The vast majority of employers in the Philippines plan to use wellbeing programs as a differentiator to compete for talent, according to a new survey by leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW). The study also found that the majority of employers (83%) have cited rising stress as the number one well-being concern for the workforce. While stress has always been an issue, this has become more severe compared to five years ago (at 73%) as it has been further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which pushed many into isolation, poor health, and even unemployment.

“The senior leadership of companies is genuinely interested in the health and wellbeing of their employees and families. Five years ago, over half of the employers in the Philippines indicated that, while they offered various programs, they did not have a formally articulated wellbeing strategy. Today, not only do many employers have a strategy in place, 85% plan to use it as a differentiator to compete for talent in three years,” said Susan La Chica, Head of Health & Benefits, Philippines, Willis Towers Watson. “The focus on mental and emotional wellbeing has also been elevated upon the release of the Mental Health Act of 2017 with DOLE DO 208 in 2020, which mandates private sector employers to provide a certain level of support to employees around their mental health.”

Supporting the needs of employees’ wellbeing

With wellbeing becoming a major focus for many companies, employers are increasingly taking a holistic proposition, making the different aspects of employee wellbeing an important priority for their organizations over the next three years, going beyond physical wellbeing (98%) to emotional (98%), financial (83%) and social aspects (89%).

When it comes to effectively executing a wellbeing strategy, rising costs are cited as the top challenge (69%), in line with findings from previous studies. In this survey, half of the employers also mentioned the lack of data to measure outcomes and behavior change (50%), while a third cited the lack of appropriate technology (35%).

“The pandemic has taken its toll on employees, especially in terms of their physical and emotional wellbeing. In fact, the impact is so great that many employers expect these effects will continue in a post-vaccine environment. Fragmented programs that act as band-aids for short-term concerns are no longer sufficient. Many employers are now acting with urgency as they look to take their wellbeing programs to the next level and also address the changing needs and demographics of today’s employees,” said Dr. Demosthenes Villarin, Jr., Medical Director and Head of Business Development, Health & Benefits, Philippines, Willis Towers Watson.

Strengthening the core of organizational wellbeing

When it comes to measuring the success of their wellbeing programs, the survey also found that the majority of employers are adopting employee listening strategies to get to the heart of employees’ needs and wants (81%), while 76% use claims data to assess utilization of services, drug compliance, and gaps in care. Moreover, the percentage of employers who use a value-on-investment approach to measuring success has increased from 11% in 2015 to 26% in 2020.

“With both costs and employee workforce risks such as stress rising, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the investment into wellbeing goes to the right places. And while there’s still room for improvement, it’s clear that employers understand the need to measure their programs using both financial as well as non-financial metrics. Rather than just measuring the utilization or cost, companies need to know what employees think of their benefits, how they use the tools and materials provided, how engaged they are with programs organized and so on,” added Dr. Villarin.

“The pandemic has created an opportune time for companies to focus on developing a longer-term health and wellbeing roadmap. A proactive and holistic approach to strengthening the health and wellbeing “core” is required to produce a positive business impact,” said La Chica.

About the survey
A total of 122 companies in the Philippines participated in the Wellbeing Diagnostic Survey conducted between October and November 2020. The survey was aimed to better understand organizations’ approaches to wellbeing in the workplace.