Are you doing all you can to increase employee productivity?

07 December 2018

The wellness industry is on the rise in Singapore and this trend offers many opportunities for employers to reinvigorate their Employee Benefits (EB) programmes.

While most EB programmes are often well-structured to manage physical ailments, they tend to lack adequate provisions to protect the employee’s general wellness and mental well-being.

A recent AIA Vitality Survey highlighted alarmingly low physical and mental wellness in Asia’s workforce where 60% of respondents reported less than 150 minutes of physical activity per week and 5.5% of employees claimed self-reported depression. This has contributed to productivity losses of 51.3 working days annually per employee.

“Employers are gradually starting to link physical and mental wellness to productivity and profitability. To improve performance, retention and increase morale, we’ve seen an increase in employers willing to provide flexible wellness benefits to their employees over and above healthcare insurance,” notes Aniz Sirajudin, Divisional Director of JLT Benefits Solutions (Singapore). “These benefits include advice on dietary design, in-house counselling, travel benefits and fitness programmes and it is important to keep abreast of the latest offerings to ensure that the benefits continue to appeal to employees.”

This increase in awareness is driving tremendous growth in Singapore’s wellness industry, attracting businesses from all over the world to set up shop on this sunny island. And, where 25% of the country’s 5.7m population are expatriates, it’s no surprise that trends from the US, UK and Australia, as well as other parts of Asia, have also made their way into the market.

In the ever-growing fitness space, there are activities ranging from soothing yoga to the vigorous mixed martial arts to cater to the diverse tastes of the population. Some of the largest global fitness companies have also reached our shores — UK brand, Fitness First, has 20 well-equipped clubs and gyms located all over the island and US brand, Anytime Fitness, which is growing in popularity for its reasonably priced membership, allows members to use their gyms anytime, day or night.

Health food products and balanced meals are also becoming more available in Singapore but they can often come with a heftier price tag compared to most local fare. Nonetheless, an increasing number of people are choosing salads and custom-made “balanced meal bowls” over the usual plate of chicken rice and washing it down with designer cold-pressed juice. A quick walk around the Central Business District during lunch hour and one would notice the overwhelming number of healthier choices available.

Singaporeans are also spending more time, and money, on leisure to recover from the hustle of work as evident from the growing demand for spas, holidays or even “vacations” within Singapore, commonly known as “staycations”. According to the online hotel booking portal, Hotels.com, staycation searches in Singapore increased by over 80% from 2014 to 2016, and the trend has continued till today, with new mid-tier hotels to open in Sentosa by April 2019 for staycations.

The growing demand for these fitness, food and leisurely services and products represents an opportunity for employers to modernise their EB programmes and provide more offerings that can improve both the physical and mental health of employees. Companies like LinkedIn have embraced wellness management by making healthy food options available and incorporating an in-house gym in their Singapore office with trainers to help employees optimise their workout sessions.

“Our clients are constantly trying to balance the increase in medical cost spend and investment in wellness management programmes. To overcome this challenge, insurers are starting to reward investment in wellness management programmes as they, too, recognise the cost benefits of having a healthy workforce.” said Kabita Kathigeyan, Head of JLT Benefits Solutions (Singapore). “We find that the key to designing an effective wellness management programme is providing employees with benefits which appeal to their chosen lifestyle and the ability to choose which options to engage in, within fixed parameters. At JLT, we are helping our clients wade through the complexity of trends and offerings and their corresponding benefits to design cost-efficient and effective programmes.”

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This article was produced by Welltodo, in collaboration with JLT.

JLT specialises in providing employee benefits consultancy, insurance placement, health and wellness services to our corporate clients around the world. Our services range from a simple life cover in a single country to designing and implementing a global employee benefits strategy. Our focus is to help our clients manage and reduce their healthcare costs, attract and retain employees and increase productivity by creating a healthier and happier workforce.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact Richard Roper, Managing Director, Employee Benefits (Asia).