Wellness can’t be a temporary activity, but has to be a way of life. It needs constant thought and practice such that it becomes a part of one’s lifestyle
Any health and wellness initiative can’t be successful unless it is planned in a strategic way, keeping in mind the specific needs of its employees, considering the environment they live and operate in
The proverbial fact that ‘Health is the true Wealth’ was established ages ago. According to Lord Buddha, “To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
However, the reality is rather unhealthy. A recent study by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)1 showcased that 53 per cent of the total number of deaths in India are caused by lifestyle-induced illnesses and the number is going to rise up to 67 per cent by 2030. Cardiovascular diseases make up a shocking 52 per cent out of the 53 per cent. The data clearly points to one fact: New-age behavioural patterns and corporate lives are stealthily leading to deteriorating health and low life expectancy despite all kinds of medical advancements. The consequences of such deteriorating health not just reflects on the people or their families, but ultimately affects the economies and nations in turn.
Global body World Health Organization in its study ‘The Impact of Chronic Disease in India’2 reported that premature deaths caused by heart disease, stroke and diabetes will result in a loss of $237 billion for India by 2015.
Work-life balance for most people has become a mere concept. Owing to the risks involved with workplace stress and the changing lifestyle of employees, organizations are increasingly realizing that it is not only their responsibility to keep their workforce healthy, but it is also beneficial for reducing costs and contributing to business success in the long run. Employers are also looking at introducing wellness initiatives in collaboration with CSR programs to enhance their corporate image and also to be seen as an employer of choice. This is the prime reason why wellness programs have grown into a $6 billion industry. There is still more scope for growth and improvement.
Why invest in wellness
There are various reasons why matured organizations are trusting innovative wellness programs to help them control employee health costs and improve productivity in turn leading to overall business success.
Cost control: Lynette Nazareth, Program Director, Chestnut Global Partners says, “The economic value for an employer implementing a health and wellness initiative could well be a 3:1 return on investment. This makes it even wiser for employers to invest in wellness.” Studies indicate direct (employee healthcare cost) and indirect cost (absenteeism and presenteeism) savings through well-implemented wellness programs.
Control Absenteeism & Presenteeism: Every year, an average corporate house loses 2 per cent of its profit margins to the workforce due to disability, absenteeism and attendance, and poor quality of work incurred with ill health, the Financial Express3 published recently. Organizations have been seeking wellness programs to tackle absenteeism for a few years now. But, they are also grappling with presenteeism – a state of being at work but not being productive – one of the many consequences of a sloppy lifestyle.
Enhanced happiness quotient: Health is not just about curative initiatives, but about holistic wellness including mental, emotional and physical health. Dr Om Manchanda, CEO, Dr Lal Pathlabs shares, “Wellness players have shifted their focus from traditional offerings like curative healthcare and value oriented mass products to new generational offerings like preventive healthcare, luxury products and personalized services.” This shift in offerings is meant to cater to the emotional aspect of health, attracting employees towards a healthy lifestyle leading to better work life balance, mental well-being along with physical fitness.
Increased productivity and employee morale: Happy and healthy employees tend to perform better than ones suffering from stress or illnesses. Nazareth of Chestnut Global Partners points out, “A happy, healthy and engaged workforce will have a direct positive effect on productivity through improved overall presenteeism and employee retention at the workplace.” Although the monetary results become apparent only after 2-3 years of executing a wellness program, the benefits in the long run are a sure shot delight both for the business and the employees.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Most Indian organizations initially viewed health and wellness initiatives as a cost burden, however they are now capitalizing these initiatives to build on a better corporate image and be seen as more socially responsible. Some organizations are calling it ‘social wellness’ involving employees in volunteering and contributing to the society through various community initiatives. Such programs help engage multiple generations and are also an indirect yet effective way of focusing on mental and psychological wellness. Moreover, it proves how socially responsible an organization is.
Implementing a successful wellness initiative
Any health and wellness initiative can’t be successful unless it is planned in a strategic way, keeping in mind the specific needs of its employees, considering the environment they live and operate in. Explaining how it can be done, Jovita Lall, Director India, Morneau Shepell, says, “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”.
Once the focus is set and a strategy is in place, the organization needs to decide on a health and wellness program that fits its employees the best. The key considerations in making this decision should be the reputation, experience, technology, network, customizability and accuracy of the service provider and its program. Another factor is the confidentiality of information as Dr. Subhasish Sircar, Founder & CEO, Health Vectors Pvt. Ltd. says, “The most sacrosanct virtue of a health and wellness service provider is its data security and confidentiality as most people are highly sensitive about sharing their personal health information in their professional circle.”
The next most crucial step towards ensuring good health is creating awareness around lifestyle issues and their impact. A wellness initiative is more about driving a change than forcing employees to follow a regime prescribed by the program; and it is the responsibility of the HR to ignite this change process and keep it going. Lall of Morneau Shepell says, “The HR or wellness teams can effectively market these programs internally, creating an awareness and making employees see their greater good as an outcome to these.”
Lastly, wellness can’t be a temporary activity, but has to be a way of life. It needs constant thought and practice such that it becomes a part of one’s lifestyle. This is why organizations are innovating in the way they motivate and reward employees for setting and achieving health goals. Dr Manchanda of Dr Lal Pathlabs, shares, “Through unique incentives for employees and their families, companies can improve the impact of wellness programs. Moreover, to make it an element of the organizational culture, some leading companies have also executed ‘from the top’ strategies in wellness programs”.
One line by Arthur Schopenhauer, the famous German philosopher best concludes this as, “The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness”. The message for organizations here is that they cannot afford to ignore employee health and wellness. By not implementing health and wellness programs, they might save some money but it would prove to be very costly in terms of employee productivity. Only the organizations that bring about a change in their outlook towards employee health and wellness and enabling people to believe in the importance of a holistically healthy lifestyle will be able to make the most out of their wellness programs and also the efficiency of their employees in the long run.