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Key considerations for employers on different dimensions of employee wellbeing

Excerpts from a panel discussion on wellbeing at Emerge 2021

September 3, 2021

Our thought leaders engage in a conversation about employee wellbeing, including how to develop a financial wellbeing program.
Health and Benefits|Retirement|Benessere integrato

During our Emerge 2021 breakout session, The time is now for wellbeing to take centre stage, Willis Towers Watson experts shared some practical guidance on the different dimensions – physical, financial, emotional and social – of employee wellbeing.


Pheona Chua, Regional Senior Consultant, Corporate Health & Wellbeing, Asia and Australasia

Emma Longmore, Head of Communication, Australia

James Williams, Director, Retirement, Japan

Panel chair: Lucia Ryan, Director, Financial Digital Solutions, Asia and Australasia

Lucia: The pandemic has caused wellbeing to become the centre of focus for a number of employers, many of whom are now taking a more proactive approach to the health and wellbeing of their employees. Pheona, what key factors should employers consider when it comes to employee wellbeing?

Pheona Chua (Pheona): As you mentioned, many employers are taking the health and wellbeing of their employees more seriously. Leaders play a pivotal role in driving the success of any corporate health and wellbeing program, both in terms of the impact as well as the utilisation, and so it was encouraging to see that in a recent Willis Towers Watson wellbeing survey, 83% of senior leadership say that they are genuinely interested in the health and wellbeing of their employees1

Our survey also found that employers are taking actions to address physical and emotional wellbeing as their top priority over the next three years. This tells us that wellbeing is now top of mind for many employers, and it’s something HR should prioritise for their organisations to remain relevant and competitive.

I think it’s important to highlight that wellbeing goes beyond just organising a series of programs on a single initiative, and to recognise that wellbeing is not just about physical health, as it used to be traditionally. Today’s workforce face a complexity of challenges, many compounded by the pandemic, such as stress and anxiety, economic uncertainty, blurring of work/life balance, and social isolation, to name a few. It is really important to support the diversity of the workforce across other dimensions of emotional, financial and social wellbeing, to resonate more and meet employees unique needs.

It is really important to support the diversity of the workforce across other dimensions of emotional, financial and social wellbeing.”

Pheona Chua | Regional Senior Consultant, Corporate Health & Wellbeing, Asia and Australasia

Lucia: Thank you, Pheona. Emma, if we zero in more closely on financial wellbeing, what advice and tips can you provide to businesses considering a financial wellbeing program?

Emma Longmore (Emma): We’ve been helping clients a lot with this, and the advice has been two-fold. The first thing we’ve been doing is providing our clients with research. We’ve done a number of surveys in the last year or so, which have asked employees and employers around the world about financial wellbeing. There is strong evidence that good financial wellbeing often leads to greater overall wellbeing — you are equipped to save for contingencies and future needs and able to cope with financial shocks. It gives you the financial freedom to make choices that allow you to enjoy life.

There is strong evidence that good financial wellbeing often leads to greater overall wellbeing.”

Emma Longmore | Head of Communication, Australia

The second thing we’ve been able to do is provide our clients with some case studies and success stories, because globally we’ve been working in this space for a while now. We’ve been able to share some of those learnings with other clients who are now just entering the financial wellbeing space, so that we can all be learning from each other.

Lucia: Do you see clients taking a global or more local approach to their financial wellbeing programs?

Emma: It’s again really two-fold. While a lot of financial wellbeing programs have been positioned globally, there’s always a need for local content and local insights to make it relevant for the employees participating in those sessions. While the overview might be global, there is a need for local content and local information to support that. These may be related to topics such as local tax requirements, regulation and pension requirements. This will help employees know where there might be tools available for them that take into consideration their local needs.

Lucia: Thank you, Emma. Retirement planning is a key aspect of financial wellbeing, so let’s shift focus slightly and look at defined contribution (DC) plans. James, what are some specific actions or initiatives an employer can take to support their employees with their DC retirement plans?

James Williams (James): In terms of the actions for the sponsor, a good place to start is with the plan administrator. They often have education materials, and they can also provide access to webinars and seminars. The sponsor should then think about how to bring the content to the participants and what’s the best timing to do that.

DC is also sometimes overlooked in terms of governance. So, having some kind of governance structure for DC plans and involving participants as much as possible would be a good first step, as well as checking on investment behaviours of those retirement options to keep track of how the participants are responding.

Lucia: How did DC participants react to the market volatility last year?

James: I think that it is a difficult time for individuals to make a decision for their DC plans, as they may be hearing things in the news about market volatility. I’ve seen some research from the superannuation industry in Australia, and a relatively low number of participants were switching during the peak of the volatility last year. But the report noted that those that did switch had difficulty finding the right timing to do it, and ultimately probably lost out moving to defensive positions at the wrong times.

One of the conclusions in that report was that the participants that had the best financial advice and access to guidance tended to switch less times or less of their funds. So, it’s clear that having access to good financial advice makes a difference.

Lucia: Thank you very much, everyone. Your insights will be useful for companies in planning their wellbeing and benefits strategy and programs, as they strive to emerge stronger. Please contact our experts anytime if you have any questions.


1 2020 Wellbeing Diagnostic Survey – Asia Pacific


Associate Director, Corporate Health & Wellbeing, Asia & Australasia
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Director, Employee Experience

Director, Financial Digital Solutions, Asia and Australasia

James Williams
Director, Retirement, Japan
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