Improving workplaces: Healthy employees are happy partners

The stress and anxiety related to finances, job security, family commitments, and work-related pressures creates ripple effects.

lifestyle, health, healthcare, stress,
Special initiatives are being designed by employers to ensure the mental well-being of the ignored employee.
lifestyle, health, healthcare, stress,
Special initiatives are being designed by employers to ensure the mental well-being of the ignored employee.

By Deepak Sahni

Today’s frenetic lifestyle has impacted the health of many. The working gentry, a majority of whom are key to an organization’s success, lack of physical activity and consequently, their stress is at an all-time high. The single major cause is money, the lack thereof or the perceived paucity of the same. The stress and anxiety related to finances, job security, family commitments, and work-related pressures create ripple-effects, which are not only visible at work but end up affecting the individual’s performance & eventually his/her contribution to the firm.

Many firms offer a token healthcare insurance plan, cleverly blended with the annual compensation of the employee, which does little to alleviate the employees’ tensions. Hence the crying need is to balance the overall wellbeing of the employees while ensuring adherence to the corporate objectives.

Real Health Benefits: Impact on Productivity And Profitability

When employees are given “real” health benefits, they appreciate the same and are motivated to perform even in the face of ailments & distractions. This obvious & simple step is not the only key to retention of talent but goes a long way towards guaranteeing continuity, growth, productivity and profitability.

It takes a forward-looking and empathetic Human Resource Development team to realize this simple mantra. What appears as an avoidable cost centre at first glance, is instrumental in the seamless running of any organization. It is contingent upon them to insist, convince and ultimately cajole top management to fall in line with what seems initially as heretical.

Let us now turn our attention to a burning reality of the 21st century – the cerebral state of a corporation’s key partners – the employees.

But this cloud seems to have a silver lining in what is trending!

According to an India Health and Wellbeing study by Willis Towers Watson (2018), about 2/3rds of employers have already evolved/are evolving stress or mental health strategy, and this number is projected to increase considerably by 2021. Special initiatives are being designed by employers to ensure the mental well-being of the ignored employee. Innovations such as flexible working options, onsite stress management interventions, promoting Employee Assistance Programs, and resilience training are slowly but surely entering the HRM lexicon!

Importance of focusing on basics: Exercise, Nutrition, Lifestyle

Back to basics. Physical health influencers- mundane factors like exercise, nutrition and lifestyle habits form an integral factor of the overall wellness story. Focus on, effective counselling and careful monitoring of the same goes a long way in lowering the employees’ risk of chronic ailments, day to day impediments and fatigue. Key implementation imperatives include:

  • a subsidized balanced diet at the friendly company “canteen”
  • routine preventive health checkups/camps, tie-ups/corporate discounts/packages with local medical institutions
  • pecuniary incentives on sports/physical excellence.

A key success factor will be the top management leading by example. This (physical fitness) should be a non-negotiable for all be he/she a newbie or an impending retiree!

READ | Are you better than your boss? Yes! Say 73% millennial employees across the globe

One only needs to glance at Virat’s India – and the debate dissipates. This will optimize the overall health quotient of the organization, enable anticipation of potential medical emergencies and become the one major ingredients of the corporate’s sustainable success potion.

Social Health Is Critical too

We have discussed threadbare the physical and mental aspects of employee health. The time has come for me to bid adieu, but not before we critically examine the third and probably the most critical dimension – social health. This dimension has two facets that are equally important – the society that is within (the corporate fraternity) and the society that is without (the employees’ fraternity).

A sensitive, caring (genuinely so) and effective (having the ability to influence the powers that be) HRM superstructure is the key enabling factor that can balance the two and really contribute to “employee health”.

Obviously, the guiding philosophy is not “I am doing these guys a favour” but “these guys help pay my salary; it is both my duty and interest to further their happiness quotient”. Guys, no rocket science called for here!

Ensuring internal social health is all about getting the basic HRM processes in place with the single-minded objective of ensuring laissiez- faire (fair play).

Transparent performance appraisal programs with clear increment, promotion & job rotation norms; induction programs for new recruits with a view not to intimidate, but to blend them into the mainstream; clarifying the expected code of conduct in realistic corporate scenarios; specifying do’s & don’ts regarding present days norms on gender sensitivity – with equal weightage to both the male and female perspectives and primarily ensuring that the functional heads are totally aligned & on the same page are but some of the critical success factors.

The corporate milieu is a closed, relatively easily controlled environment. How does one deal with the climate in which the employee spends the other, (“ostensibly unproductive”) part of his life? I.e. – the world without? A world that is far removed
from the daily “hurly-burly” of corporate intrigue and survival.

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind” – Nobel Prize winner, Bob Dylan says it all!

The trick/magic is to be able to construct a realistic and believable “sangam” (confluence) of the two worlds through:

  • Regular family interactions- picnics,
  • ladies’ groups to promote self-help programs,
  • kids’ skill-based competitions, sports days,
  • a recognition & reward program for meritorious employee children,
  • a day out with the boss & the spouse,
  • complimentary film/concert tickets for the family – remember, your ideas are limited only by your imagination.

More importantly – your firm resolve to turn the system upside down!

Enough has been spoken, perhaps a bit much. I would feel vindicated if at least one of you followed this three- pronged surgical strike into the very underbelly of employee distress – be it in the body (physical), the mind (mental) or the society at large (social).

I wish you all the very best, I hope you will find value in my musings, and will extract what is germane to you and your organization to help you craft a success story – with your employees.

(The author is the CEO and founder of Healthians. Views expressed are personal.)

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