What is included in a global wellbeing strategy?

Global wellbeing 2016

Need to know:

  • Wellbeing is still in its infancy on a global basis, compared to the focus it has among UK employers.
  • Obesity and mental wellbeing are some of the key issues that employers are concerned about.
  • Supporting global employees should ideally be done on a local level, but a basic provision of an employee assistance programme and private medical insurance can offer support, particularly to staff on overseas assignments.

While employee wellbeing continues to be high on the agenda for UK employers, the focus is not as big in some other locations around the globe.

Aon’s Global benefits survey 2015: a European perspective, published in June 2015, found that only 41% of European multinational employers have a documented global health and wellbeing strategy in place. However, the research also found that implementing a health and wellbeing strategy was ranked as the third-highest priority for global employers for the next 12 to 24 months, behind reviewing benefits in key countries, and setting a global benefits strategy.

One key challenge for employers when looking at wellbeing on a global basis, is that they must bear in mind that different countries have different approaches.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group, says: “The problem with global healthcare programmes is that they need to take account of local differences. The opportunity for them is to provide a global solution delivered locally, [that is they] have the oversight, investment and monitoring done globally, but to deliver the solutions locally, working within [the] country, with experienced suppliers.”

Global wellbeing issues

Although addressing wellbeing on a global scale may be in its infancy, there are some common issues that employers are focusing on, such as obesity. Mandy Rutter, head of resilience and trauma management services at Validum, says: “Obesity is predicted to keep on rising over the next few years; jobs within a sedentary workforce are increasing as opposed to more active roles. How [employers] address this in various countries is more about the culture and the resources available in the country.”

For example, workplace canteens can provide information about how particular foods can address certain ailments, such as if an employee is feeling anxious or tired.

Mental wellbeing awareness

As in the UK, mental wellbeing is a big issue for global employers. However, an organisation addressing issues such as stress, anxiety and depression, must be aware how to approach this on a local level. “What we have [in the UK] is a history of support groups, we can encourage [employees] to use the NHS and private medical insurance (PMI), and set up support groups both within the organisation and go-to support groups in the local community,” says Rutter. “In other countries, that might not be the case because there isn’t the culture of talking to outside professionals about one’s mental state; it’s much more about family support. [Employers need to] think about how to address the big issues at a local level.”

For employers sending staff on overseas assignment, their mental wellbeing can be addressed both before employees go and while they are abroad.

Some of the key issues for staff working overseas on assignment are health, security, education for their children and travel networks, says Adam Harding, business development manager, international, at Jelf International. Employers can help staff members prepare for assignments by holding education days prior to travelling, which provide an insight into the location they are going to.

“When employees are out there, [it’s important] to have the right policies in place, not just international healthcare, but do they need employee assistance programmes (EAPs) if they need someone to speak to?” adds Harding. “It’s quite high pressure being sent somewhere for a job, as well as adapting to a whole new lifestyle, so EAPs or support networks [can help].”

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As wellbeing continues to grow internationally, an ideal starting place for an employer is to ensure that it has a foolproof strategy in place in one location that can be replicated elsewhere.

As Avis says: “If [an employer has a] UK headquarters, [it] potentially should be starting at home and making sure [it] can evidence what [it] does before [it] exports that overseas.”