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Four case studies: Shaping C&B policies towards better employee health and wellbeing

Four case studies: Shaping C&B policies towards better employee health and wellbeing


According to Randstad’s Employer Brand Research Market Report 2020, healthcare and work flexibility are ranked highly by employees, with healthcare (75%), additional vacation benefits (74%), flexible working hours (71%), work from home (66%) and group life insurance (59%) ranked as the top five most coveted employee benefits.

We speak to four leading companies in Hong Kong – HKBN, HSBC Life, Philip Morris Asia and Uber – to find out more about their health-oriented C&B policies.

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(Check the leaders' response below!)

Case study one: HKBN

philip morris angee

With “talent first” and “life-work priority” as its core values, employee health and wellbeing are factored into everything at HKBN.

“Why do we call it a life-work priority instead of work-life balance? Because life is more important than work,” says Windy Wong, co-owner and associate director for talent management at HKBN.

She adds that employees should prioritise their life in this order: Their health first, followed by their family’s health, and finally, work. Physical, mental and financial wellbeing are HKBN’s performance and reward team’s focal point.

In 2018, HKBN reformed its insurance scheme, including life, personal accident and medical insurance, and implemented company-wide equal medical protection.

“Benefits is a safety net. Traditional HR thinks when one moves up the ranks, the insurance package should be better. We, as a talent company, believe all lives are the same, whether you are a senior or junior,” Wong says.

“While employees have demands, their safety net should be (commensurate). We treat benefits as a safety net, not an executive perk.”

Before COVID-19, the company was already considering whether a five-day workweek was necessary. Since January 2020, some departments have been testing a 4+1 model, in which employees can opt to work from home one day per week. With the sudden disruption of COVID-19, the company is now considering imposing a 3+2 model in the future, since most employees have already adapted to work from home.

The wellbeing initiatives do not stop there. Apart from annual leave, HKBN imposes paid family care leave for employees to spend a day with their family; up to five days of paid exam leave for employees with children who might need their parents’ help to study; paid grandparents’ leave; and up to one year of no-pay sabbatical leave for employees to pursue personal goals.

In terms of financial wellbeing, mindful that many employees might be dealing with pressing financial needs, the company pledges to give back all the subsidies from the Hong Kong government’s Employment Support Scheme (ESS) to employees.

Looking forward, Wong urges HR to redefine short term and long term when planning.

“For most companies, short term means three months to one year and long term means three-to-five years. After this pandemic, HR professionals in Hong Kong need to realise short term should refer to immediate action and long term should be one year,” she says.

Which of 2020’s biggest employee wellness trends will go big in Hong Kong?

    • Data-driven healthcare decisions
    • Family-oriented employee benefits
    • Retirement plans

Case study two: HSBC Life

hsbc life agneschan

Since the rebranding campaign in 2018, HSBC’s wholly owned life insurance business, HSBC Life, has rolled out various employee wellbeing initiatives.

“We believe our employees are our most valuable assets. As such, their health, wellbeing and safety have always been our top priorities when it comes to our people strategy,” says Agnes Chan, chief customer officer at HSBC Life Hong Kong.

HSBC Life currently provides employee benefits such as quality time-off, medical insurance coverage with a flexible wellness spending account covering a range of consultations, including dietitians and medical check-ups, and access to the Wayfoong Sports Club at a nominal membership fee.

“Our objective is to create a more supportive and dynamic environment where our employees can fulfill promises they make to themselves and their families. A focus on their holistic wellbeing is therefore an integral part of our commitment to our people,” Chan says.

To raise employees’ health awareness, HSBC Life regularly hosts health days to help employees identify their health and fitness levels and potential health risks, lunch-and-learn sessions on how to deal with challenges, as well as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, yoga and meditation classes.

In light of COVID-19, apart from care packs and flexible working arrangements, HSBC Life launched a health and wellness series with an emphasis on fitness, nutrition, and mental health. It includes fitness videos on HIIT, pilates and yoga, health talks hosted by accredited dietitians, and breathing exercises.

In addition, the life insurer is offering employees free fitness club memberships, vaccinations and DNA testing. Its latest initiative is a 30-day “Employee Wellbeing Flex Work Challenge”, in which physical, nutritional, financial and mental wellbeing are weekly themes.

“An important lesson from COVID-19 is that health always comes first. As many people will become more health conscious, health-related employee benefits is expected to become a crucial part of overall compensation and benefits to attract and retain talent in the long run,” Chan says.

Which of 2020’s biggest employee wellness trends will go big in Hong Kong?

  • Provide resources to help employees with challenges at home
  • Data-driven healthcare decisions
  • Personalised healthcare benefits

Case study three: Philip Morris Asia

philip morris angeephilip morris angee

Angee (left) & Rita (right)

On a scale of 1-10 (with one – not important, and 10 – very important), Rita Au Yeung, people and culture manager of the regional headquarters at Philip Morris Asia, rates the level of importance of healthcare in Philip Morris’ C&B policies as a nine, and says it is becoming increasingly important.

“Financial wellbeing, healthcare and fitness have been our focus. With COVID-19, we have turned more of our attention towards mental health,” says Angee Chan, people and culture manager for Hong Kong and Macau at Philip Morris Asia.

The multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company offers a wellness system where employees and their partners can allocate their credits on inpatient, outpatient insurance coverage, dental, maternity and other supplementary benefits according to their needs. The remaining credits can be spent on wellbeing initiatives such as a free health check, vaccinations, glasses and genetic testing.

Another highlight is the 4.5-day workweek with flexible working hours and an option of telecommuting on Friday mornings upon a supervisor’s approval. The people and culture team is currently considering the option of extending the 0.5 day from Friday-only to a weekday of the employees’ choice.

Au Yeung and Chan believe that designing a comprehensive health and wellness programme goes beyond mere window dressing. They say it’s of paramount importance to deliver flexible and tailor-made programmes to the organisation's employees. 

“Employees are at different life stages and have different personalities. A one-size-fits-all solution cannot cater to their different needs,” Chan says.

“Therefore, even in one single initiative, we make sure there are different tiers for employees to choose whatever fits.”

Due to social distancing, many wellness initiatives such as stretching classes have gone online, and the company is considering adding the online option for some health initiatives in the future.

At Philip Morris Asia, the people and culture team is not the only decision maker of the benefits programme. Employees are invited to be involved in the design process and the new initiative is tested in a small group before being rolled out at the company level.

Which of 2020’s biggest employee wellness trends will go big in Hong Kong?

  • On-site measurable face-to-face wellness coaching, and mindfulness courses
  • Data-driven healthcare decisions
  • Physical fitness initiatives    

Case study four: Uber

uber lily

Under Uber’s wellness programme, employees at all levels can allocate their credits for benefits such as gym memberships, massages, wearables (such as Fitbits and the Apple Watch), annual health checks, infertility treatment and meditation classes. Employees also get monthly credits for Uber rides and Uber eats, and free meals are served in the office from Mondays to Fridays.

“We don’t leverage our medical coverage when something happens. This is about preventing something,” says Lily Bednikov, HR business partner for North Asia at Uber.

To address employees’ mental wellbeing – apart from unlimited paid time off – the company runs an employee assistance programme, a free confidential counselling service for employees; a learning portal called Degreed with courses on how to build resilience or how to manage anxiety; and it recently partnered with an employee in Australia to run webinars on anxiety, in particular, on how to cope during COVID-19.

“These benefits are not in isolation. They are linked in terms of how we engage with our people and the type of talent that we want to attract and retain,” Bednikov says.

“We also understand people go through cycles of their life, stages of their life. They may not need it now, but at a point they might need it, so we try to be as inclusive as possible in terms of what we offer.”

Amid the pandemic, Uber regularly consults with an epidemiologist to make sure its efforts are grounded in the latest medical advice, and has extended the wellness benefits to include home office ergonomics such as standing desks or Wi-Fi bill reimbursement. All the meetings amid social distancing are recorded so employees do not have the pressure to attend every meeting when they have some urgent personal situation to deal with or they simply want to grab a coffee.

“In a controlled environment like a workspace, you can see what works and what doesn’t. But in a situation where all our personal situations are different, we have to try to be flexible,” she says.

“We have to be quick to understand what employees need, make a decision and alleviate their anxiety.”

Which of 2020’s biggest employee wellness trends will go big in Hong Kong?

  • Data-driven healthcare decisions
  • Personalised healthcare benefits




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