What does global wellbeing look like?

In the same way that there is no single benefits solution to fit your entire global workforce, there is no one interpretation of what wellbeing is. One of the more common ways that employers divide their wellbeing approaches and strategies is to segment health wellbeing from financial wellbeing. Of course, both are intricately linked and form part of an overarching wellbeing strategy.

What could a wellbeing strategy include?

Starting with a very simple and cost-effective approach at the most basic end of wellbeing, employers need to cultivate a culture of acceptance and care when it comes to employee leave and absence. Ensuring that your employees are taking their time off and do not feel that they need to work on days when they are ill may sound like an overly simple approach, but in fact, many employers – and fellow employees – still enforce a feeling of shame when faced with sickness or absence in their teams. In many cultures, both annual leave and sickness days are seen as signs of weakness or lack of commitment, and the resulting presenteeism can negatively contribute to the overall health of an employee. Trusting employees not to abuse your sickness policies will build a more caring culture where sickness is treated as a concern rather than an inconvenience. Ultimately, this will ultimately positively impact employee productivity.

Mental wellbeing through flexibility

When we talk about our employees’ mental wellbeing, flexible working is a common theme. In some regions, flexible working will be a hugely effective part of your wellbeing strategy, whereas in other areas, restricting overtime to certain hours could have the biggest impact. Plus, accompanying perks and benefits can be implemented alongside these flexible patterns. For example, in Singapore, many companies cover employee taxi costs on any evenings they work late to ensure that they are home quickly and safely.

Wellbeing leave days

Keeping with cost effective solutions, we have seen companies offer wellbeing days (sometimes called ‘duvet days’, or ‘doona days’ as they are known in Australia) as an effective way of letting employees take guilt-free time to improve their own mental wellbeing. These are not counted as annual leave days or sick days, but can be taken at short notice when an employee needs time to recuperate or reset. Some high-pressure sectors such as law and finance have successfully adopted this sort of benefit to alleviate stress.

Physical wellbeing perks and tips

In certain regions such as Asia or Latin America, smoking cessation support is common to promote healthier behaviours, along with things like organised yoga and running clubs for employees. Plus, there’s the added bonus that they encourage breaks from work which are proven to improve productivity and motivation.

While there’s a pause to gym memberships at the moment; in normal circumstances, they have always been seen as a quick and easy benefit to arrange. Plus, there are peripheral allowances and benefits which can complement these, such as sports equipment (which is proving useful during lockdown!), clubs and leisure activity allowances which are designed to assist with relieving stress and pressures of everyday life. In Japan, allowances can sometimes be used for discounted theme park memberships, days out and even weekends away.

In terms of products and solutions, availability varies with local expectations and culture. Spa allowances are commonplace in the Nordics and so the more progressive global employers will be expected to offer these to remain competitive in recruiting in that region. In Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe we have seen ‘sanatorium’ days, which – despite the name –  are not necessarily places to convalesce but more somewhere to rest and relax from the stresses of everyday life. Massages as well as acupuncture are also seen as standard benefits for some locations – especially in Asia – and so could form part of a benefits package.

Wide-reaching healthcare options

A more common benefit that often works across borders are health screening and/or health check-ups. While sometimes included with a medical insurance cover or part of a state provision, ensuring that all territories have this in place is an established practice, and a significant benefit for employees. These screening benefits obviously offer peace of mind and can make positive long-term impacts such as early diagnosis. Plus, they can provide guidance to employees on how to manage their health. Take respiratory conditions in China as an example; this could be supported with a DNA testing benefit which, although popular in one or two countries, remains in its infancy and so could be viewed as progressive and innovative in many regions. It is worth noting that this kind of benefit would need to be positioned carefully in communications; while the insight this gives is unmistakable, some cultures could consider this to be intrusive.

How financial wellbeing travels

Financial wellbeing solutions may not be as widely available in some global regions as they are in others, however the financial stresses behind healthcare benefits can be acknowledged and resolved. Take medical cover as an example; while access to quality medical care is essential for employees and their families, if this is at their cost, it could very quickly and easily become a financial burden and strain. The same could be said of sickness pay and salary replacement. School fees, holidays and housing can be a source of worry that can be eased by use of smart accounts – allowing employees to save over time for big expenditure. This is an area in which we are seeing significant growth, regardless of region. Plus, in countries where status is based on purchases, smart accounts can help alleviate financial worries, as can preferential loans and car discount schemes.

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Whether it’s through smart accounts, advanced technology and/or regional benefits administration, it’s essential that employers offer flexibility and choice when it comes to their global populations’ health and wellbeing. Rather than letting their ‘headquartered’ region dictate the benefits landscape for everyone else, making small adjustments to accommodate simple, but important, cultural norms will mean employees themselves can invest in the benefits that they most value, which strengthens that essential sense of belonging in the organisation.

Benefex’s world-class OneHub technology enables you roll out your global employee benefits scheme in an agile, strategic way that delivers an exceptional employee experience. Read more about OneHub – A home for all-things reward & benefits