Organizations need to look beyond the usual health checks and focus on helping their employees be physically and mentally resilient
Companies are using advanced technologies to drive lifestyle and behavioural changes aimed at achieving a healthy mind and body
Earlier, a large number of deaths were due to communicable diseases. With the advancement of medical technologies, the number of premature deaths caused by such diseases, especially in the middle and upper middle income classes, has gone down significantly. However, today stress, lifestyle and behavioural concerns are leading to people suffering from unprecedented health issues, resulting in strokes and in some cases even death.
Stress, both physical and mental, has become the primary factor for illnesses leading to absenteeism and disengaged employees, which in turn impacts productivity drastically. There is a need for organizations to recognize this alarming trend and focus on physical and mental health as well as the overall wellness of their employees to help them be productive in the longer run. The good news is that organizations in India are increasingly realizing the need for focused health and wellness programs for their employees.
Technology-enabled health assessments
Unlike a few years ago, when a health and wellness program was only about regular corporate health checks, organizations are now looking at the importance of emotional wellness and using advanced technologies to drive lifestyle and behavioural changes. With technology, organizations are now able to conduct ‘employee total health assessments’ and analyse the ‘corporate health intelligence data’ to predict the right matches for the required fitness program. These tools and techniques enable effective wellness interventions that are not just any other policy-based formality, but a real benefit for the employees.
An organization can determine its workforce health trends through a health risk assessment survey and take the required corrective actions. For instance, if a manufacturing organization finds out that a majority of its employees smoke, they could roll out an anti-smoking program or another organization finds out that a majority of its people are inactive/obese, they can implement a running program. Technology has also enabled effective online and wireless activity tracking programs such as Morneau Shepell’s ‘Fitness Coach Connects’ that track an individual’s daily activity, steps taken, sleep, calorie count etc. With this personal activity data and information, one can be self-motivated to achieve better results as part of their day-to-day routine to keep the health consequences at bay. Organizations that have implemented such programs encourage people to set higher goals for themselves each time. In an endeavour to promote health and wellness, some organizations are also offering interesting incentives like badges, movie tickets etc. to employees for achieving these health goals.
EAP for holistic wellness
One solution that needs more focus in India is Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). These programs have a strong focus on mental well-being of employees and are very helpful for organizations in dealing with workplace conflicts, violence, restructuring initiatives, layoffs and similar situations where people might need counselling and moral support. Since the EAP provider has a professional network of counsellors, it enables round-the-clock help and assistance to employees and even their families in certain cases. The counsellors can be reached through telephone, online or in-person. Employees can even seek counselling help for personal matters related to family, relationships etc. apart from work, which helps bring in real work-life balance. Moreover, great care is taken to maintain high confidentiality of any personal information shared. Such programs are suited to both white collar and blue collar employees across various organizations and industries as these are highly customizable.
Although a few matured organizations in India have already implemented EAP, there is still an awareness gap about these programs in India. Few organizations have a dedicated wellness team, but despite this, support from HR and the management team is most crucial in implementing a successful EAP or any wellness initiative.
The HR, management or wellness teams can effectively promote these programs internally, creating an awareness and making employees see their greater good as an outcome to these. HR teams also need to be cautious in choosing a health and wellness programs. They need to consider the service provider’s overall experience, expertise and its technology before deciding on one. Last but not the least, a health and wellness program cannot be successful in the absence of consistent efforts.