22 Aug 2020

Picture credit: Igbotanicals
 

Is Employee Wellness taking the centerstage at organizations and why?

For those who work on weekend to work more the next day, for those who reply 24/7 at any time, for those who feel left out or isolated at work, for those managers who love to discuss work on weekends, for those who give unrealistic timelines and micromanage to the T, for those who don’t know where to approach and talk about their fears, anxieties.

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well”

                                                                     – Plato

The Industry 4.0 is a revolution – it is more disruptive, up-to-the-minute and just not limited to a region, but global. Technology is no longer the support but a strategic partner with business models and products centered around it. And at the center stage are our very own EMPLOYEES– our knowledge workers. Those who’s creativity, adaptability, learnability, and resilience fuel the change. Yes! Human Capital continues to be the differentiator and to preserve, to protect and develop our employees the key aspect that remains is Employee Wellbeing.

As we look into the mirror remembering the days of employee wellness being a part of an employee engagement calendar, mental illness being a stigma and ridiculed, physical fitness taking form of a cricket match as a 1-day sports day event and financial fitness being the business of the employee. Organizations have recognized and realized the days of employee wellness being just a part of an employee engagement calendar is a passe. What is clearly emerging is the need for an independent wellness strategy which aims at the mind, body and life benefits for its employees.

Having heard and read many views around mental health and wellness, one that I resonate with are the thoughts from Dr Thomas Ihde (president of the board of trustees of Pro Mente Sana and medical director of psychiatric outpatient services at the FMI Hospital in Interlaken)

Simply put – most of the people’s understanding of Mental Health and Wellbeing is largely at the level of alphabets – many know about cardiac arrests or cancer and related early warning signs of chest pain etc. but if you talk about “panic attacks” or “anxiety bouts” very few know about it or even the early warning signs of depression.

Mental health is also viewed very differently at workplace. If I talk to my peer about a knee problem or a back-ache, they might be interested to know more about it and help with some remedies. But if one talks about their mental health the chances of being perceived as being week, unable to manage oneself, or just not cut out for the corporate world/ job are really high. This typically effects the very personality or the core of the individual experiencing poor mental health and thereby preferring not to talk about it.

Some common myths about mental illness range from – it can never happen to me, it’s about week personality, character or mark of personal failure and these are problems which can’t get treated..it continues to linger on.

But the reality is changing, as it must. More and more professionals are accepting and open to recognize that mental illness is a reality and worth watching out for it. Reaching out for support is not a mark of weakness but the timely call for help. The best of us have experienced, treated and recovered stronger with some life-long learnings while it may be a slow process than a physical illness recovery.

In combination, a new focus on financial wellbeing and physical wellbeing in forms of sporting events, yoga classes or importance of nutrition and maintaining a balance diet is gaining immense momentum.

The industry is starting to acknowledge the need for a more comprehensive approach which touch the various dimensions of an employee given the direct co-relation to employee productivity, morale, motivation and a more tangible aspect of absenteeism. More and more analysis points us and makes it evident that this also lowers the cost for any chronic diseases covered as instance. Further these well-designed wellness programs gives an opportunity for the employees to connect and build relationships anchored to interests, affiliations and preferences outside the workplace which fuel and influence the workplace partnership/collaboration at a higher level. The sense of community, mutual trust and respect, openness to alternate views belongingness to a common purpose and resolve is that much stronger. The disagreements start to become constructive and the company tend to reap the “Well-being Dividend”.

A corporate wellness program is becoming an integral part of the overall Employee value proposition where the companies are able to differentiate and position itself more holistically. With the reliable and qualified employee assistance providers are continously getting challenged to curate relevant and meaningful solutions which anchors to employee wellness, welfare and happiness.

The Covid 19 crisis has amplified the need to relook and redefine the Employee Well-Being strategy to make it more truthful with an element of applied learning.

Perhaps it’s not too far – given the speed of change, demands of adapting to new ways at workplace one see’s a Chief Wellness Officer role getting created being responsible to shape, craft and execute a multi-dimensional wellbeing strategy impacting our human capital and helping managers grow the new competence of emotional intelligence, ability to truly empathize and motivate in these changing times.

 

–By Manas [ Vice President Human Resource, Swiss Re]

Authors bio:

Manas has 19 years of professional experience in Business partnering and advisory engagement with Business Heads crafting the talent and development strategy, help co-create a high performance working culture and building managerial and leadership capability. Continues to be an HR practitioner influencing human capital decisions on organizational change, people strategy encompassing talent attraction, development, retention, employee wellbeing, relations and more across various industries like consumer finance, internet and media and financial and re-insurance services.

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