RORY ROSTANT, manager, communications, Unit Trust Corporation
When Google started operations, it took a unique approach to employee satisfaction. In an age of monochrome cubicles and monotonous workdays, they added a workplace wellness programme. Their philosophy was that to get the best talent, they had to make their office a place people wanted to work. Now, companies across the globe are trying to emulate Google’s success and are establishing workplace wellness programmes of their own.
Today’s CEOs know that healthy employees tend to be happier and more productive employee. With today’s employees becoming the most valuable assets to any company, workplace wellness programmes are becoming more widespread. Organisations are currently becoming more aware of issues related to employee wellness or well-being and there is increased public interest in integrating wellness activities with employers’ responsibilities. This move towards healthy workplaces and empowered employees mirrors trends between positive psychological states and organisational well-being.
Wellness programmes are intervention strategies intended to promote the well-being of employees. They could be curative and preventative in nature. The purpose of introducing a wellness programme is to create an awareness of wellness issues, to facilitate personal change and health management and to promote a healthy and supportive workplace.
The benefits for employers are obvious. They provide the company with strategic advantages by investing money in a programme that will hopefully bring lowered expenses in return, often in the form of better performing workers, and lower absenteeism and health care costs. By providing workers with health and wellness programmes, companies are improving wellbeing and job satisfaction, as well as raising retention rate.
Although chronic diseases like obesity are among the most common and costly of all health problems, adopting healthy lifestyles can help prevent them. A wellness programme aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy. Every team member has some sort of health risk to varying degrees, whether it’s unhealthy eating, lack of exercise or sleep, drinking, smoking, or even something genetic. Using a programme can make positive change happen.
Another great benefit of wellness programmes is a built sense of camaraderie with your co-workers. You’ll have a chance to experience activities with them that aren’t related to work, whether in a walking club or sports team or by going to the gym. Social support is a very important part of weight loss and getting fit. By interacting with co-workers, you’ll have others to give you encouragement when you need it, as well as to hold you accountable to your goals.
When wellness programmes do exist, they are often not part of core business structures. This suggests that organisations do not realise the extent to which employee wellness contributes to organisations’ bottom line. Organisations that invest time and resources in an employee wellness culture, with the focus on being proactive rather than reactive, can expect a return on the investment. The possible return on investment might include lower absenteeism, healthier employees, fewer accidents and lower staff turnover.
While measuring the success or ROI (return on investment) of these programmes is difficult to do accurately and comprehensively, every programme and level of investment is unique to the employer; participation levels are unique; employee health and health outcomes are also unique.
Some managers may have concerns about giving up control over their workforce by implementing supportive policies and practices. However, they actually gain more control over outputs and results by giving control of time management to employees. By providing more control to their employees, managers can help establish a better working relationship. These employees, now more satisfied with their work-life balance, are more inclined to show loyalty to their manager and company. As a result, these managers will likely see a lower turnover rate in their departments.
In order for organisations to offer the necessary employee wellness services to their employees, it is important that they start with proper assessments of the state of employee wellness.
For any work-life balance initiatives to be successful, they must not only support employees but also must fit with the needs of the organisation. Educate your staff, senior management and the board of directors about the rationale for work-life balance initiatives and how they will benefit employees and the organisation. Depending on your organisation’s culture, change may be easier to handle.
If organisations did a proper needs assessment, based on the state of employee wellness in the organisation, they could assess and address the types and intensity of interventions as well as the level of risk better. Simply asking employees what they think they need only gives a biased picture of the true state of affairs.
Improvements in employee wellness will only become visible if organisations start to introduce focused interventions, because only then will they start addressing the causes of their employee wellness problems.
(Content courtesy the Unit Trust Corporation)