Stress and lack of physical activity are top health issues for workers, say companies

Stress remains the top health issue for companies in Singapore, followed by the lack of physical activity.
Stress remains the top health issue for companies in Singapore, followed by the lack of physical activity.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - When it comes to their employees, stress remains the top health issue for companies here, according to survey findings released on Thursday (April 21) by advisory firm Willis Towers Watson.

Some 56 per cent of employers said stress was an issue for their workers to a great extent. This was followed by 52 per cent for lack of physical activity, 32 per cent for lack of sleep, and 24 per cent for obesity.

This reflected Singapore's high-pressure working environment, said Willis Towers Watson.

Stress was also the No. 1 issue cited by companies in the previous survey, the findings of which were released in 2014.

For the latest survey, 35 employers in Singapore - with about 70,000 full-time employees under them - were polled between May and July last year, with 97 per cent of the respondents being multinational corporations.

The findings come in spite of a growing willingness among employers here to offer a more strategic approach towards health and productivity programmes, with 67 per cent of organisations in Singapore planning to differentiate their programmes for specific segments through the use of data and analytics in the next three years.

Some 30 per cent of employers said they are promoting a healthy workplace culture through dedicated ways to deliver health information. About 70 per cent of firms regularly communicate with employees about safety and well-being, but very few do so with a personalised approach, with just 9 per cent using consumer marketing techniques to develop targeted communication strategies.

Current health and productivity programmes are providing only limited boosts to employment engagement and effectiveness. This could be due to the fact that only 6 per cent of Singapore companies measure the impact of such programmes on an ongoing basis, as compared to 39 per cent in the United States and 22 per cent globally.

Singapore employers are also lagging behind their global counterparts in driving a holistic health and productivity approach using analytics, with none of the companies surveyed admitting to doing so, compared with 10 per cent of global firms.

Dr Rajeshree Parekh, director of health and corporate wellness for Asia and Australasia at Willis Towers Watson, stressed the need for employers to recognise the links between health issues. "For example, research shows that insufficient physical activity, poor nutrition and inadequate sleep are strongly linked with obesity and stress."