Managing the state of being: Corporate wellness programmes

HEALTH is a state of mind and wellness is a state of being. When corporate wellness programmes first took off, the emphasis was mainly diet issues.
Things have changed and the current wellness programmes have expanded to focus on more than just the physical aspect of health.

guest column: Emmanuel Zvada

Employers are now using corporate wellness programmes to increase employee engagement and to become an employer of choice. Improved well-being of our employees offers a ”win-win” all around. Employees benefit from better support for their health whereas companies benefit from less absence and improved productivity. Nowadays, health and wellness programmes should be at the heart of our business strategies because our people are our greatest asset and, indeed, valuing their health and wellness will cascade to increased productivity.

Stress affects all in many organisations, leading to reduced productivity and loss of person hours, hence it should be among companies’ top priorities to reduce stress levels by coming up with corporate well-being policies and programmes. It is common for professionals and workers that they are affected by excessive stress due to their work and due to myriad other personal and professional commitments. This is the reason why many human resources (HR) managers are taking wellness issues seriously and some companies even have two departments separating HR managers and wellness managers.

Wellness programmes which are offered by companies vary widely, depending on the size, culture, resources and industry of the employer. Some programmes are simple and inexpensive to implement and manage, whereas others are more complex. Irrespective on which type of programme a company utilises, all wellness programmes offer benefits to the employer over time in healthcare-related cost reductions, increased productivity and employee retention.

Many small organisations would like to ensure that their employees have a great sense of well-being when it comes to the workplace and it’s even there in their objectives, but their main problem is that they are hesitant to go forward with health and wellness plans, since they perceive them to be costly.

It is important to remember that a person’s overall well-being includes all aspects of life, not just the workplace, hence it is worthwhile to invest in wellness programmes at workplaces. Being in good physical and mental shape also sets a person up to be great at their job in terms of efficiency or effectiveness in the job. Many companies that understand this and offer their employees activities that promote health and well-being are normally employers of choice.

In some companies, those people labelled hardworking prioritise their job over their health to an extend that they skip lunch and stay up late to get the job done. These people do not have time to exercise because they work all the time, as if productivity is measured by the time one spends at work or the output produced. Normally, these people do not take leave days and they even forget that personal health must always come first. If organisations put efforts to create wellness programmes within the office environment and improve on the actual worksite, one may be amazed to discover an increase in employee engagement within the organisation.

What to include in an employee wellness programme?

The various items that may seem unimportant to some; however, go a long way in employees’ minds and they contribute in improving the wellbeing of the employees. Employees should take time to break from work activities. Organisations should provide a comfortable area for breaks and lunches, so that employees can get a relieve from the day’s work and related stresses.

Encourage fitness activities

Gym membership or yoga classes might come to mind when someone thinks of an employee wellness programme at workplaces. These are great activities to offer, but a quality programme can include so much more Given how critical fitness is to overall health, I think it’s worth taking a look at exercises, especially to those who work in excess of 40 hours per week. In an office setting, they need enough time to move around and exercise. Some companies are fortunate in that they have an on-site gym or fitness classes, but to those who do not have these, they can utilise facilities elsewhere. Exercise is good for the immune system. In case of unexpected illness, organisations should have a stocked first aid kit and a private “wellness room” where people can tend to personal health needs.

Encourage social activities

All work and no play don’t just make for a dull office. This sometimes keeps employees from knowing anything interesting or fun about each other beyond the defined roles they fill in the workplace. Some employees prefer to sweat and blow off steam on their own and that’s totally fine. However, they still may enjoy activities that help them get to know their colleagues better. Consider offering social activities like an office book club or whatever else your employee enjoys doing. Smiling and laughing is an important part of health too. While the priority for workers always should be on performing the jobs for which they are paid, plenty of low-cost social activities can foster team work. Participation in such activities should be, of course, voluntary.

Community service activities

Many people feel good when they help others, thus organisations can organise community service activities. You can organise a volunteer day for your staff to go into the community and help out.

You can also encourage your employees to organise groups and fundraise for causes that mean a lot to them. This will not only benefit the employees, but the company as it will act as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Team-building activities

One of the secondary benefits of a wellness programmes is that many of activities strengthen the bonds between team members. Team-building encourages social connections among employees. Creating a network of social support can lead to a more resilient work environment by helping employees recognise the power of being on a team and working together. Team-building activities provide an opportunity for employees to unwind and have some fun, which ultimately reduces stress levels. For a team building exercise to be successful, it must be fun, stimulate meaningful dialogue, and bring employees closer together.

Encourage healthy living and be sensitive to those who are ill

Employers who are seeking to improve the wellness of their employees should encourage heath living as well as being sensitive to those who are ill at work. Obviously, the physical health of every employee matters, and being physically healthy allows for opportunities to live happily and with energy.
Employees who eat healthy and exercise regularly are more likely to be at work, and will work harder. Employers should be sensitive to employees who may be ill and assist them as much as possible with any options that may be available to them.

Organisations that support employee well-being are easy to recognise, they are often among the “best places to work” and “top companies” lists. Because of a desire to attract and retain top talent, most organisations would like to be on these lists, but not all of them know how to get there. It begins with creating a workplace culture that creates and supports the well-being of employees.

Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and international recruitment expert. He writes in his personal capacity

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