Article: Abhishek Gupta on how compassionate leadership drives ZebPay’s culture of wellness

Corporate Wellness Programs

Abhishek Gupta on how compassionate leadership drives ZebPay’s culture of wellness

In conversation with Abhishek Gupta of ZebPay, we learn how their innovative wellness programmes support employees' holistic well-being and drive organisational success.
Abhishek Gupta on how compassionate leadership drives ZebPay’s culture of wellness

Abhishek Gupta is the Head of HR at ZebPay. He is an enthusiastic and innovative HR leader with over a decade of experience and expertise in driving people strategy, policies and programmes in the areas of leadership development, talent management and organisational effectiveness. Before joining ZebPay, Abhishek had worked for brands like KFC India, DP World India, Yes Bank & Capgemini to name a few. He also has many accolades to his name such as ET Now's ‘Young HR Leader of the Year’ and has been recognised as 'Top 35 Young HR Leaders, 2022' by People Business Consulting. 

In this exclusive interview, Abhishek shares his expert insights on what drives successful wellness programmes and the critical role leaders and technological interventions play in driving this agenda.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

In 2024, what do you believe are the key elements of an effective wellness programme, and how can organisations ensure these elements are integrated into their initiatives? 

In today’s time and age, an effective wellness programme must be comprehensive and user-friendly. It should address physical, mental, emotional, and financial well-being by offering various resources that cater to all these needs. To align with flexible work schedules, the programme should have a mobile-first approach, ensuring it is accessible on the go. Organisations should simplify access to these resources and tailor them to individual needs to ensure high adaptability. Employee well-being also requires comprehensive needs assessments and clear objectives to be impactful. A holistic approach ensures that wellness is not just an initiative but a core part of the organisational ethos, with active leadership support and participation.

With the launch of your organisation’s wellness programme, ZEBCARE, could you share how it was conceptualised and the specific outcomes or benefits it has generated for employees and the organisation as a whole?

ZEBCARE, our comprehensive wellness programme, was conceptualised to holistically support the mental, physical, emotional, and financial well-being of our employees. Under this umbrella, we have partnered with Pazcare, a tech-enabled employee benefits management platform, to streamline corporate insurance and wellness facilities. This partnership also ensures our employees have free access to quality 1:1 therapy and counselling sessions, addressing their specific mental health needs.

We took this initiative further by collaborating with Flip Health, offering unique OPD (Outpatient Department) coverage uncommon in many organisations. While corporate insurance covers hospitalisation, Flip Health ensures our employees benefit from medical assistance for OPD needs, including consultations and medications for chronic illnesses, free of cost. In true Ohana(a Hawaiian word meaning “family”) spirit, many of these benefits extend to employees' families, recognising their importance in our ZebPay family.

To support financial well-being, we regularly conduct financial awareness sessions, guiding employees on everything from filing ITR forms to effective wealth management. Internally, we run initiatives like walkathons and yoga challenges, emphasising physical well-being.

We also continuously track the adaptability and usage of these facilities, incorporating real-time feedback to ensure we provide the best support. In our fast-paced startup culture, we prioritise our team’s holistic well-being. When our employees give their 100%, we must ensure they have the best resources. Happy, healthy employees lead to reduced absenteeism, high performance, and increased productivity, benefiting the entire organisation.

As the workforce becomes more diverse and distributed, what strategies do you recommend for organisations to ensure that their well-being initiatives are inclusive and accessible to all employees?

Ensuring inclusivity and accessibility in well-being initiatives will undoubtedly be crucial. At ZebPay, we have implemented several strategies to address these needs effectively. All our initiatives, including wellness programmes, are designed to be gender-neutral. For instance, we offer paternity leave alongside maternity leave, extending these benefits to adoptive parents as well. We provide menstrual leave for female employees, acknowledging the need for rest during this time.

We provide flexible working for our employees which means we have people who work in a hybrid mode while remaining working remotely. Hence, we conduct all physical wellness initiatives and financial awareness workshops virtually. This allows every employee to participate, no matter where they are based. Our wellness partners, such as Pazcare and Flip Health, adopt a mobile-first approach, providing comprehensive coverage across the country. This ensures that all our employees can access and benefit from our wellness programmes, regardless of their location.

How can leadership play a role in nurturing a workplace culture that encourages healthy behaviours and mitigates stress levels among its employees?

Leaders play an imperative role in nurturing a workplace culture that mitigates stress levels among employees. I think for this, leading with compassion is crucial; it fosters loyalty, trust, and a sense of belonging. There is an article published in Harvard Business Review that highlights the research-backed benefits of compassionate leadership, showing that employees are more likely to stay in jobs where they feel valued and supported by their leaders. Compassionate actions by leaders reduce burnout and stress, enhance job satisfaction, and improve overall health.

Effective leaders with good Emotional Intelligence (EQ) prioritise well-being over simply being in charge, creating a positive environment that boosts both individual and team performance. By genuinely caring for their employees' well-being, leaders can cultivate a supportive culture where employees feel understood and appreciated. This approach not only enhances morale but also drives productivity and innovation. Compassion in leadership is thus not just a moral imperative but a strategic advantage, helping organisations thrive in a competitive landscape. At ZebPay, we believe that compassionate leadership is the cornerstone of our Ohana culture, ensuring our employees' holistic well-being and as a result, organisational success.

With advancements in technology reshaping the workplace, particularly in the context of employee well-being, what potential benefits or challenges do you foresee in integrating technology into wellness initiatives?

As mentioned previously, at ZebPay, we leverage tech-enabled platforms like Pazcare and Flip Health to streamline a lot of our wellness benefits. We use platforms like Slack and Zoom to run virtual activities and workshops. These initiatives ensure comprehensive support for our employees' mental, physical, emotional, and financial well-being. So I think potential benefits would include improved accessibility, personalised care, and real-time feedback, leading to higher adaption, engagement, and productivity. However, challenges such as data privacy and ensuring equitable access must be addressed to maximise these benefits across diverse employee demographics.

Drawing from your experience, what advice would you offer to organisations seeking to enhance their employee well-being initiatives?

Organisations should treat employee wellness as a top priority rather than a tick-box activity. I would go so far as to recommend appointing a Wellness Specialist if resources allow for it. At ZebPay, wellness is a core pillar of our engagement framework, not just a buzzword. The 2023 Great Places to Work assessment in India highlights burnout as a significant concern. The study also states that one in four employees struggles to speak up about stress, anxiety, or depression without feeling judged or being worried that they might be considered less adept at taking on larger responsibilities, impacting their growth at work. While mental health benefits are becoming common in workplaces, low utilisation rates show the need for a structured support framework. Therefore, it's crucial to encourage the adoption and use of these services and promote a culture of compassionate leadership. Employees spend a substantial amount of time at work, so it is essential to ensure the workplace positively impacts their well-being.

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Topics: Corporate Wellness Programs, Leadership, Culture, #HRCommunity

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