New research finds that 44% of Asian employees are stressed in everyday life - here’s why risk managers should care

Stress is a critical issue for employees in Asia, while the protection gap is widening among low-paid workers, caregivers and women.

In fact, an alarming 44% of Asian employees report feeling stressed in their everyday life, according to Mercer Marsh Benefits’ 2023 Health on Demand report, which surveyed more than 5,200 workers.

mental health, homeworking

Over half (55%) of the respondents cited work pressures as their top burnout factor, followed by poor leadership (39%) and job security (37%).

Within the region, Hong Kong employees (55%) felt the most stressed, while Indonesian employees (26%) were least stressed.

The ongoing macroeconomic, environmental and political crises have also affected employees’ overall well-being and work performance.

The ‘pandemic’ continues to be the top concern for most employees in Asia, as opposed to ‘economic downturn’, which is most worrying for global respondents.

What does it mean for risk managers?

The report affirms the positive correlation between offering more benefits and employee satisfaction.

Results show that employees who receive 10 or more benefits are more likely to believe their employer cares about their health and well-being, less likely to quit their jobs, and more confident they can afford healthcare.

”HR and Risk Managers have to reassess the relevance and value of their benefits and look for innovative ways to help their employees thrive”

While 71% of employees in Asia feel that their employers care about their health and well-being, only 64% say the benefits they receive meet their needs.

HR and Risk Managers have to reassess the relevance and value of their benefits and look for innovative ways to help their employees thrive and perform at their best.

Thinking about caregivers

Approximately 76% of employees in Asia are caregivers for their family or friends, so it is not a surprise that benefits like work flexibility, leave and time-off, as well as subsidised caregiving benefits are most valued.

The report, however, has revealed a significant protection gap among caregivers in the workforce, with 37% reporting that their medical expenses have caused financial hardship for them or their family, more than double that of non-caregivers (15%).

The findings also suggest that the majority of employees who take care of both children and ageing parents do not receive caregiving benefits, with only 30% and 33% receiving them for children and adults respectively.

Equalty of benefits provision

The report has also brought to light the struggles faced by low-income employees or part-time workers in Asia, with almost half (49%) of them not given access to medical coverage through their employers.

As a result, nearly one in three (31%) employees with below-median income are not confident that they can afford necessary healthcare.

Given the cost of living crisis, and lack of national healthcare plans in some countries in Asia, it is necessary to educate early entrants to the workplace, also known as Gen Z workers, women and young parents about financial planning to support their healthcare expenses.

How to tackle the threats

Addressing burnout starts with ensuring psychological safety in the workplace.

Leading employers are tackling the underlying causes of workplace stress as part of a comprehensive and inclusive benefits strategy.

This includes tactics such as reviewing job design and supervisor competencies, setting reasonable expectations, creating a culture of belonging and inclusive decision-making, and offering benefits such as mental health treatment and even training to address mental health challenges.

Improving employees’ mental health requires innovative benefits and solutions.

“Addressing healthcare inequality to reduce household out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure requires a multi-stakeholder approach”

In Asia, targeted services for youth mental health (46%), insurance or programs to reduce cost of mental health treatment (42%), as well as virtual counselling with a therapist (42%) were identified as the benefits that employees would find most helpful.

Reproductive health benefits are also valued by many employees in Asia.

48% of employees in Asia find preventive cancer screenings helpful for them or their family but only 29% have access to this benefit. Other benefits like menopause support (21%), contraception access (22%) and fertility support (20%) are also lacking.

Joan Collar, Asia and Pacific regional leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits said: ”Addressing healthcare inequality to reduce household out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure requires a multi-stakeholder approach in which employers play an important role.

”It is equally important for companies to invest in the People Risk aspects of their business”

“We urge employers to consider ‘Flipping the Benefits Pyramid’ – review the viability, applicability, accessibility of benefits across demograpics and income levels, and evaluate how best to develop a more inclusive health and benefits strategy to support the whole workforce.”

“The findings remind us that health risks remain top of mind for employees in this region.

”While companies now focus on the recovery of their business in a post-pandemic world, it is equally important to invest in the People Risk aspects of their business, and not neglect the well-being of employees and their families.

”By offering comprehensive yet relevant benefits, employees will have the peace of mind to afford healthcare costs for themselves and their family, and still thrive at work and beyond.”