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Post-pandemic benefits trends webinar

The ECCT's Human Resources committee hosted a webinar featuring two speakers from Willis Towers Watson Taiwan, namely Andy Liu, Head of Health & Benefits, and Ted Yang, Associate Director of Health & Benefits. The speakers gave a presentation on the topic: "Post-pandemic benefits trends - Digitalisation and wellbeing", citing research from a recent survey.

Based on his analysis of the current status of the pandemic in Taiwan, Andy Liu said that Taiwan is likely to soon move from the first stage, managing the crisis, to the second stage, restoring stability, which involves reopening workspaces and operating in an uncertain environment. The third and final stage, operating post-crisis, will happen once societal immunity occurs (which is expected to happen through mass vaccinations).

Ted Yang shared some thoughts on what we can foresee in the post-pandemic world. While companies until now have been focused on getting work done, post pandemic, focus will shift to three key areas: transforming work and total rewards, employee wellbeing and resilience and cost optimisation.

Given the fact that split teams and hybrid working arrangements are likely to continue after the pandemic, some benefits and rewards will need revisions. In addition, the way HR operates will have to change, since employees working remotely can no longer just pop into HR for a chat. Another key area of focus is employee wellbeing and resilience. People become emotionally tired or stressed in a lockdown or semi-lockdown situation and companies need to respond by offering support. The third change is cost optimisation. If well-being becomes a trend, companies will need to optimise costs to provide employees what they want the most.

The speakers noted that Willis Towers Watson has adapted well to remote working. Nevertheless, maintaining employee engagement when everyone is working from home is a challenge, as is maintaining wellbeing and providing benefits that are relevant to employees.

According to Willis Towers Watson's "Asia Pacific Restoring Stability Survey - Pay, Benefits, Wellbeing", a quarter of employers have made changes to benefit programmes and another 24% are planning new or additional changes of over the next six months. Of the programmes being changed, the most important areas of focus, according to the survey, are wellbeing programmes, annual leave and holiday policies, and healthcare benefits. For example, some companies are giving subsidies or additional leave to parents who need to take care of children. In terms of healthcare benefits, some companies that used to offer gym coaches are now providing access to gym classes online.

In the near future, 59% employers will enhance programmes around employee safety to ensure safety during the pandemic while 38% will enhance mental health services to help employees deal with stress/resilience. This marks a shift from before when there was a stronger focus on physical health. In addition, 29% are focusing on communication about benefits and wellbeing programmes that might be important to employees to show that employers care about employee welfare.

In terms of strategy, wellbeing has become one of the top strategies of companies looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Management teams are increasingly demonstrating their support for wellbeing programmes and taking steps, like offering training.

Half of employers in Taiwan believe that Covid-19 will have a negative impact on employee well-being and physical and emotional wellbeing is the top priority. However, programmes need to be flexible enough to meet the varying needs of employees.

88% of respondents in the survey said that stress is an issue for the workforce, 77% cited mental health (depression, anxiety) while 73% also cited lack of exercise and physical health.

76% of senior leaders are now more interested in the health and wellbeing of employees and families compared to just 31% in 2015.

Most employers are looking to provide managers with training to educate and create awareness of wellbeing offerings. Such training should also help managers to learn how to identify emotional issues, such as being able to recognise problems such as anxiety and depression among their team members.

Most employers said that they are using "listening strategies" and focusing on inclusion and diversity in measurement. For example, 79% of them are using tools like surveys and virtual focus groups to identify the wants and needs of different groups of employees. In terms of inclusion, 75% of employers are compiling workforce data and performing analytics to develop a strategy for improving inclusion and diversity.

Employers also recognise the importance of offering virtual solutions to enable working remotely, such as VPNs.

In terms of cost optimisation, rising costs and lack of data, and insufficient funding are the biggest challenges to deliver wellbeing programmes. To optimise costs, companies need to focus the most important areas. They should also make sure they are offering more choices based on different needs. For example, needs vary by age, gender, whether or not employees have dependents, or whether benefits overlap with those of their spouses.

Most employers already offer flexible working arrangements. Some are offering subsidies to employees who have to take care of children at home, paid parental leave beyond the statutory requirement, offering paid caregivers, according to the survey.

The speaker concluded that allowing employees to choose their own benefits is becoming a trend. 

Please refer to this link for the presentation.