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May 2019

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Singapore: Wellness in the workplace is a duty of care

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Dec 2016

Wellness in the workplace makes business sense as research shows that investing in employees’ health leads to increases in productivity levels, lower costs and boosts in business profits. But more important than that, it is the smart thing to do and it is the right thing to do as employers owe a duty of care to employees, said Mr Mark Saunders, Group Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, AIA Group, at the inaugural AIA Vitality Summit in Singapore.
 
   Healthy living will be a game changer. The industry needs to move from “you die, we pay” to focus more on helping people live longer, healthier and better lives, including through working with employers. It is the responsible thing to do, he said.
 
Workplace a key area to help Singaporeans live healthier
Rewarding employees’ healthy behaviours and C-suite leadership and engagement were identified as the top two critical drivers for an effective workplace health programme, with approximately one in three (36.6% and 34.7% respectively) attendees selecting each option in a live poll. 
 
   Mr Sim Beng Khoon, Director, Health Promotion Board, a statutory board of the Ministry of Health in Singapore, also said the workplace is a key battleground to help Singaporeans live healthier and more active lives. HPB works with landlords, unions and companies to initiate wellness programmes. But he stressed that while funding may be provided to kick-start the programmes, it is tax payers’ money, and HPB’s role is to act more as a catalyst. For the initiatives to be sustainable, companies’ involvement and programmes such as AIA Vitality will be key.
 
Employees’ poor health a massive cost
Mr Patrick Teow, CEO, AIA Singapore, said that businesses around the world are increasingly focused on investing in employee health and wellness. “Having a clear strategy to engage employees to improve their health is moving from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ and businesses in Asia Pacific are now taking note.”
 
   Employees’ poor health is becoming an increasingly massive cost to both businesses and the economy. Physical inactivity in Singapore cost the government, companies and Singaporeans more than S$200 million (US$143.74 million) in direct costs in 2013 alone. For businesses, there is recognition that poor health of employees could potentially increase costs, lower productivity and reduce business profits.
 
   “The good news is, as business leaders, we have an immense opportunity to reverse this trend by playing our part in contributing to their improved health and wellbeing,” said Mr Teow. 
 
   The Summit was attended by more than 100 C-Suite executives and representatives from government agencies.
 
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