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Looking after employees’ health and wellbeing has increasingly been top of agenda for many companies. A sound, holistic health plan for an organisation’s employees has always been essential, and with the ongoing impact of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever.

How can HR put a compelling case forward for mental health plans when many companies have had business challenges and are looking at an uncertain year ahead? It might seem counterintuitive, but now is exactly the time to invest in your employees’ wellbeing, including mental wellbeing.

“More than ever before, employers are seen as a source of health and wellbeing,” says Vicki Fan, CEO for Hong Kong at Mercer. “People are the greatest assets and are the key to companies emerging stronger from what has been one of history’s biggest challenges.”

The business case for benefits in tough financial times

Attracting and retaining talent provide a clear rationale for benefits plans and increased costs. Several studies also suggest that benefits are a critical enabler of organisational success in today’s dynamic environment.

The more varied the health and well-being resources an employer offers, the more workers feel energised and supported – and the less likely they are to leave their employer. They are also more resilient and more ready to reskill. And employers are beginning to take notice. According to the Health on Demand study conducted by Mercer Marsh Benefits, Mercer and Oliver Wyman, 95% of employers say their organisation will invest more or the same amount in health and well-being initiatives over the next five years.

That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has put cost management into sharp focus, with lockdowns, business interruption and the associated economic slowdown putting business finances under significant pressure.

So how do employers balance economics and empathy to provide health programmes that are meaningful, but also maximise return on investment?

The three key strategies for balancing costs and employee satisfaction are:

  1. Design for value: Through coverage provisions, network configuration and employee engagement.
  2. Manage the health risk: Through a data-driven approach that promotes a healthy workforce.
  3. Drive efficiencies: Through smart financing and placement.

However, to bend the curve, companies need multipronged and multi-year strategies that address these three points simultaneously. At the same time, companies should be looking at a variety of vendors that can support the effective delivery of interventions. This may require short-term expenditure – for instance, investing in digital technologies.

“The days when employers could rely on a one-size-fits all approach are ending, with employees progressively requiring and employers offering more personalized benefits,” says Richard Roper, Mercer’s Health business leader for Hong Kong. “Organisations have an opportunity to rethink employee benefits and wellness as they rethink the way they work.

Rising demand for digital delivery

COVID-19 is transforming the way employees view benefits plans and accelerating demand for innovation and digital services. Exploration of virtual care, both to contain medical costs and to encourage consumer-based behaviour, is increasingly turning to execution. Mercer’s 2019 Medical Trends Around the World survey found that 78% of insurers are now considering or already supporting virtual health consultations.

New applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in medical care can also further support overburdened doctors, ease operational bottlenecks and better match patients with suitable, high-quality health providers.

No matter where you are on the digitalisation journey, and irrespective of your business strategies and needs, there are opportunities for change and transformation. As the labour market evolves and technology becomes more advanced and more available, companies should look at the digital design and delivery of benefits to attract and retain the workforce of the future.

Want to know more?

Join fellow industry professionals at Mercer’s Hong Kong Health Forum in examining the latest trends and developments in employee health and benefits, and explore how stakeholders are collaborating to shape the future of employee health in Hong Kong.

Webcast details:

Date: 9 Oct 2020

Time: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm HKT

Language: English

Fee: Complimentary

Register now

This forum will feature experts from healthcare providers, and insurance companies in sharing the latest trends and changes in the employee benefits and wellness programmes.

Forum highlights:
- Key findings from the 2020 Hong Kong Employee Benefits report
- Innovations and advancements in the world of employee benefits
- Trends and developments in employee wellness