Healthcare provisions still misaligned with staff needs

Asian employers' knee-jerk approach to health and wellness are not meeting the needs of employees, a new study has shown.

By and large, employers in Asia still miss the mark when it comes to their health and well-being benefits, with many employees feeling that their needs are not met, according to a new research from Willis Towers Watson.

According to its 2017/2018 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, managing their health is a top priority for two-thirds of employees (67%) in Asia. Moreover, over half (56%) say that they suffer from elevated levels of stress.

There’s a role for employers, and many are endeavouring to respond by looking beyond traditional benefits and offering behavioural/ health management programmes (60%), lifestyle risk management programmes (44%), and financial well-being programmes (33%) to meet the diverse needs of employees.

However, even though 63% of employees say that their employer-sponsored healthcare plan meets their needs, only 41% say that their employer-sponsored health and well-being initiatives do so.

“The danger is that, although well-intentioned, employers will use a scattergun approach and spend valuable resources on creating standalone and fragmented programmes that employees do not value,” said Dr. Amitabh Deka, Regional Consultant, Benefits & Wellness Advisory, Asia & Australia, at Willis Towers Watson.

“The reality is that health and well-being has broad-reaching business implications — employees in good health are more productive in the workplace, as they are more engaged, less stressed, and less likely to take days off. And as employers increasingly recognise this, they also start to approach health and well-being as a strategic issue.”

Employers starting to take a more strategic approach

It’s encouraging that the move towards being more strategic has already started among Asia employers. By next year, almost all (97%) of employers will have a health and well-being strategy (compared with 64% today) and almost three-quarters plan to differentiate and customise their strategy to make it a key competitive advantage.

“Key to customisation of benefits will also be businesses recognising the interconnectedness between health and well-being issues. For example, from our research we know that an individual’s job, relationships, financials, and health are leading sources of stress, and therefore mental health,” said Cedric Luah, Head of Health & Benefits, Asia and Australasia at Willis Towers Watson.

“We suggest that employers rethink how their programmes are designed and incentivised to create and encourage long-term behavioural changes. Part of this will also be ensuring that they are centred on the employee.

“Employees do not want to be told what to do; rather, they want to be supported with programmes that lead to improved well-being. It’s an essential balance that’s not very easy to achieve,” Luah added. 

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