But many of the region’s firms still failing to promote or even provide employee assistance programmes

The Asia Pacific director of health and corporate wellness at professional services company Towers Watson, Dr Rajeshree Parekh, has told StrategicRISK that stress was a universal issue, appearing as the number one or close number two risk in every country surveyed for the 2013/2014 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey.

“However, Asia Pacific companies trailed on certain practices to manage stress, most notably, promoting their employee assistance programmes,” Dr Parekh said.

“Twenty-four per cent of employers in Asia reported using this as a step to manage stress compared to 85% in the US.”

The former practicing consultant ophthalmologist and head of Aon Hewitt’s health and benefits practice in Asia said that health and productivity programmes in Asia were “generally in their infancy”.

“Only 15% of employers report that their global health strategy has been in place for five years or more,” Dr Parekh told SR.

“The return on investment of health and productivity programmes typically takes two to three years to vest, so companies may be less willing to make investments in incentives until they’ve reached this more matured point.”

The 2013/2014 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey was completed by a total of 892 employers. In Asia, the survey had 372 respondents from China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Dr Parekh said that, according to the survey, only 14% of employers in Asia had financial incentives in place at present, while an additional 15% planned to implement them in the next three years.

“High-effectiveness organisations actively look into what drives employee health behaviours and risks,” she said.

“This kind of approach is crucial to ensure employer and employee interests are aligned, and that employers have a long-term view to success.”