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Indian employers focus on health and productivity (H&P) is growing and is the highest in the Asia Pacific region according to the Staying@Work Survey Report, conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson. A massive 96% companies in India feel that H&P played a moderate to essential role in their organizations health strategy and 3 in every 4 Indian employers expect the focus on H&P to grow in the next two years. Leading the Asia Pacific markets, almost half (44%) of the Indian companies plan to put in place a health and wellbeing strategy within the next couple of years, while 48% already have one in place.
Commenting on the findings, Anuradha Sriram, Director Benefits, Towers Watson, India said It is extremely encouraging to find Indian companies place greater focus on health and wellness. But to translate this focus into tangible improvement in employee wellbeing and productivity and thereby financial performance, companies must identify effective programs rather than copying popular ones and strive towards evolving a robust health and wellness strategy instead of implementing a number of tactical initiatives.
Employers recognizing importance of H&P programs viz-a-viz a companys financial success
Globally, companies with the most effective H&P programs are more productive and generate 34% higher revenue per employee, reveals the report. Such companies enjoy a >20 percentage points higher market premium. Moreover, the number of leaves taken by employees of these companies goes down by 1.0 for each employee per year. Similarly, employee participation in lifestyle behaviour coaching programs is higher by 20 percentage points for such companies.
Our analysis shows that high effectiveness organisations are moving beyond program implementation and are investing in creating and nurturing a culture that encompasses health and wellness. These companies are naturally able to build and sustain better well-being over time and achieve even greater benefits in terms of reduced health care costs as well as greater productivity and performance said Ms. Sriram.
Indian employers ranked stress as the #1 lifestyle risk factor but H&P programs focus elsewhere
Stress is ranked as the number-one lifestyle risk factor ranking above physical inactivity and obesity by employers in all countries in Asia Pacific, with the exception of China, where it is ranked second. However, when asked about which priorities were top of mind when developing their H&P programs, only a third (33%) cited improving the emotional/mental health of employees. Only approximately one in three (32%) employers in India currently offer a program on stress or resilience management, though it is higher than the Asia Pacific average of 26%. Stress has a direct link to workplace performance and productivity. While Indian employers seem to have fared better than their Asia Pacific counterparts in managing employees work-related stress, more focussed effort is required in identifying specific triggers of stress and designing interventions aimed at addressing them and improving the emotional and mental health of employees said Ms. Sriram.
Health & Productivity programs: Onsite health programs becoming increasingly popular
The most popular programs in place in 2013 are biometric screenings. While almost half (44%) of Indian employers claim to offer health risk assessments, the definition of what constitutes one could vary greatly from market to market. Onsite health programs are becoming increasingly popular with more than 2 in every 5 (42%) of Indian employers in 2013 having instituted worksite diet or exercise activities, which is in line with the concerns raised around poor nutrition and physical activity. Lifestyle change programs are not as prevalent, although an increasing number of employers are planning them. Almost one in three (32%) have instituted stress or resilience management programs and this number is expected to grow with employers having ranked stress as the number-one lifestyle risk factor.
Indian employers reluctant to offer financial incentives
Indian employers have not yet adopted financial incentives widely. While 8% of employers in Asia Pacific offer cash as a financial incentive to encourage program participation, in India the number drops down to 2%. Similarly, Indian employers are 5 percentage points behind their Asia Pacific counterparts in offering gifts as well as flex spending account credits. Interestingly, 15% of Indian employers are considering the use of financial rewards from this year on.
As per the report, Indian employers plan to use a wide range of tactics to engage employees in health, including social media and mobile applications. Sponsoring individuals or team competitions between business locations or employee groups emerged as the most popular tactic to encourage employee interaction around health and productivity with more than 1 in every 4 (26%) employers favouring the same.