The cost of healthcare in Asia is set to rise further in 2013. Employer’s healthcare costs here will rise for two basic reasons, says Aon Hewitt: the workforce in Asia is becoming older; and employees are becoming more demanding as their incomes rise. Therefore, it is inevitable that more attention will be paid to preventive healthcare at the workplace.
“We have noticed that the attention companies accord to staff health and wellness is proportionate to the cost of downtime and medical costs – both of which will continue to rise,” says Dr Wong Weng Hong, CEO of Asia Medic.
Three areas where companies focus are early detection of chronic or serious diseases, smoking cessation, and weight management. “These are really important as our workforce ages and we incur more healthcare costs and downtime once they fall ill,” says Wong.
“However we have to remember preventive health strategy for a sustainable workforce is a long-term goal and requires planning and investment several years ahead,” he adds.
There has also been more involvement and drive from senior management to implement health and wellness strategies recently, as many business leaders are beginning to experience health issues related to ageing for themselves. “This is a sign which bodes well for the (wider) Singapore workforce,” says Wong.
With a greying employee demographic profile and rising medical costs, employers are certainly realising that there is an increasing need to be more proactive in managing the health and wellness of their employees. This can be done through either workplace health interventions or by reviewing total remuneration through the re-balancing of the remuneration mix, says Cen Hong Siu Ming, Vice President and Head of Compensation and Benefits, Group Human Capital, Great Eastern Life Assurance.
“With Generation Ys and ‘Millennials’ joining the workforce, health and wellness interventions are also seen as a way of engaging this particular segment of employees, who view health and wellness activities as a common tool for socialisation,” he adds.
Some companies have implemented mandatory health screening tied with increased benefits, such as increased outpatient reimbursements limits, gym memberships, membership to health information websites, smoking cessation programmes, and healthy cooking classes.
While health and wellness programmes are important, it is also key to ensure they are accepted with equal enthusiasm by the whole company. “If only a portion of the workforce goes for health screening, it will defeat the purpose of the programme, which is meant to ensure a sustainable workforce at all levels,” says Wong.
In line with GE’s refreshed brand proposition of being a “Life” company by helping its policyholders take care of their health and wellness so that in turn they can care for their own dependants and loved ones, the company is implementing an employee health incentive programme integrated with employee benefit provisions and the external-facing “Live Great” programme (which is a loyalty-based customer engagement programme).
“We have strong expectations for this programme to help us reduce medical costs, improve productivity by reducing medical leave days, build higher employee engagement, and improve brand perception from potential hires,” says Cen.
Social media and wellness
Very often, changing one’s lifestyle is a lonely and arduous journey. So it helps to be in touch with other individuals sharing the same experience and those who have achieved success. “Tips, advice, encouragement and sharing are important to keep one focused on the mission,” says Wong.
A good example is a ‘web community’ set up by a sports apparel and gear company. Staff, as well as buyers of its sports watches can subscribe to the community whereby their achievements in terms of distance covered, calories burnt, experiences, targets achieved are shared and bench-marked with the wider community. “This serves a reminder when one is falling behind the rest,” says Wong.
Cen says the key to the success of any health and wellness programme is about user engagement. Apart from using social media to create the awareness and exposure for these programmes, this can be used to develop interactive and innovative applications and tools to engage the user so that the experience and health and wellness journey is enriched and exciting.
Using social media to promote wellness
Jennifer Lumba, chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions, shares 10 tips for using social media to boost engagement:
1 Get early adopters involved
What better way to get people involved than to encourage and celebrate involvement? Recruit those advocating for wellness benefits into an advisory group and task them with posting their activities on your company’s social network.
2 Publicly reward successes
Social media is at its best when allowing groups to celebrate together. So when an employee posts to the company intranet or to Facebook about her first five-mile run, respond publicly and encourage others to do the same. Then make the warm feelings real by sending her a card or setting up a time for a manager to give her a handshake.
3 Bring people together
Social networks now come with the ability to create private groups. Use LinkedIn or a custom in-house network where employees can share wellness tips and experiences and view resources available in the company programme. Conversation leads to motivation, which leads to activity, which leads to success.
4 Sweat the small details
Leverage your internal social network or use social media tools, such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, and Seesmic, to schedule congratulatory updates or well-wishes that make a difference — birthdays, for example. There’s no excuse for missing out on an annual opportunity to make someone feel special.
5 Make it a game
Recognition and reinforcement are great tools for getting employees healthier. Why not combine them using social software? An increasing number of apps have community features to help friends and colleagues achieve fitness goals and spotlight them. Popular choices include MyFitnessPal.com and Social Workout.
6 Own the conversation
Show your commitment by initiating and fostering conversations. One idea is to start a specific company hashtag for tweets and posts featuring articles, success stories, and company events.
7 Integrate real experiences
Use social media to organise as well as inform. Holding a regular live event to promote wellness? Don’t just tweet about it. Use your Twitter replies and Facebook messages to actively invite prospects. Create a LinkedIn group with a calendar to which employees can subscribe. Use notifications to remind and encourage participation.
8 Start open threads for learning
Don’t just post information about wellness on your company’s internal website. Set up a private discussion board or blog where employees can actively start and contribute to topical threads, energising participation.
9 Be generous with tips
Health and wellness is a broad subject. Recognise this by using social media to publish lists of useful sources, such as feeds from healthy-recipe sites, health experts, and productivity gurus, among others. Be generous with tips for healthy living so that you might build a reputation for caring about workers’ wellbeing.
10 Make it challenging
We all like winning. In fitness, meeting and exceeding goals are how participants get stronger physically and mentally. Use social channels to issue weekly wellness challenges for which employees can sign up. Encourage participants to tweet their progress and successes. Show support with replies, personal notes, and re-tweets and re-posts.
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