In the past, many employees generally expect their employers to provide them with a safe work environment as well as some form of healthcare subsidies. This is true not just in Singapore, but in other developed countries such as the U.S.
In today's context, more and more employers are starting to go beyond just the provision of a safe work environment and healthcare subsidies. Increasingly, they are looking at improving the overall health and well-being of their employees. By having a high quality health and wellness programme in place, employers are investing not only in the personal growth of their people, but also offering them a more holistic working environment.
In addition, firms are also trying to increase the odds of incurring lower medical claims and absenteeism as well as producing healthier, happier and more productive employees.
Studies gathered by AIA Vitality show clear empirical evidence between employees' health and wellness and their companies' financial performance. In one such study, it was shown that over a 13-year period, an investment made in a group of companies, which were recognised for their health initiatives, outperformed the Standard & Poor 500 index by almost 5% per annum¹.
Poor health can affect a company significantly
It should really come as no surprise that employers would take a vested interest in the health of their employees. From the outset, employees not showing up to work due to medical illnesses instantly reduces productivity. Most people can relate to that. Take a sick leave once a month and we are looking at about 2.5 weeks of lost productivity in a year. Multiply that by the number of employees in a company and you may get to a figure that is staggering, not to mention, costly.
Being absent from work doesn't just affect the individual who is ill. Most people work in teams and having absentees mean coping with delayed meetings (both internal and external), slower email replies and a general delay in work submission. To sum it up, absenteeism due to poor health may potentially have wider implications for companies.
Aside from being absent from work, another major concern for employers is the problem of presenteeism. In this case, presenteeism refers to having employees who are turning up to work despite being ill, or having some medical conditions that may hinder them from functioning at 100%.
Unlike absenteeism where it's easy for a company to track and monitor numbers, presenteeism is a much tougher problem to handle or track. Employees may be showing up to work but not performing to the best of their abilities. They appear fine from the outside even as they are struggling to deliver quality work due to their illnesses. Moreover, they may also spread harmful viruses and bacteria to others in the office. Simply showing up for work doesn't mean that everything is fine.
The cost of both absenteeism and presenteeism stemming from poor health can be very high. According to Professor Dame Sally Davis, Chief Medical Officer for England, about 23.3 million workdays were lost in Britain due to work-related ill health in 2015. Elsewhere in her report, it was also found that mental health illness cost the UK economy about £70bn-£100bn every year. Over in the U.S., the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that depression cost U.S. employers about US$35 billion a year while pain conditions such as headaches and back problems set them back nearly US$47 billion. While there are no official figures yet on how much illnesses may be costing companies in Singapore, it's not difficult to imagine how that can be a significant cost burden to our economy.
At the end of the day, less healthy employees may not be able to deliver the quality of work that is expected to contribute to the growth of the company. Eventually, this may take a toll on a company's top and bottom line as its reputation suffers leading to loss of existing business and inability to win new business.
Healthier employees are more productive employees
In contrast, an investment made into the well-being of employees can help them to become healthier workers who are able to deliver higher quality work for their company. Employees are able to put in greater focus and improve overall efficiency, as well as reduce absenteeism due to illnesses.
Such employees are also usually more energetic, allowing them to go the extra mile for both internal and external work. This ensures smoother day-to-day operations and a better reputation for their companies. Their healthy lifestyle may also be a positive influence for newer employees who would be able to adopt these healthy living tips.
Healthier employees translate to lower healthcare costs and claims
Healthier employees are also able to translate their better health into lower healthcare costs for their employers. In contrast, those who fall ill often increasingly add to this cost as the complexity and frequency of their illnesses grow.
Healthcare cost for employers mainly come in two forms. Firstly, companies who purchase group insurance for their employees may find their insurance premiums increasing if healthcare claims from their employees escalate. This can be a significant sum particularly for big companies with many employees. Secondly, payouts made to employees for other medical benefits not covered by insurance such as GP visits and specialist treatments may also be higher.
This is particularly relevant in Singapore where healthcare is expensive and many employers do provide some form of medical benefits to their employees.
A healthy workplace culture attracts and retains key talent
A company's reputation may also be judged on its ability to provide a working environment that keeps employees healthy – both physically and mentally. Companies with a reputation for having frequently ill employees or unhappy employees may be shunned while those with good reputations will be able to build its standing in the marketplace, attract leading talent and win new businesses. This is especially important in a small and open economy like Singapore with a competitive job market filled with many business competitors.
Employees who are healthy will also often be able to stay in employment for longer periods of their lifetime without having to take extended time off to undergo treatment or retiring early due to health complications. This will positively impact companies and in the bigger picture, Singapore's economy.
Participating in AIA Vitality provides tangible results
Implementing an effective and engaging wellness programme can create a healthy workforce with the ability to generate positive returns. Backed by years of research, AIA Vitality is one such full-scale wellness programme designed not only to help individuals learn and work towards making improvements in their health, but also to encourage a culture of corporate wellness among companies.
AIA Vitality has been shown to have a clear positive impact on the health and wellness of participating companies by effectively engaging employees to take charge of their own health and well-being1. The programme actively encourages employees to adopt a comprehensive variety of healthy living behaviours such as keeping active, eating healthy foods and undertake preventive measures such as health screenings to earn points. These points can then be used as an incentive mechanism to measure employees' Vitality status enabling them to qualify them for rewards.
Interested to get your employees on the AIA Vitality Programme?
Get started here!
Get started here!