbeing programmes like prevention programmes, such as biometric screenings, weight management and stop-smoking programmes.

By 2018, more than three-quarters of companies (83%) plan to have a strategy, with a substantial portion (35%) planning to differentiate their health and wellbeing programmes for critical segments of the workforce.

ALSO READ: One way of calculating ROI on wellness programmes

Image: Shutterstock

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