A recent study by Willis Towers Watson India has found that companies in India are beginning to take a more holistic view of employee health and wellness, going beyond physical wellbeing to include emotional and financial.
The 2018 India Health and Wellbeing study was done with an aim to explore the strategies and tactics used by organisations in India to address employee health and wellbeing. The study was conducted during June to August 2018 and polled over 100 organisations and senior HR leaders from multiple sectors.
According to the study while a majority (66 percent) of employers have already taken, or will take steps in the next three years to develop a mental health strategy, 59 percent are planning to offer programmes to support chronic behavioural health conditions; currently offered by only 8 percent of employers.
Similarly, 63 percent already have or are developing a strategy to improve financial wellbeing and 13 percent are considering it in three years’ time. Towards this, 50 percent of companies are planning to deliver customised or personalised messages to help improve financial planning as compared to only 6 percent today.
Effective and tailored communications key for success
The study also found that although 82% of the organisations have started to provide regular communication that encourages employee safety and wellbeing, two in five say poor employee understanding is a barrier.
Sudesh Shetty, Head of Health & Benefits, Willis Towers Watson India Insurance Brokers said, “Organisations must realise that an effective communication strategy that is segmented, creative, multi-channel and sustained over a campaign period is absolutely critical for employee participation, engagement, and eventually the success of any health and wellbeing strategy.”
Role of technology
Technology is also being increasingly leveraged. One in three organisations already have a formal technology strategy in place and a similar number have developed a dedicated portal as a hub for health and wellbeing programmes. Over the next three years, 67 percent of companies will be using web and mobile-based lifestyle behaviour coaching programmes and 58 percent will be sponsoring the use of wearable devices for tracking physical activity or nutrition.
The study revealed that though all round steps are being taken, including family outreach, an overarching health and wellness strategy is largely missing.
Drawing attention to another interesting finding, Jain added, “The number of employers recognising the role of family in the overall wellbeing of an employee and in turn their productivity, is noteworthy. It is heartening to see that almost one in four organisations are beginning to engage the employees’ family in one way or another.”
The study found that in 2018, over 80 percent of the organisations have taken at least one action in the following areas – health risks or condition management; weight management, physical activity and nutrition; and, managing employee stress and mental health. While 61 percent have taken at least one action to improve the financial wellbeing of employees in 2018, it is a concern that almost half of the surveyed organisations still do not have a formally articulated health and wellbeing strategy.
Some of the initiatives include inviting family members to participate in various programmes and activities organised by the companies; focusing communication to reach/involve family members, and redesigning employee assistance programmes to better address emotional and financial wellbeing for employees and dependents.
Major challenges and top lifestyle concerns
Companies in India identified rising benefits cost and the lack of actionable data, appropriate technology, and employee engagement as the top four challenges in delivering health and wellbeing programmes.
Furthermore, employers ranked lack of physical activity (62 percent, and stress (55 percent) as top concerns about their employees’ lifestyle followed by obesity (43 percent ), poor financial wellbeing (27 percent ) and tobacco use (25 percent ).
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