Article: Wellness-driven productivity: Strategies to improve employee experience

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Wellness-driven productivity: Strategies to improve employee experience

Industry leaders decode the current wellness trends in India and discuss how to meet employee expectations for higher adoption and participation.
Wellness-driven productivity: Strategies to improve employee experience

In today's fast-paced and competitive work environment, employees expect the right experience at work – one that helps them thrive in the workplace and life outside. But, more than three-quarters of all Indian workers reported low levels of well-being, and 67 per cent believe that well-being at work is the employer's responsibility. This makes it essential for organisations to design wellness practices that boost employee retention, workplace experience and overall well-being. 

But what factors contribute to current low levels of well-being adoption, and how can employers meet employee expectations? To answer these questions and more, People Matters organised a roundtable discussion in association with MediBuddy on ‘Wellness-Driven Productivity: Strategies to Improve Employee Experience’. With HR experts from diverse industries participating in this insightful discussion, there were fresh and riveting insights on India's current state of wellness adoption. This article is based on key takeaways from the roundtable discussion.

Top employee wellness trends for organisations in 2024

Here are the top wellness priorities for businesses in the coming year: 

Increase authenticity and sincerity: Wellness programs must not depend on buzzwords or trends for sustenance and adoption. In the zest to do something big, HR professionals tend to take over the wellness agenda, and an element of coercion comes in. We must try not to link wellness with productivity because if the efforts are sincere, workplace culture, values and efficiency will improve automatically. Instead, focus on managerial effectiveness to make people feel engaged, valued and aligned with the program's goals. 

Enhanced focus on mental wellness: The post-pandemic world requires greater attention to the mental and emotional wellness of employees. There has been a massive shift in the workforce and the leadership expectations since the pandemic, and interventions that alleviate stress and anxiety are amongst the top requests. HR leaders must respond to this change quickly and make mental wellness integral to the overall health matrix.

Build long-term wellness goals and strategic plans: The era of annual or piecemeal wellness goals that simply leverage the latest ‘it’ technology or trend is giving way to more long-term and strategic wellness planning. Organisations today realise that achieving results through wellness programs takes time and requires consistency. We need comprehensive frameworks that target all aspects of health but also make these programs a part of longer five or ten-year organisational goals.

Career security and development: Job security, career planning and professional growth are critical to ensure overall employee well-being. Training managers and leaders to create relevant opportunities, build employee aspirations, identify potential and enable people to grow is one key method to achieve this goal. 

Moving from ROI to ROV: With diverse employee needs and expectations competing for the same set of resources, we need to get better at curating wellness programs that cater to many people’s individual goals. Although the importance of ROI cannot be understated, there’s a need to embrace new concepts like ‘return on value’ for measuring the impact of wellness programs. Moving the needle in the positive direction counts as progress, and we must acknowledge the role of wellness initiatives, even if we are not able to fully measure them accurately.

Integrate empathy with wellness: Organisations must be empathetic, non-intrusive and compassionate while designing and executing well-being initiatives. To enable managers to lead with empathy, we need to take the wellness agenda beyond productivity and numbers. Understand each individual, their perspective and needs, so you can read your talent to read your talent.

Tailor initiatives for different cohorts: Customisation of wellness offerings using technology can help organisations serve everyone’s needs effectively. There’s a need to leave legacy practices and policies behind to understand which interventions create value for people. Identifying different cohorts, like single women, single parents, working parents, freshers and soon-to-retire employees, will have different priorities. However, there’s a need to strike a balance between customisation and consistency, as hyper-customisation of policies can reduce the stability and application of the program. 

How to establish ROI of wellness programs for leadership buy-in and sponsorship

HR leaders suggest the following best practices to obtain organisational support for launching and expanding well-being initiatives: 

Focus on tracking awareness levels: If you are starting a new program and are struggling to find its impact, start by measuring the awareness levels across different teams. Building awareness is the first to positive action, and by measuring awareness, we can identify self-motivated individuals and build engagement strategies for better adoption.

Through informal mechanisms, such as one-on-one mentorship sessions from experienced coaches and employee assistant programs, we can help employees achieve greater health awareness, offer clarifications and help build better work-life balance. 

Capture the nuance of wellness in metrics: Well-being is a complex and expansive concept encompassing several different aspects of health, and it is necessary to track different data points to make a stronger case in front of the top leadership. 

Finding the right parameter for each distinct well-being vertical can make it easier to compare and track progress. While absenteeism is a reliable indicator of physical wellness, attrition and compensation transparency are tied to financial well-being. Similarly, the ability to drive initiatives, accept challenges and achieve results can indicate the mental well-being of an individual.

Get the pulse of the people: Establishing formal and informal channels of communication that can gather authentic feedback and opinions from the workforce is critical to measuring accurate results. Some companies have a portal that allows people to voice their concerns and feedback exclusively to the HR team. The goal is to make HR confidential and approachable and encourage people to open up without hesitation or fear of repercussions.

Leverage technology: The use of technology is critical to collect wellness trends and practices that may otherwise be lost. What gets measured gets done and gets valued. When using technology to capture data, we can get insights like the peak hours or days that require well-being counselling. HR must capture and integrate these lessons into the wellness program.

Use social connections: Implementation and measurement of wellness programs can be more seamless if there is a conscious effort to build a sense of community in achieving goals collectively. With contests like taking 10,000 steps a day or losing the most weight, we can bring the community element in wellness programs as collective effort can work as more effective motivators, providing better psychological support to people.

The element of community is critical when measuring mental health impact, as these interventions work better in smaller teams.  

Measure the intangible: Finally, many aspects of wellness existing tools and programs are not designed to be measured. Without getting fixated too much on individual scores and metrics, try to measure the intangible aspects of wellness, such as the culture and energy level in the workforce. Maybe looking at the internal NPS score can help leaders understand any changes in this regard and indicate the impact of well-being programs.

Workplace wellness: A delicate balance between customisation and consistency 

Authentic care and sincere compassion need to be the foundation of programs that can genuinely benefit people. With a plethora of technology available, HR leaders need to focus on specific aspects of the program for accurate measurement. Without being intrusive or coercive, we need to be open to listening to employees, giving them autonomy and supporting them in aligning personal wellness goals with their professional routines.

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Topics: Talent Management, Corporate Wellness Programs, #Wellbeing

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