Moving the needle from reactive care to preventive healthcare and transitioning into a future-ready wellness-focused organization, is the key challenge faced by many HR and business leaders across various sectors.
In a recently held People Matters & Sanofi Pasteur Roundtable Discussion hosted in Mumbai, about 30 business and HR leaders shed light on some of the core elements of a future-ready wellness strategy, key challenges faced by HR leaders, and a few best practices that have worked for some leaders.
Workplace wellness trends and challenges
The way we work has changed. Technology has made life easier and more luxurious. The flip-side of having a desk job is that it exposes the workforce to health risks. Lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes are taking a toll even on millennials.
In order to highlight such findings, Mrugesh Dholakia, Head of Bien-etre, Sanofi, shared some key insights from a recently launched report on the contemporary trends in wellness. He is currently managing a team of professionals who support organizations in enhancing employee wellness in India. Previously, he was leading human development initiatives as a certified trainer and coach with Sanofi. He has worked with companies across various sectors and locations.
“Triggering events such as a disease outbreak or natural calamity are the turning points that motivate HR leaders to prioritize wellness programs,” said Dholakia, quoting a recently launched report conducted by People Matters & Sanofi Pasteur titled Contemporary Trends & Challenges of Workplace Wellness Programs in India 2019. “The core elements of a future-ready wellness strategy include: improving productivity, reducing healthcare costs, employee engagement, employee retention, and measurable ROI.”
Dholakia said that the report revealed some of the major challenges faced by leaders while planning wellness strategies and vendor management surfaced as one of the major challenges faced by HR leaders.
Another major challenge that Dholakia noted was ensuring sustainable engagement.
“Only 38 percent of the Indian companies have a plan to tackle a disease outbreak of infectious diseases and 65 percent of the companies said they don’t measure the benefits of their wellness program,” said Dholakia. “Wellness vendor management, ROI and lack of sustainable engagement ranked high on the challenges in designing wellness programs.”
Moving beyond physical wellness
Stress management is a crucial component of the wellness equation. And moving forward, in an era of rising competition where employees are afraid that technology will automate their jobs, work pressure continues to increase.
To that end, Madhur Tatwawadi, Head HR, Credit Suisse Business Analytics, emphasized the need to have a holistic approach towards wellness, especially on an organizational level.
Madhur spoke about the need to redefine wellness and wellbeing in order to devise a future-ready strategy. With more than 16 years of experience in HR, including significant expertise in the financial services sector. At present, she co-leads the diversity and inclusion of the employee network. She is responsible for driving all D&I interventions on behalf of the company including gender, generational, LGBT-related initiatives.
“Creating a supportive environment where staff can share their thoughts freely at the workplace can go a long way in ensuring the well-being of employees,” Madhur said.
Madhur highlighted that the evolution of well-being started with an initial focus on physical wellness in most organizations and now has moved to professional wellness. Physical health was a good place to start the wellness journey a decade ago; however, now with the ever-changing and fast-moving work environment, mental and emotional health have become a major focus area for most organizations.
Workplace stress has become common as the nature of jobs undergoes a transformation in the impending advent of Industry 4.0. Millennials are especially facing burnout, including mental stress, which needs to be addressed either through on-site help or off-site programs. Line managers need to play a key role in identifying and supporting employees in this wellness journey.
Madhur noted that physical, mental, emotional and professional health interventions are essential aspects of an organization's holistic wellness journey.
Making wellness a culture
Wellness as an HR activity remains just that. Getting the leadership buy-in, involving the CXOs in health-related initiatives--be it a Walkathon, a Zumba class or just a Friday evening social gathering--making fitness and healthy living culture can go a long way in ensuring that you have a productive and highly engaged workforce.
With more than 15 years of experience, Simrata Oberoi, Vice President, Deutsche CIB Center, who has worked across various aspects of recruitment, project management, change management, employee engagement, and talent management in the banking industry, shared some ways in which leaders can inculcate wellness strategy into the DNA of the organization.
“The crucial question facing us all is: how do we make wellness integral to the culture,” said Oberoi. “Even though events such as Zumba and Yoga classes are sometimes short-lived gimmicks, these are essential in creating large scale awareness.”
Once people are aware of the need to become healthy and live a physically and mentally fit lifestyle, HR leaders can encourage employee champions to take ownership and drive the culture of wellness in their own organizations, Oberoi said.
Following Oberoi’s insights on driving a culture of future-ready wellness, Madhavi Lall, Managing Director and Head of Human Resources, India, Deutsche Bank, who has worked with companies such as Accenture, Standard Chartered Bank, Colgate Palmolive, ABN Amro Bank, and HCL-Hewlett-Packard Ltd, took to the stage to moderate the roundtable discussion.
Lall also happens to be a founding member of the HR Committee for FICCI and was conferred the “Women Leadership Award” by the Institute of Public Enterprises--BFSI.
Best practices for implementing wellness strategies
Lall focused on the best practices that organizations can implement within their respective teams in order to create sustainable wellness strategies.
“Measuring the success of a wellness program is about how do you get the buy-in, commitment, and budgets for the wellness program. Your measure of success is linked to how do you get senior management’s buy-in for budgets; because nothing comes for free in life,” said Lall.
At TCS, the team launched a program that included Safety Champions who are embedded within the business units. Initially, the engagement was low.
“However, once the Safety Champions’ role was marketed in order to connect with employees on an emotional level, there was a lot of traction, said Sangeeta Chandran, Global Head, Lead--Safety and Wellness, TCS. “You develop leadership skills and puts you in the limelight with various leaders.”
Pradeep Chadva, HR Director, Sodexo, shared some of the best practices that had worked for the company’s employees including an SOS button on the employees’ app for health-related emergencies.
“We want to make sure that the family is involved as well. We do a lot of husband-wife hiring, there is an English-speaking course on the app and also advise on what to do when children are in their high school,” Chadva said. “This is done by employee champions--they have themselves driven the engagement.”
The SOS app helps in ensuring a safe environment for women and men working and traveling from far away places. Almost 90 percent of our employees are women and most of them are blue-collar workers, he said.
Chinmaya Mohanty from RPG Life Sciences reiterated the need to include wellness as an integral part of the culture right from the onboarding stage.
“The quality of the program is more vital than the quantity of events or initiatives that you organize,” Mohanty noted, adding that a future-ready wellness strategy is the one that includes not only the employees’ well-being but the healthy lifestyle of the employees’ family members as well.
At HDFC Bank, Disha Rambhiya added, the wellness strategy is spearheaded by employee champions in various locations and continuous yet engaging communication plays an important role in generating awareness about healthcare concerns in various branches.
Many leaders from various companies including Reliance, Deutsche Bank, HDFC Bank, etc added that vendor management remains to be a crucial challenge for most of their wellness strategies.
"As a function of the Maharashtra Shops & Establishment Rules, 2018, organizations are expected to have a Health, Safety and Wellness committee wherein the requirement is to have both business and HR representation. Thus, mandates like these are a catalyst for having a diverse committee with shared responsibility between both business and support services," said Anchal Bajaj, VP HR, Credit Suisse.
For Mahindra & Mahindra company, running the wellness function as a business has helped in getting the leadership buy-in and motivating employees to remain engaged not only with the wellness strategy but also in bringing about a behavioral change towards a healthier lifestyle.
In several companies that have KPOs and call centers where night shifts are a regular part of the way of working, leaders such as ATOS Syntel have ensured that there are doctors available 24 by 7 at all locations.
“Since it is difficult to manage emergency requests during the night shifts in KPOs, hence, we have kept the 24X7 on-call doctors’ facility,” said Vaishali Mistry, Wellness & Diversity Specialist, ATOS Syntel.
Another measure of success is the health insurance cost. Leading organizations such as Maersk Global Service are using metrics such as lower health insurance costs, tracking sick leaves and HRA data to keep a pulse on the employees’ wellness, according to Mayank Jauhari, Head Compensation & Benefits (Rewards), Maersk Global Service.
The way forward
Work pressures are only going to rise. Health is truly going to prove to be the workforce’s wealth of tomorrow. This is precisely why leaders of today need to gear up and design strategies that are going to remain nimble and sustainable for the future. Listening to the needs of the employees and concentrating on the productivity of the workforce is going to be essential while designing wellness strategies. HR leaders need to just remember to not get caught up in unwarranted measures of success and metrics that do not directly impact the wellbeing of the employees.