Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Philippines - Many Asian firms lack plan for worker health, wellness – study

MANY EMPLOYERS in the Asia-Pacific region have no strategy for employee health and wellness, a critical element of productivity, according to a study by Willis Towers Watson, a risk management and human resources consulting firm.

Citing the results of its 2015/2016 Global Staying@Work survey, the firm said in a statement that only one in three Asia-Pacific organizations have a health and productivity (H&P) strategy, with 83% planning to have one by 2018.

“Our research shows that employers in Asia have big aspirations,” Dr. Rajeshree Parekh, Director of Health and Corporate Wellness for Asia and Australasia at Willis Towers Watson, was quoted as saying: “The journey to health and wellness is a long one. Building a health and productivity strategy takes considerable effort and organizational resolve. Setting objectives that resonate with employees, and then delivering on the strategy’s promises is a journey, not a race.”

According to the study, 41% cited inadequate budget and/or staff as one of the barriers to implementing an H&P strategy.

H&P strategies in place in the region include prevention programs, such as biometric screenings, to lifestyle management, including weight management and stop-smoking programs.

“To increase a strategy’s chance of success, it is important to view it holistically and offer interconnected programs, rather than offering individual programs that don’t have the same overall goal,” said Dr. Parekh. “Implementing health and productivity programs without having an overarching strategy will have limited success in changing employee behavior in the long run.”

The firm cited in its statement risks like stress, lack of physical exercise, obesity, poor nutrition and tobacco use. Sedentary lifestyle is the top concern in Asia Pacific, with stress, insufficient physical activity, and lack of sleep ranking high in almost every market.

“It’s important for employers to recognize that many of these issues are inter-related. For example, research shows that insufficient physical activity, poor nutrition and inadequate sleep are strongly linked with obesity and stress,” said Dr. Parekh. “This linkage is another reason why employers’ efforts to address issues on an individual basis could fail to improve employees’ health and well-being.”

The statement said employees and employers have different views on the role of pay in creating workplace stress. According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, pay is the top cause of stress for employees, but employers consider low pay to be only number 10 on the list of workers’ stressors.

Conversely, employers incorrectly rank the lack of work/life balance as the leading source of workplace stress -- employees say it is actually fourth on their list.

These general findings are “consistent with the Philippine results which show low pay as the primary cause of stress from the point of view of the employees, but only ranking number 8 from the employers’ perspective,” said Susan La Chica, Head of Health and Benefits for the Philippines at Willis Towers Watson.

“Clearly there are a number of employees who are dealing with financial challenges where employers might be able to help beyond increases in pay. The good news is, there is a growing interest from employers in the Philippines to educate and encourage employees in adopting a financial well-being strategy,” added La Chica.

The 2015/2016 Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey was completed between May and July 2015 in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific by 1,669 employers.

In the Asia-Pacific, 582 responses were gathered from 13 countries: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam. There were 91 participating companies from the Philippines.

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