Even as the economic impact of COVID-19 hits workers around the world with pay freezes and reductions, not to mention layoffs and furloughs, employers are actively prioritizing the mental and emotional well-being of their people, according to the findings of a new survey by Willis Towers Watson.
One-third of organizations surveyed in the Asia Pacific believe that COVID-19 will have a "moderate to large negative impact on employee well-being", and they are responding by enhancing their well-being programs and health care benefits. In particular, 80 percent of employers have already promoted Employee Assistance Programs and online emotional or mental health services for their employees in the last few months, and almost 40 percent say they plan to enhance mental health services and stress or resilience management over the next six months.
“The pandemic has led to a much higher level of employee anxiety and stress, so most employers are focused on promoting or enhancing their current well-being programmes from now until 2021. More than half of the companies we surveyed plan to prioritize access to high quality mental health solutions for their employees next year,” said Pheona Chua, Regional Senior Consultant, Corporate Health & Wellbeing, Asia and Australasia, Willis Towers Watson.
Based on the survey results, providing access to affordable and high quality mental health solutions is among employers' top three priorities for their 2021 health care strategies—ranking after reviewing their vendors and monitoring employees' utilization of health benefits. Cedric Luah, MD and Head of Health & Benefits, Asia and Australasia at Willis Towers Watson, said: “We find it heartening that employers are actively looking at ways and doing what they can to support their workers despite facing significant challenges. By taking positive actions around health and wellbeing, companies are putting people first, and that’s an investment that’s likely to build employee loyalty, raise engagement and enhance productivity."
The survey also found that companies that have had a negative impact from the pandemic are more likely than those who have been less affected to make changes to their benefits programs, possibly as a strategy to improve their performance in the downturn that is projected to drag out over coming months.