In this interview with Arvind Krishnan, Founder and CEO of The Fuller Life, we explore how sports can be utilized as the right tool to improve workplace wellness.
Arvind discusses how you can engage your workforce with sports and discusses the ROI that organizations can expect in terms of implementing sporting events as a part of their wellness programs.
Q1. Many employers are struggling with the concept of workplace wellness for a number of reasons. At the outset, some employers simply feel “health and wellness” is a personal responsibility. What are your views on it? Why should an organization invest in their employees’ health and wellness?
The short answer is “Yes". Companies should invest in employees’ health and wellness.
The long answer covers the reason that they should do it. I think that they should do it in enlightened self-interest. In other words, it is in the company’s interest if its people, especially the older and senior folks are in good shape. It improves productivity, allows them to engage with the firm better and makes for better business outcomes. However, health should always be a joint effort. The company can help, but the onus must lie with the employee. It is, after all, their health.
Being mildly commie, my personal view is that a healthy workplace is a happy workplace, must as a healthy home is abuzz. And I think that this community aspect is sorely missing from how we see the spaces where we spend most of our waking lives. So I do think that health is a worthy investment.
Q2. If you look at the various research papers, most of the corporate wellness programs aren’t faring well. What could be the reasons for this?
My top 3 reasons are
- Short-termishness of plan
- Shoddy structure
- Lack of integration
Most companies approach health plans as a checkbox to be ticked. So it is flu shots this year, health checks next year and a cricket contest in year 3. This approach is not going to work.
It is on too short a time horizon to show results. In our experience across the Corporate Health Summits that we organize (where companies discuss best practices in the health and wellness space), we know that it is consistent efforts across many years that will yield results. Also, a plan needs to cover physical, emotional, financial aspects. Most plans are not well-balanced in this regard. For e.g. emotional well-being is one of the crisis areas that we see in corporate India, yet efforts and spends lag requirements massively.
Lastly, any plan needs to be integrated across branding, communication, execution and metrics. Piecemeal approaches will thus not deliver the results that CXOs need. This is especially true since the wellness plans need to run across many years.
Q3. You have been in the industry of Corporate Wellness for nearly 17 years. What kind of challenges does an organization face in implementing a wellness program? Is employee engagement in these programs a challenge?
There are challenges in every stage from idea to execution. Some of them are
- Philosophy of the initiative – so that the approach is clear and documented
- Branding and communication – so that all messaging is on point
- Getting senior management on board – the leadership has to walk the talk
- Getting internal stakeholders aligned – you will need HR and facilities inputs
- It has to fit the culture, or the culture has to be refashioned to support the initiative
Lastly, it certainly needs a lot of bandwidth from the team handling it. This is usually the toughest to get.
Yes, employee engagement is a problem – especially for initiatives in health. But this is one problem that can be overcome with good communication and ubiquitous branding. Also, when the employees realize that this is for their good (and it is something that workforces do not immediately realize), then participation starts ticking up.
Q4. Do you think sports can boost the wellness efforts? What kind of ROI can an organization expect in terms of implementing sporting events as a part of their wellness programs?
Not all ROI is numerical. A sense of camaraderie, doing something together, the shared laughs – they do not fit in any Excel sheet.
Having said that, the company should certainly plan for ROI in the areas of
- Building awareness of the well-being effort
- Adoption of the initiative (not just sports, but overall)
- Getting people to start thinking about health – this is a testament of the efficacy of the programs and
- Advocacy of the effort from participants – since this builds long-term value.
One of our products, called Fit for Life gamifies your functional fitness so people can compete with each other. When we did this recently for the senior management of a tech major, we discovered that senior folks can be reasonably competitive too and that they want to be measured again to see progress.
Q5. What kind of impact does sports have in other life on work aspects like- diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, relationships at work, and corporate social responsibility?
All these efforts are low-hanging fruit for a sport program. For e.g. we mandated women in each football team and that worked very well. Making time for sport bodes well for their work-life balance. Getting silos to make teams and compete against each other gets them to know folks in the heat of battle and forges great relationships inside and across teams. Some challenges, like the Walkers for Life challenge that we have, lends itself to corporate giving very well.
But there are other areas of impact that are not obvious. Sports programs improve morale massively. It makes people understand the value of being fit and the benefits of all-round well-being. Lastly, like the man said, “You learn more about a man in an hour of sport than a day of conversation”.
Q6. What is that one thing one should stop doing and start doing in terms of boosting employees’ health and wellness?
If there is one thing that can be done, then companies should take a good hard look at the food they serve at their cafeterias.
If there is only one thing that can be stopped, then employees should stop eating and sleeping irregularly. I am writing this as someone who is fighting this battle right now.
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