Survey Reveals Employer Shortfall in Meeting Health and Well-being Support Needs of Employees

November 19, 201912:25 pm483 views
Generic placeholder image

A major gulf between how employers view the health and wellness support they offer, and the perceptions of employees on available workplace programmes, could have a significant impact on productivity and retention, according to new research from Aetna International, a leading global health benefits provider.

The findings are revealed in the first of two new Business of health 2020 reports, Tackling polarised perceptions of corporate health and wellness, which investigates the opinions and experiences of approximately 1,000 HR Directors and 4,000 employees working at mid-to-large companies (250 employees and above) in the USA, UK, UAE and Singapore. The global report was commissioned to analyse the changing needs of global employees and employers, focusing on individual mental and physical health priorities, and the impact this has on businesses.

Global Findings

Despite the vast majority of businesses (94 percent) agreeing they want employees to prioritise their physical and mental health over work, most employees do not believe the current support they are offered is good enough. When rating their access to workplace health and wellness benefits – either ‘good’, ‘adequate’ or ‘poor’ – just under a quarter (23 percent) of employees believe the benefits provided are good, while 70 percent of employers believe the same. In fact, an almost equal number of employees (24 percent) rate the support provided by their employers as poor.

In terms of the most significant risks to productivity, employers think the biggest health challenge is the flu and other common viral diseases, closely followed by stress, serious illness, back pain and mental health issues. Even with stress ranking so highly, over a third (38 percent) of employees view direct access to support services for stress as poor, compared with 1 in 10 (11 percent) employers.

Given that 87 percent of workers across the globe are concerned that stress could one day impact their ability to work, a perceived lack of support in this area could seriously hamper business efforts at both recruitment and retention, as well as an organisation’s future business performance.

See also: How Tech in the Workplace Could Worsen Employee’s Mental Health (And What You Can Do About It)

Singapore Findings

  • Most businesses in Singapore (93 percent) agree that they want employees to prioritise their physical and mental health over work.
  • Almost two-thirds (60 percent) of HR directors rate the availability of health and wellness benefits as good but only 22 percent of employees say the same; and
  • An equal proportion (22 percent) of employees rate the current support as poor.
  • Over a third of employees (37 percent) rate access to direct support for stress as poor, compared to 12 percent of employers.
  • A majority of employers (68 percent) in Singapore feel that they are doing enough to support stressed employees, while only 43 percent of employees agree that the existing support is adequate.

Managing Stress and Mental Health Issues Rank High on Singapore Employee Concerns for Future Employability and Selecting a Company to Work for

  • Employees rank stress as their top concern regarding their future health, with 88 percent of employees indicating some level of concern that it could one day impact their ability to work.
  • This concern is followed by mental health issues (85 percent), and serious physical illnesses such as cancer (84 percent).
  • Notably, the same top three concerns extend to the physical and mental health of a close family member, with 87 percent of employees believing that family ill health could impact their ability to work.
  • Significantly, two-thirds (67 percent) of workers state that they would not join a company if it did not have a clear policy on supporting those with mental health issues, including stress, anxiety or depression, reflecting the priorities of today’s jobseekers.
  • A third (34 percent) of employees rate their company’s current mental health support as poor, compared with just 18 percent of employers.

Derek Goldberg, Managing Director of Aetna International, APAC, said: “We are seeing a clear gap emerging both globally and in Singapore between the level of corporate health and wellness support that businesses believe they are providing, and the perceptions of their workforces. This misalignment may be having an impact on employee well-being and business productivity.”

Singapore Employees Cite Flexible Working Hours and Stress Reduction Programmes as Two Key Benefits Employers Can Implement to Help Them Become Healthier

  • Of the benefits and policies employees rank as helping to improve their health and well-being, flexible working hours is cited as the top benefit by 65 percent of workers; and
  • Yet only 13 percent of HR directors believe this benefit has a positive impact on employee attraction and retention.
  • Employees cite stress reduction programmes and services as their second preferred benefit (45 percent), followed by access to gym at work (44 percent).

Mr. Goldberg continues, “Offering tailored health and wellness benefits and support in the workplace are becoming as vital as policies around sick leave, major illnesses and holiday time. Data from this report indicates that Singapore-based companies can benefit from reviewing their current corporate well-being programmes, and doing more to better understand the needs of their evolving workforces. In supporting a future-ready economy, it is imperative that we look beyond the physical well-being, and emphasise the importance of a healthy mental and emotional state of mind. By giving employees the tools to be successful in achieving their well-being goals, organisations stand to benefit from improved performance and ensure that they’re equipped to keep pace with tomorrow’s demands.”

Read also: Shift Work Tied to Poor Mental Health: Research