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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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How workplace wellness helps corporates

Companies can stay ahead of competition with the help of a well-crafted corporate health programme.

The waistline matters just as much as the bottomline in today’s changing corporate environment. Corporate wellness programmes can be used not only to encourage staff but also to boost productivity, improve employee retention, reduce healthcare costs and boost profitability in the long run. This global trend is also starting to take root in Singapore. “Business leaders are beginning to recognise the importance of investing in corporate health,” says Patrick Teow, Chief Executive Officer of AIA Singapore. “We want to encourage healthy behaviors in companies. When repeated, these behaviors become healthy habits that boost company profitability.”

A study by Vitality, South Africa’s leading wellness programme, showed that a strong link exists between health and productivity. Productivity costs related to employee health are on average 2.3 times greater than medical costs alone. Surprisingly, the survey also showed that employees value company wellness programmes more than paid time off.

Singaporean workers also ranked wellness programmes–such as on-site fitness centers, health club memberships, and stress-reduction programmes–as one of the most important health and wellness work-life element. In terms of productivity, employees of organisations with effective wellness programmes are twice as likely to outperform their peers financially, with per employee revenue improving by up to 50%.

Small steps, big impact

Companies need not roll out radical programmes in order to boost employee wellness. Small steps are more than enough, so long as motivation is not in short supply. This is what United Test and Assembly Centre (UTAC) learned when a team of its employees started a cycling group to improve the team’s health.

“This led to significant weight loss of up to 16kg within five months as the team started cycling just round the block at first, and went farther with each trip,” says Alexander Yap, Rewards Director for APAC at UTAC, speaking at the AIA Vitality Summit 2017. “Members have seven times more motivation when in groups; the question is how to replicate a group’s success and apply it to others,” he notes. “UTAC’s experience really emphasizes how important it is for companies to engage staff in wellness and have a comprehensive programme like AIA Vitality to support that,” says Richard Wyber, Head of Healthcare & Vitality at AIA Singapore.

It is also important to share real and relatable stories that staff can relate to, notes Peter Crewe, CEO of AIA Hong Kong and Macau. This sentiment is echoed by Dr Steven Tucker, who believes in celebrating non-scale victories instead. “Forget about getting on the scale or the loss of 5 kilograms, celebrate instead the ability to fit into a wedding dress,” he says.

With encouragement, companies can motivate staff to change their health behaviors in a short period of time. “It takes 66 days to form a habit. If one can motivate groups to work together within that period, the health impact will be visible within three months,” notes Carolyn Lam, Senior Consultant at the National Health Centre. “The feeling of being on the right track is addictive,” she adds.

Business leaders also need to examine the physical design of the workplace and see if it can be tweaked to make employees more conscious about their health. Derek Yach, Chief Health Officer of Vitality Group, shares that changing the workplace setup can make it easier for employees to change behaviours by building these healthy choices into their everyday lives. This could be in the form of slow-moving treadmills in meeting rooms or placing fruits and healthy snacks at easily accessible areas.

Working together for a fitter future

AIA Singapore’s efforts to promote health and wellness is in line with the nation’s Healthy Living Master Plan’s vision of bringing healthy living to the doorstep of every home, workplace and school. “We want to empower companies with the knowledge and tools to encourage healthier behaviors,” says Patrick. AIA Vitality provides a behavioural solution by motivating employees to lead a healthy lifestyle, reaping benefits for both themselves and their employers in the process. More than one in three (35.3%) business leaders believe that regular health screening for staff is the most effective in improving employees’ health, found a live poll at the AIA Vitality Summit 2017.

With Vitality, employers can build corporate wellness programmes founded on evidence-based principles, which in turn will result in positive health and financial outcomes. Employees engaged in Vitality in particular have also been found to exhibit lower absenteeism – the average number of sick days for employees on Vitality decreased year-on-year.

Consequently, employees with high Vitality engagement were 18% more productive than those who had lower levels of engagement. “For companies seeking to maintain their competitive edge, implementing an effective workplace wellness programme is not only a viable solution, it is fast becoming an absolute necessity,” Patrick says.

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