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Actions employers can take to sustain employee wellbeing

By Pheona Chua | August 25, 2020

Health and wellbeing are top of mind for employers in Asia Pacific as they restore stability after COVID-19
Health and Benefits|Benessere integrato
Risque de pandémie

As lockdown restrictions ease and nonessential functions reopen, around half of organisations in Asia Pacific are prioritising employee wellbeing in their return-to-work strategy. In addition to actions that can help to ease anxiety and foster connections for employees working from home (see Figure 1), 24% of organisations have raised awareness for existing emergency financial assistance (government programs, emergency loans, early access to pay/salary advance), and 18% offered training to help managers identify employees who may be feeling lonely, disconnected, or actively withdrawing.1

of organisations raised awareness for employee access to existing emergency financial assistance
of organisations offered training to help managers identify employees who may be withdrawing

This suggests employers are taking a holistic approach to wellbeing, looking after not simply the physical aspects of health, but also considering mental, social and financial aspects.

Graphical depiction of the stats below showing some of the actions employers have taken to support employee wellbeing.
Figure 1. Actions employers have taken to support employee wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis

Mental wellbeing continues to be a significant concern

Our 2020 Global Medical Trends Survey highlighted mental health as a growing concern in every region. Before the pandemic, only around half of insurers in Asia Pacific covered mental health conditions. Over the course of the crisis, many employees have reported experiencing mental and social anxieties. Employers leapt into action to communicate the options available to alleviate these concerns for their workforce – 85% prioritised communication of their employee assistance program (EAP) and a similar 83% made it a priority to promote their online emotional/health services.1

prioritised communication of their employee assistance program (EAP)
prioritised promotion of their online emotional/health services

Managers and other leaders can play a vital role in battling these concerns. A quarter of employers are training managers to recognise signs of depression or anxiety and to guide employees to the right assistance programs (Figure 2).

Chart showing the actions employers have taken to offer managers training to improve workforce engagement and mental wellbeing, including how to engage a remote workforce, promoting flexibility of employee needs and recognise signs of depression.
Figure 2. Manager training is an important tool for employers to keep a remote workforce engaged

Practical steps to support your workforce

In periods of uncertainty, supporting employee wellbeing is crucial to sustaining engagement. Here are three broad health and wellbeing practices that you can employ to support a workforce under stress.

  1. 01

    Address employee health and wellbeing needs

    • Offer small group fitness activities or arrange virtual workouts or meditation sessions
    • Offer structured intervention programs for employees with chronic conditions
    • Encourage group activities catered to the needs of a varied workforce
    • Create digital challenges that encourage friendly competition among employees
    • Run health campaigns to educate employees to better care for their health
    • Offer ergonomic assessment services to remote employees and provide workstation guidelines and exercises
    • Offer telemedicine services to reduce risk exposure
    • Facilitate access to COVID-19 testing
  2. 02

    Empower managers

    • Equip managers with knowledge and skills to communicate up-to-date information and care and safety policies
    • Enable managers to direct employees to appropriate resources when necessary
    • Train managers to provide initial support for employees undergoing stress or experiencing emotional pressure
    • Train managers to manage a remote workforce effectively
  3. 03

    Build a supportive environment

    • Maintain open, transparent lines of communication
    • Activate an employee assistance program (EAP) hotline to support employees experiencing emotional and mental stress
    • Promote availability of financial assistance programs
    • Offer new virtual solutions to support employees working from home
    • Provide digital dialogue tools to facilitate regular communications for remote work employees
    • Offer or expand access to online mental health services
    • Offer health screenings and vaccinations to encourage preventive care
    • Offer a virtual assessment to facilitate a safe work environment
    • Encourage forming a health and wellbeing committee to continually monitor and improve employee wellbeing program

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented employers with an unprecedented opportunity to build a culture of health and wellbeing, to give employees the tools to survive and thrive through both the current crisis and future challenges.

It is imperative to understand the current state of your workforce to have a clearer picture of any existing gaps and where to focus in the near-term. This will also enable you to better meet the health and wellbeing needs of your employees through the current pandemic and in the future.

Get a quick pulse check to assess your organisation’s wellbeing journey. Download and answer the Wellbeing Program Readiness Questionnaire below and then contact your Willis Towers Watson consultant for guidance on building a wellbeing strategy for your organisation.


1 Asia Pacific Restoring Stability Survey – Pay, Benefits, Wellbeing

Title File Type File Size
Wellbeing Program Readiness Questionnaire PDF .5 MB

Associate Director, Corporate Health & Wellbeing, Asia & Australasia
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