FOCUS 75: Being A Pillar Of Support

Hayley Yap, Chief People Officer at AXA Insurance, Singapore discusses how AXA wants to put mental health at the top of the health agenda. 


More companies have expanded employee benefits to cover mental health services. Can you share your thoughts on the economic impact of mental health issues?


Poor mental health has a significant economic impact. It has been linked not only to increased healthcare costs, but also absenteeism and reduced productivity. A World Health Organization (WHO) study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity, and this does not even factor the impact of stress which is not uncommon in the workplace.


While mental health issues were already widespread pre-Covid, the pandemic has escalated the burden of psychological distress among adults according to research by Duke-NUS Medical School. For employers, the pandemic has put into perspective the importance of mental health in building a resilient workforce.   


It’s clear that employers benefit from investing in behavioural health. How can they be supported in this aspect?


It is important to help employers, particularly company leaders, recognise the need and make a commitment to drive awareness and action on mental health in the workplace. This is not just the responsibility of employers themselves - they require support from multiple stakeholders across the public and private sector.


In May 2020, the United Nations warned of a global mental health crisis due to Covid-19 and urged governments to put the issue front and centre as they tackle the pandemic. In Singapore, the government has taken steps to support employers such as through the introduction of a Tripartite Advisory on Mental Health at workplace, which sets out practical guidance on measures employers can adopt to support their employees' mental wellbeing, and provides resources that employers, employees and the self-employed can tap on.


Service providers for businesses can also play a role in supporting employers by considering the needs of employees more holistically. For example, in the insurance industry, providers are starting to take a more all-rounded and preventative well-being approach for employee benefits plans to cater to the evolving needs of employees.  


Can you share about AXA’s efforts in Singapore to support your employees and customers? 


Recognising the benefits of a positive company culture, one area we are focusing on is building a culture that maximises our employees’ potential while also improving their well-being and supporting work-life balance. For instance, we are enabling our employees the choice to work remotely for three days a week as our way of working going forward. This is part of our smart working strategy which combines remote working and regular office presence, and empowers employees to choose what suits them best while ensuring the office remains an anchor for collaboration and social interaction.


Under our flexible benefits scheme, AXA employees can use their flexible benefits dollars for services such as life/health coaching and therapy sessions, psychologist visits, and other items like furniture or equipment for a home office set up to support remote working. We also have plans to roll out a program to help those who encounter difficulties in their professional or personal life through psychological support and guidance.


Workshops and seminars on topics like self-care, mindfulness and resilience, and exercise classes which we organise for employees are also part of our larger efforts to promote employee well-being. Even engagement initiatives, like encouraging staff to get up and move during lunchtime, which may not necessarily be significant on its own will contribute to fostering well-being as part of our company culture.


In our role as an insurer, we are empowering companies to address employee benefits more holistically with our employee benefits offering #BetterMe by AXA. This means going beyond traditional insurance protection to provide support for their employees to manage their health and well-being through supplementary services like fitness and wellness experiences, and health coaching and mental wellness support. 



Interview with Hayley Yap, Chief People Officer at AXA Insurance, for FOCUS #75. To read more articles from this issue, download your digital copy here


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