In developing markets, especially in India, we have observed that companies have had a tendency to focus on “illness rather than wellness”. This despite the fact that issues of absenteeism and presenteeism have assumed alarming proportions having a negative impact on bottom lines. A predominately sedentary lifestyle is resulting in high levels of stress, physical illness and low levels of productivity.
What most evolved employers realize is that a healthy workforce is key to running a profitable business. Physical and mental health is critical to both productivity and improving the top and bottom line. Leadership is responsible for profitability and a critical way to increase it is by protecting and providing for their most important asset – human capital.
Responsible Employers – Leading from the front
Urban professionals today have intense work schedules that take a toll on both body and mind; studies have shown that more than half of employees say that they feel disengaged at work. Companies should focus on providing a simple, fun and relevant solution to maintain and establish a healthier and happier lifestyle - this gives employees, who do not enjoy regimented
exercise schedules, an opportunity to invest in their health. It was recently reported that almost 65% of young adults in India have blood pressure within the pre-hypertensive and hypertensive range, and that 60% of the Indian companies have no strategy in place to ensure good health of their employees. Both very alarming statistics!
Until recently employer initiated wellness programs commonly included having a gymnasium in the office premises, with perhaps a couple of posters near the elevators to encourage employees to take the stairs instead. However what we have learnt is that we must engage employees first, in order to catalyze them to be healthy and active. Organizations that value their employees are the ones that will invest in their employees’ well-being: they help employees maintain a good work life balance and, as a result, helping the employees deliver better performance.
Incorporating fitness programs into normal day-to-day activities can help mitigate the time, space and cost constraints that are used as excuses for not being active. Good wellness programs also promote increased communication, engagement and camaraderie amongst employees. Companies should take a cue from a report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services – USA, which indicated that companies with exercise programs ,as components of their wellness programs, decreased healthcare costs by 20 to 55% and lowered short-term sickness levels availed by employees by 6 to 32%. Apart from this, a hike in productivity was observed ranging from 2 to 52%.
The Way Ahead
We believe that by bringing about a positive impact on physical activity levels, the devastating effects of increasingly deskbound lifestyles can be reversed. More importantly, what we have learnt is that we need to engage employees first, and then help them strive to be healthy and active. Stepathlon aims to break the cycle of sedentary behaviour and transform the sedentary into active, and the active into more active using the global benchmark of a minimum 10,000 steps a day. The immediate benefits can include improved sleep and energy levels, reduced stress, increased job satisfaction and greater self-esteem. By emphasizing the importance of health and well-being, aim to deliver a happier, healthier and a more productive workforce.