Upgrade needed for universities’ workplace wellness programs, new APRU survey shows
December 13, 2019
APRU Global Health Program released its latest report on Workplace Wellness (WW) finding that although many universities have implemented a range of programs designed to promote employee health and well-being, these programs are often not designed in a strategic or comprehensive way.
The report was initiated at the Global Health Conference 2016, a special workshop on workplace wellness was held on the first day of the conference. A Sydney Statement on Employee Health and Well-being was announced and called on our universities to fulfil the responsibility to their employee’s health and well-being.
Responding to this call, the report is based on an online survey conducted by the APRU Global Health Program (GHP) and completed by 29 universities in 13 Asia-Pacific economies in 2018. The survey aimed to assess the range and scope of employee health and wellness programs at universities in the Asia-Pacific; evaluate gaps and challenges; and facilitate the crafting of recommendations.
“We identified a number of innovative and successful workplace wellness programs that our member universities offer, such as fitness challenges and health screenings, but programs relating to mental health, violence, and smoking cessation are especially lacking,” Prof Mellissa Withers of USC says.
“The results demonstrate that the main perceived challenge of workplace wellness programs is lack of employee participation,” she adds.
The survey suggests that participation suffers from a lack of protected time for employees to engage in WW programs. It also found that few universities offered financial rewards (such as discounts for health insurance or salary bonuses) for employees who have healthy lifestyles. The report moreover cited universities’ insufficient usage of social media or mobile phone messaging to disseminate health information to employees.
Among the commendable case studies highlighted are The University of Hong Kong’s Walking Challenge, which entails a goal number of steps for the HKU community to walk together. In October 2018, the challenge expanded to involve over 1,500 people from more than 17 countries and amassed 463,447,412 steps—equivalent to walking 7 times around the world.
Another case study is the Domestic Violence Support Policy by The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, which supports members who are directly or indirectly experiencing domestic violence, including by offering paid domestic violence leave of up to 10 days.
The University of Southern California, for its part, offers an attractive reward scheme for smoking cessation, with staff and faculty who do not use tobacco or commit to enroll in a tobacco cessation program receiving a $25 reduction per month in paycheck contributions for their medical plan.
The APRU Global Health Program, launched in 2007, is hosted by the University of Southern California and is led by Program Director, Professor Mellissa Withers. By facilitating collaboration and enhancing regional dialogue, the APRU Global Health Program works to bridge health divides, promoting and protecting population health and meeting shared health challenges.