Wellbeing is a priority for just one-quarter of Asia-Pacific employers

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 18 Nov 2015

Rising costs is biggest benefit challenge for organisations, finds Towers Watson survey

Just 26 per cent of Asia-Pacific employers want to make employee wellbeing one of the top objectives of their benefit strategies, according to a new survey from Towers Watson.
 
The 2015 Asia Pacific Benefit Trends survey also found that three-quarters of employers see rising costs as their most pressing benefit challenge.
 
But focusing on minimising costs instead of investing in wellbeing strategies could be a false economy. “Employee stress continues to challenge most employers in Asia Pacific, increasing rates of absenteeism and slowing down productivity,” said Dr Rajeshree Parekh, director of corporate health and wellness for Asia Pacific at consultancy firm Towers Watson.
 
“The first step to increasing health and productivity is to provide thoughtful health and wellness programmes that genuinely connect with employees. It’s a challenging proposition, but by taking a creative and holistic approach, employers can do much more.”
 
Health-management benefits — particularly preventative health benefits relating to mental wellness and stress relief — are still among the least widely offered in the region. Currently, the most common health-management benefits are traditional health checks (or biometric screenings), which are offered by just over half of Asia Pacific employers.
 
Employee assistance programmes, which are designed to support employees through difficult times, are offered by only 30 per cent of employers, and stress management or resilience training is offered by just 19 per cent of organisations.
 
But the good news is that these figures are set to rise: approximately one in four employers are planning to introduce stress management programmes (25 per cent) and lifestyle behaviour coaching (23 per cent), according to the research.
 
“While rising costs pose a daunting challenge to most employers, many are also seeing it as an opportunity to consider alternative strategies to get the most out of their health spend without simply adding more programmes,” said Chris Mayes, director of benefits optimisation for Asia Pacific at Towers Watson.
 
“Health benefits such as short and long-term hospital care are typically the most valued by employees, and can play a vital role in sustaining employee engagement. Therefore it’s encouraging that, rather than allowing cost pressures to scale back health programmes, employers are instead starting to consider concepts such as wellness. Taking a holistic approach to health can help to increase employee engagement and productivity without adding to costs — and in fact, may lead to savings in the long run as the workforce becomes more productive,” added Mayes.