A brainchild of Western countries, corporate wellness programs have become a part of Indian companies too due to tremendous work pressure and high expectations from every employee each day. We may use the term ‘white collar job’ but the stress and pressure experienced by these people are innumerable. The lives of these employees are constantly under stress and health occupies least priority. But companies these days have well understood the need for good physical and mental health of employees for increased productivity and sustainability at work. Hence, most companies offer corporate wellness programs to their employees. They offer healthcare packages to their employees and sometimes, to their family members too. These programs have proved to be a great relief and a life changer to many people. But the extent of its advantage/benefits depends on the kind of program planned for the employees.
How to create an effective health program that works and how to avoid mistakes that can either lead to ineffective results or cause harmful initiatives?
Mostly, any one-time health promotional event tends to fail and activities that are not part of the wellness package bounce back. Some of the common mistakes made by the program planning team include:
Only Assessing but not Providing Solutions: Health assessment usually involves questioning the employee on his/her smoking habits, drinking frequency, exercise routines, diet taken and stress levels. The person’s weight, height, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels are taken. The feedback report is generated and recommendations include to quit smoking/drinking. Such feedbacks are never going to motivate the employee to change unless he/she is taught how to overcome these habits, followed-up on their changes and monitored over their behavioral improvements. Stress can be a disturbing factor that affects every aspect of an individual’s life-health, performance, happiness and quality of life. Know how to reduce stress levels and attain a peaceful state with inputs from the website www.firsteatright.com.
Decades of ill-health and poor nutrition habits cannot be resolved in a matter of 15-30 minutes’ time by asking them to fill a questionnaire.
Offering Monitory Benefits: Just like offering incentives for the hard work done in terms of working, showering the employee with monetary benefits are popular but not quite feasible. These can even cause rebellion and resentment among some people. While traditional programs focused on the incentive part, nowadays many individuals do not focus on the long-term benefits of some action when the short team rewards (smoking cigarette, eating a large pizza or watching TV for hours together) are tantalizing.
Guiding People to Your Website: Employers often think that sending people to the insurer’s website simplifies their job and gets the work done. But, such wellness programs never work unless they are a part of the bigger health promotion program.
Quick-fix Solutions: Weight loss events that offer short term benefits are not useful and might do more harm than good as they offer quick relief methods that might not be healthy and good when compared to long-term weight loss goals.
Recruiting Outside Vendors to Fix Employee Health Issues: Employers hire the best people in different fields such as lifestyle coaches, employee assistance counselors, nurses, occupational health & safety experts and many such people to fix health issues. When people are hired independently, the same work is duplicated or repeated multiple times. This is a waste of resources and does not fulfill your needs.
The Right Approach to Wellness Programs
Leader Commitment: Any health/wellness program firstly needs the company leader’s commitment and support at all levels of the organization. Employers genuinely interested in their employees’ health and wellness integrate health into the organization’s overall vision and purpose. Any senior leader is expected to be the ideal role model, comply with the health goals themselves and then advise his/her employees to take up health programs insisting on its importance to the organization’s success.
Setting Health Culture: Any company takes decisions completely understanding the consequences of its actions. Employees spend most of their potential time at their workplace and it is ideal to integrate a health model into every aspect of business practice, right from company policies to everyday work activities. ‘Total health’ implies not only a healthy body weight but one that takes care of emotional, financial, physical, career and social well-being. To satisfy these criteria, companies do offer flexible work timings, establish practical health goals, provide social support, enforce health-promoting policies and create a healthy office environment (encouraging employees to climb stairs instead of using the elevators, setting treadmill & cycling workstations and easy-access walking trails surrounding the office building).
Asking for Help: An employer cannot force his/her employees to undergo a particular wellness program for the sake of increased delivery result and health. The employees should come forward by themselves, take ownership of the program, understand its benefits and work towards success.
Surveys can sometimes help bosses to understand the type of health program/wellness packages individuals prefer. For example, an organization that organizes yoga program for its staff failed to attract employees. But the same company, when it started a series of vigorous workouts that attracted young employees, enrollments increased by more than 50% and engagement in the wellness program continued in a disciplined manner until the end.
Sometimes, the organization forms wellness committees that involves few members from the company. This group is allocated the annual budget for the wellness program and is requested to come up with interesting and beneficial initiatives that work positively for all the employees.
Creating the Right Aura About the Program: Strategic communication is key to a successful employee wellness program. Telling A-Z details of the program prevents misunderstanding, lack of awareness, lack of interest or suspicions about the employer’s sudden interest in the employee’s health.
Smart Incentives: Money always is not the main concern in all scenarios. There is more to good health than offering paper money as a reward. The right choice of incentives keeps people engaged, focused and motivated to achieve health goals.
The ultimate goal is to shift the employees from simply participating in the health program for a reward to the extent such that, the healthy habit or behavior is satisfying and motivating to continue doing it. For example, teams participating in a fitness challenge can be offered virtual cash rewards for the winning team along with bragging rights and chances for enhancing friendship among employees. After workout at office, employees feel good, happy, establish friendship and find it fun and interesting to work.
In order to achieve excellent health improvement at the workplace, employers should fully understand about the evidences that point to what work/don’t work, weave together health promotion programs and adopt organizational changes that promote a healthy company culture.
Stress affects physical health, mental health and productivity of employees. Apart from pay, workers look for interesting work, good perks and benefits such as subsidized meals, variable pays, medical benefits and excellent health. It is the duty of the company to ensure that workers enjoy working for the company and are satisfied with their job. Workplace wellness is increasingly practiced in many high-level organizations and is a business strategy that benefits both, the employer and the employee. Organizations completely vouch for these wellness programs that have prevented many employees from succumbing into depression due to counselling and yoga sessions that help to maintain peace of mind.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.