AIA Vitality’s new study shows that big rewards await firms that take charge of their employees’ health.

Are your employees often on sick leave or are present but barely functioning? If so, then it’s probably time to roll out a structured corporate wellness programme to reinvigorate your staff.
A growing body of research reveals that proactive management of employees’ physical and mental health can produce a range of important business benefits. For instance, the inaugural 2017 Singapore’s Healthiest Workplace Survey by AIA Vitality showed that employees’ lifestyle
choices and general health are directly related to business critical outcomes such as a reduction in absenteeism, greater staff engagement and productivity, and a reduction in staff turnover.

“Creating a culture of health in an organisation can only be possible when employees and the management work together,” says Ms Carolynn Ang, head of human resources, Asia Pacific, CenturyLink which bagged the top spot in the study as Singapore’s healthiest workplace.

The study, which surveyed approximately 1,200 employees across 14 organisations in the region, revealed that the cost of employee absenteeism and presenteeism is approximately $800,000 per year on average for organisations in Singapore.

Presenteeism refers to reduced productivity at work; although physically present, employees are limited or constrained by health problems to carry out their daily activities, resulting in productivity loss.

In order to correlate employee health and workplace productivity, the study determined each worker’s AIA Vitality Age. If a participant is particularly fit and healthy, their AIA Vitality Age could be lower than their actual age. However, majority of respondents’ Vitality Age was much higher than their actual age.

The average AIA Vitality Age gap in Singapore is 4.5 years, lower than the Asian average of 5.1 years but significantly higher than the gap of 3.4 years for Australian respondents. From an employer’s perspective, a lower AIA Vitality Age gap directly translates to greater workplace

Across all survey participants, the results demonstrate that each additional year of AIA Vitality Age gap corresponds, on average, to 3 additional days of lost productive time per employee per year. The report also showed that a growing number of employers perceive employee wellbeing
programmes as a strategic priority, particularly during challenging economic times. Even a small ongoing investment in the well-being of employees can pay big dividends for the business and help to improve the bottom line.

“Human resource is the key asset for every business. Our team can only be effective if everyone is happy and healthy,” says Dr Low Lee Yong, CEO and founder of MHC Asia Group. The firm came in second in the ranking amongst the city’s healthiest workplaces. “If your co-workers are happy and healthy, your shareholders will be overwhelmingly happy,” he notes.

Move it, move it
Facilitating healthy habit changes in the workplace can make all the difference to employees’ health. Fortunately, closing the AIA Vitality Age gap isn’t all that hard. “Change can be done in small steps!” said Ms Ang. 

Employers need to know their employees’ unique clinical and lifestyle risk factors and assesses how they interact with the existing facilities and services offered. The study showed that 100% of employees reported improved overall health after employers organised fitness classes as breaks in the workplace. All of the respondents also indicated that having access to a dietitian or nutritionist helped them take charge of their health.

Other interventions include offering healthy food alternatives at the workplace, which 83% of employees considered effective. Employers can also offer clinical screening services, such as blood pressure and blood glucose screening, which was considered effective by 81%
of respondents. Creating awareness of programmes offered will ensure positive take-up of interventions from employees, to benefit their health and well-being.

“It’s important to listen to feedback from employees, communicate and find creative
ways to accede to suggestions,” added Ms Ang. Organisational support is also vital.

Even in areas where the employees are less willing to change of their own volition, creating an environment conducive to change and a culture of health within the organisation may provide extra motivation. Singapore’s Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality is a survey by AIA Singapore
in partnership with AIA Group and RAND Europe CIC.