By Jaime Asher, VP Global Honan Insurance Group.
Organisations are only as good as their people. This is why wellness is now such a hot topic globally. It is becoming more apparent than ever that this is an extremely important driver of organisation workforce strategy to enable employers to provide a unique employment offering. When we consider approximately one-third of adult life is spent at work, it becomes an even more important factor. When we talk about wellness, we are encompassing physical, mental and social wellness.
“Approximately one-third of adult life is spent at work.”
Wellness programs are common practice in the US and Europe and have been for a number of years, but this concept is now growing in popularity in the Asia Pacific region. We are noticing a cultural shift gradually occurring in Australia with employers, health system payers and individuals now recognising the benefit of the workplace as a setting for optimising physical, psychological and social health.
The Price of Chronic Disease in the Australian Workforce
Approximately 33 per cent of working Australians between 25 and 64 years old (around 3.4 million people) reported having at least one of eight selected chronic diseases – arthritis, asthma, coronary heart disease (CHD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, diabetes, osteoporosis or cerebrovascular disease.
Additionally, the IHW 2010 Risk Factors and Participation in Work report found that 96 per cent of working age Australians had at least one chronic disease risk factor and 72 per cent of working-age Australians had multiple risk factors.
Australian employers bear many of the indirect costs associated with chronic disease and ill health. For example, the estimated cost of absenteeism to the Australian economy is $7 billion each year, with the cost of presenteeism (not fully functioning at work because of medical conditions) being nearly four times more at almost $26 billion.
It is now recognised that effective employee wellness can be linked to effective business performance including the promotion of innovation, employee engagement, talent attraction and retention.
Wellness programs can fall within a large spectrum, with employers offering anything from healthy snacks supplied in the workplace to a Full Population Health Management program. It can sometimes be a little difficult to quantify the benefits of having a Wellness Program in place, therefore Honan will work closely with the client to tailor a program that will ensure the wellness strategy, associated deliverables and employee engagement are measureable, meaningful and deliver to specific strategic business aims.
The different types of Wellness plans can come from a number of different offerings from Employer owned to a fully-integrated model.
- Offering healthy snacks and drinks including fruit delivery
- Discount to local gyms
- Subsidised local gyms membership
- Walking programs (employees receive a pedometers and track their daily steps)
- Bike programs
- Biometric and Health checkups, this can also include dental and vision screening
- Onsite fitness classes
- Onsite cooking classes
- Nutritional advice
- Tobacco cessation
- Stress management
- Standing desks
- Incentive based health premium schedule
- Flu Shots
- Massage services
One of the newest concepts we’ve recently seen as an offering in China is an “iBenefits” type function offering employees a “virtual credit point” granting and redemption platform to recognise and reward employees on their individual performance. This is not a common offering to date and never been see in Australia, but this is an example of how tailored programs can really be.
The Role of the Broker:
Except for the most basic of Wellness programs, clients will rely and expect their Employee Benefit Broker to administer their programs including setting up related training to their staff. The Broker is responsible for implementing a suitable program tailored to the clients needs, ensuring the employees receive knowledge and a clear understanding of the program. The Broker will work with employees to maximise their own benefit from the program.
As a unique offering, some Insurance Brokers may partner with a Global Wellness vendor who can manage an employer’s Wellness program at multiple locations around the globe. This can include wellness “coaching” where wellness plans can be designed for each individual in each region/country.