Employers in Singapore fell behind in supporting staff during the pandemic, according to a Mercer Marsh Benefits survey

Singapore employers have much to improve by providing diverse health and well-being support to positively impact employee health and resiliency following a year of unprecedented disruption


• 56% of Singapore employees reported that they did not receive strong support from their employers during the prolonged pandemic.

• More than half (55%) of Singapore employees experienced everyday stress, but only 10% of them are comfortable with discussing mental health challenges.

• The majority (93%) of employees want to use digital apps and devices to take more personal control of their health when it comes to self-managing health conditions.

• Very few women in Singapore received “very good” support from their employer during the pandemic – only 10% of women said so, half that of men (20%).


Singapore, January 18, 2022 – Employees who feel supported and cared for during the pandemic are significantly more energised and less likely to want to leave their job, but employers in Singapore fared below global benchmarks in lending support to employees during the pandemic. More than half (56%) reported that they did not receive strong support from their employers, compared with 51% of workers globally and 46% in Asia. 


This is according to Mercer Marsh Benefits' Health on Demand Survey, which surveyed over 14,000 employees across 13 countries, including over 1,000 respondents in Singapore. The study, which looked at what employees want when it comes to their health and well-being, revealed that flexible working was the most valued support. 


“The greatest opportunity for employers is to understand the areas in which they can do better,” says Neil Narale, Mercer Marsh Benefits Leader, Singapore. “Catering to employee well-being and preferences allows organisations to create policies, processes, benefits, and resources that are meaningful and personal for all. This is an important step towards creating a culture of health that advances diversity, equity, and inclusion, while aligning with broader environmental, social and governance principles.”


Employers in Singapore must invest in mental health before it’s too late


In fast-paced Singapore, the pandemic has added to workplace stress and even burnout for many employees. More than half (55%) of Singapore employees reported experiencing everyday stress, higher than the 50% across the globe and 51% in Asia. Almost one-fifth (16%) of employees reported feeling lonelier and more isolated during the pandemic, and close to one-third (26%) said they were financially worse off than the previous year.


There is still stigma surrounding mental health issues, with only 10% of Singapore employees saying that they are comfortable with discussing mental health challenges with family, friends, and healthcare professionals, lower than the global and Asia average of 19%. The good news is, Singapore employees are slowly warming up to the idea of sourcing help for their mental health, but finding access is still a significant hurdle. Less than half (44%) have access to mental health counselling services, compared to 52% globally and 54% in Asia. A similar number of respondents (42%) feel that quality mental healthcare, including counselling, therapy or medication, were difficult to find and access.


The survey also found that for many employees in Singapore, having employer support when it mattered the most played a critical role in shaping their work experience and well-being during the pandemic, and the way they responded to work. In fact, more than half (51%) of employees who reported experiencing good support, said that their employer cared for their health and well-being, which boosted employee energy levels and loyalty, and left many feeling significantly more energised and less likely to leave their job. 


“Having gone through such a disruptive year, it is clear that employees in Singapore are now looking for more from their employers,” says Krystal Tang, Mercer’s Wellness Leader for Singapore.


“Employees have had to deal with the impact of the pandemic on top of many other responsibilities, including caregiving. Unsurprisingly, this has taken a toll on their mental health. Our survey shows that by being able to provide mental health benefits to our employees, at least a third of them are less likely to leave the company. Employers need to start thinking differently and understand the urgency of providing mental health benefits and resources to improve the collective well-being and loyalty of their workforce.”


More and varied benefits needed, including digital access to healthcare for employees


While most employees have access to the usual benefits such as medical coverage and dental care, critical gaps remain. Two-thirds (67%) of Singapore workers do not have access to lifestyle modification support, such as for pregnant mothers or those battling chronic health issues, the highest in Asia. More than half also lack access to mental health counselling services (56%) and vision care benefits (57%).


“Often times we say that less is more, but the opposite holds true when it comes to our workforce,” says Mr Narale. “The greater the choices and variety in the benefits employers provide, the more we can provide for the needs of every individual in the organisation.” 


Despite the rise in adoption of digital health solutions on the back of the COVID-19 crisis, only one in 10 said their employer provided them with virtual healthcare benefits during the pandemic. Close to half (43%) of Singapore employees reported that they have never used telemedicine or other digital health solutions, even during the pandemic. This was 21% higher than Asia and 16% higher than global average. 


As more medical and healthcare services move online, employers play a critical role in driving the adoption of these innovations to improve care access, affordability, and quality. Compared to last year’s survey, more employees now see digital health innovations as valuable to them and their families. Nine in 10 employees want to use apps and devices to take more personal control of their health when it comes to self-managing health conditions. Similarly, 93% of workers value apps that alert them when they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.


“Employees are counting on their employers to take care of their well-being. Based on our survey, nearly half of employees (48%) are looking to their employers to deliver personal, quality and accessible health solutions,” says Mr Narale. 


“Our study has also clearly highlighted that through the realignment of benefits programs, we are able to provide the necessary support to the workforce and fill in the gaps to deliver results. This has been an incredibly challenging year. Now more than ever, being able to support our employees through these crucial moments will significantly boost employee morale, resilience, and confidence in the long run.”


Greater focus on gender-equal workplaces beyond hiring more women and female leaders


The pandemic has had an outsized impact on certain groups of employees, particularly women who bear the heavy responsibility of caring for their children and families. Yet, very few reported receiving “very good” support from their employer during the pandemic – only 10% of women said so, half that of men (20%).


The difference in sentiment between the genders also corresponds to the benefits they have, with men receiving more than women. For example, just 22% of women had access to mental health counselling services through their employers, compared to 30% of men. At the same time, 21% of women have access to personal accident insurance, lower than the 30% of men.


“Employers now understand the importance of bridging the gender parity gap in their workforce. However, many tend to only focus on the hiring of more women and the creation of more female leadership roles, but that doesn’t solve the issue at hand,” says Ms Tang. 


“Often, the people who require the most assistance, are the ones least likely to receive it. We need to start thinking broadly. Flip the pyramid and start tailoring benefits programmes and take into consideration the needs of caregivers, the majority of whom remain women, so we can create a more inclusive working environment for all and achieve the diversity objectives most organisations seek.”


For more details on the Singapore survey, visit this page


About Mercer Marsh Benefits

Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) was born out of the unification of one of the world’s best HR consultancies, the global leader in people risk advisory and the number one disruptive benefits technology firm to form one unique business. Together they have shaped some of the world’s most loved employee benefit experiences for small companies, growing enterprises and global firms. MMB is 7,000 strong, on the ground in 73 countries, and servicing clients in more than 150 countries. It brings local expertise to more places and works side-by-side with clients, and Mercer and Marsh colleagues around the world. Mercer and Marsh are two businesses of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), together with Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman. With 81,000 colleagues and annual revenue of $19 billion, through its market-leading companies Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. 

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