Well-being: The holistic challenge (and opportunity) for APAC employers

Adrian Seligman, Chief Commercial Officer of Top Employers Institute, discusses how organisations in Asia can improve employee well-being.
By: | August 26, 2021

Among our certified Top Employers worldwide, Asia-Pacific (APAC) organisations perform well in most areas of people strategy, Well-being, however, seems to be an exception. This is important because employee well-being clearly impacts on engagement and performance levels. Why do APAC businesses lag behind their peers elsewhere in this crucial area – and what can they do to improve?

The Challenge: Room for improvement

Employee well-being had been a growing area of focus for many employers worldwide, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption caused to many organisations, however, proved a positive catalyst for finding new ways to maintain engagement through well-being, despite a largely disparate workforce.

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“Employee well-being had been a growing area of focus for many employers worldwide, even before the COVID-19 pandemic… Engagement is fundamental to every employee’s journey, and every employer’s bottom line.”Adrian Seligman, Chief Commercial Officer, Top Employers Institute.

Engagement is fundamental to every employee’s journey, and every employer’s bottom line. Our Top Employers Institute HR Best Practices Survey contains six domains covering all aspects of people strategy. Our “Engage” domain covers the core elements of winning and maintaining the commitment of employees, with a holistic approach to well-being the crucial driver behind higher engagement scores.

Our most recent survey reveals the importance attached to preventative well-being policies and practices for APAC Top Employers, versus those in the Rest of the World (ROW). When we looked at whether Top Employers offer the following consistently, we found the following disparities:

  • Active discouragement of email use outside of work hours: APAC 32% (vs ROW at 44%).
  • A responsibility on managers to encourage use of vacation time: APAC 86% (vs ROW 93%).
  • A “Do not disturb” policy for employees on vacation: APAC 16% (vs ROW 33%).

Prevention measures are only part of the story. The very best employers also need ways to support employees when prevention efforts are not enough to mitigate stress. Here, too, there is more that can be done. Among our Top Employers we found:

  • Programmes to help employees cope with information overload: APAC 26% (vs ROW 39%).
  • Burn-out recovery support programmes: APAC 36% (vs ROW 51%).
  • Guaranteed time to “unplug” and/or take stress-relief breaks during working hours: 52% of APAC Top Employers do this consistently (vs ROW at 65%).

The Opportunity: The perfect time to experiment

Faced with the cliché of understanding and meeting the challenges of the “new normal”, some Top Employer organisations are becoming bolder in their experiments to protect and support a more holistic approach to well-being. They know that a more “human-centric” approach is required to win and retain the trust of their talent.

One key to experimentation lies in the willingness of senior managers to get actively involved in well-being programmes and here, there is real hope for APAC employers, with 85% of Top Employers in the region doing this consistently (better than the 79% ROW figure). Now the opportunity is to turn that commitment into real change. How can this be achieved?

Best practices in well-being: What are other Top Employers doing?

Here’s how some Top Employers have innovated in creating a more holistic approach to well-being, usually with technology to the fore in enabling rapid progress to be made:

  • Kuehne & Nagel’s UK business set up a mobile platform to support employee well-being, which allowed employees to assess their mental health and access support where needed.
  • Allied Technology created a digital programme for peer-to-peer recognition for its employees in Brazil and aligns this recognition with the needs of the business.
  • Saint-Gobain in China has enjoyed considerable success in developing virtual meetings, group chats and surveys to manage and measure well-being. It strongly encouraged flexible working hours, rather than all hours.

Rapid change is possible. Even though HR leaders in APAC face a challenge to do more to embed holistic well-being initiatives, they also have a unique opportunity, right now, to experiment and build further on the gains already made – and transform the performance of their people.

Adrian Seligman is Chief Commercial Officer at Top Employers Institute. Together with Ammara Naeem, Head of Client Success, Top Employers Institute, he will present Holistic Well-being: Presenting the Challenges and Opportunities for APAC’s Employers at HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2021 on Thursday, September 23 at 2.30pm (SGT).