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Sustainable corporate wellness programmes
Amidst the furor earlier in the year about the company practice of penalising employees for taking medical leave, many organisations have also come forth to share their practice of rewarding staff for keeping healthy with goodies such as vouchers. This comes as no surprise at a time when employers are increasingly recognising the value of investing in employees’ health to improve productivity levels, boost employee engagement and retention, and keep staff healthcare costs low.
In fact, organisations with effective wellness programmes are 50% more likely to report lower turnover rates in comparison to competitor companies, research has found.1 The challenge, however, lies in ensuring that the corporate wellness programme remains sustainable for any business to gain the returns on investments into employees’ health for the long term.
A question I am often asked by companies is this: “We put in a significant investment to implement a wellness programme at work and we had some participation at the beginning. But now, the take-up rate has gone down instead of going up. What did we get wrong and how do we fix it to make this a worthy investment?” The answer is simple: Make it relevant, easy, and rewarding for staff to integrate the programme into their everyday life. Here’s how.
Customised and targetted approach
Just as companies use data to identify target consumer segments which informs your business strategy, data analytics can be extremely valuable to customise a wellness programme for staff because a “one size fits all” approach will not work. With data analytics, you will be able to create a targetted wellness programme by: 1. Identifying key drivers that would motivate employees to participate, whether its monetary rewards or opportunities to get to know and bond with colleagues, for example; 2. Segmenting your workforce based on factors such as health risks they are exposed to and the kind of support the company can provide; 3. Monitoring the level of employee engagement, health, and efficiency provides insights on which components of the programme staff value or those that need to be reconsidered because they are under-utilised. This allows you to regularly refine the programme to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness for the long term.
An annual survey amongst employees to seek inputs on their everyday choices, behaviours, and state of health is a simple way to collect data for analysis. To kickstart these efforts, AIA Singapore is providing this analysis to companies complementary as part of our inaugural Singapore’s Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality survey. Each participating organisation will receive a customised report which provides them with a deeper understanding on their organisation’s health so that they can implement effective strategies to improve employees’ well-being.
Integrating corporate wellness initiatives digitally to encourage employees to cultivate better eating and exercise habits is critical for you to get employees engaged because of how attached Singapore’s population is to their mobile devices. It’s not surprising then that about 4 in 5 (78%) individuals in Singapore check their device upon waking up and approximately 3 in 10 (26%) use their mobile phone more than five hours daily.2
One easy way to do this is by sharing simple tips with employees via their mobile phones throughout the day on how they can make healthy choices at every turn. For example, a reminder at 10am to walk to the pantry for a glass of water, and an alarm at 4pm to step away from the office desk to rest their eyes and do some basic stretching before starting work again.
Another way is by making it into a game where they use their phone to track points they are accumulating for completing health-related tasks which are easily trackable on the device – such as completing a minimum number of steps daily – and they can redeem rewards digitally for hitting certain targets. This is evident in the popularity and success of our AIA Vitality Weekly Challenge app where AIA Vitality members are taking more than 7,500 steps daily on average to score 250 points weekly, and get rewarded with S$5. Nearly S$100,000* worth of active rewards have been earned by AIA Vitality members who completed the AIA Vitality Weekly and Group Challenge a month following its launch in January.
Leveraging behavioural science
Countless excuses such as lack of time, lack of motivation, and high costs surface when asked why we don’t do more to take control of our health. This can be changed.
Behavioural economics studies have proven that external motivators such as financial incentives can drive behavioural change. The Vitality Institute, a global research organisation, conducted a study that showed discounts on healthy foods resulted in significant increases in healthy food purchased at the supermarket, as well as decreases in less healthy food purchases.3
When it comes to wellness programmes, employers can incentivise healthy living practices that are easy to adopt, starting from the workplace. By encouraging and making it easy for staff to make healthier choices, this behaviour, done repeatedly, becomes a habit which eventually translates into a healthier lifestyle amongst staff.
Implementing effective wellness programmes to meet health needs of employees and customising based on their current health is critical in ensuring the sustainability and value of investing in employees’ health.
1Willis Towers Watsons’ 2015/2016 Staying@Work – Asia findings
2Singapore perceive digital advancement and e-government favourably: EY
3Vitality Data – South Africa, 2016
*Figure as at February 2017