An overwhelming majority of respondents cite excessive workload as a source of stress
Healthcare costs in India have risen dramatically in the last decade. According to a Towers Watson research, India witnessed 22 percent growth in healthcare costs in 2006. The trend dipped to 12 percent in 2009, and is expected to rise again to 13 percent in 2012. While employers have traditionally focused on access to care, this increase in healthcare costs and threat of growing lifestyle risks, is compelling companies to be proactive towards employee health and well-being.
Towers Watson surveyed close to 100 large and medium sized organizations in India as part of the 2012 Towers Watson India Health and Productivity Survey. The Survey aimed to understand strategies and investment plans adopted by companies in health and wellness programs to drive engagement levels, tackle rising health costs and increase productivity. The Survey found that although companies are gradually embracing health and productivity (H&P) strategies, they have a long way to go. A majority of the respondents said that H&P improvement is essential to their organization’s health strategy, and 73 percent expect to increase or significantly increase H&P program support over the next 2 years. However, 40 percent indicated that their organization had not yet adopted any comprehensive wellness measures, while another 39 percent said they initiated wellness measures less than 3 years ago. Only the most progressive employers in India currently focus on ensuring that employees are healthy or have just started to develop risk factors.
Stress at work is a rising concern for India Inc., with an overwhelming majority (90 percent) of respondents citing excessive workload as a source of stress. Rather than attempting to alleviate the symptoms through programs, it is important for companies to address the root causes to this problem. These reasons include overburdened workplaces, mismatched performance and workload issues, or job design that does not reflect today’s demands or technology. Ongoing stress can exacerbate underlying health problems that negatively impact business performance and hence, it is critical that companies identify stress-reduction solutions that work best for their organizations.
India’s healthcare system has traditionally targeted short-term acute health problems rather than focus on curbing the root causes such as risks associated with changing lifestyle and work-related stress. With the economy slowing down and employers focussing on cost optimization, employers are placing greater emphasis and urgency around employee health and productivity strategies.
While the current picture is gradually encouraging, the road to health and productivity for the majority of Indian employers will be long and rocky. They face a variety of challenges like data management issues, poor vendor management and lack of senior leadership involvement and buy-in to implement H&P strategies. But in the current high cost environment, implementing a H&P strategy comes with significant rewards that go beyond long-term cost management – it will also shift the organization’s culture towards a sustainable model of wellness, enabling employers to build a healthy, engaged and productive workforce.