Employee Wellness: Why Should Corporates Care
Enhancing productivity has been a matter of priority for most companies in the last few years. From processes to pricing, companies have consistently and persistently aimed at bettering their output for more returns. However, the ambit of reaching the expected boost in productivity has witnessed a notable change in the current ecosystem, with an increasing number of health-conscious millennials who are entering the workforce, becoming an active part of steering the process. Companies have now increasingly begun to acknowledge the value of their employees’ contribution to their growth process and that their physical and mental well-being is directly proportional to their productivity output.
Several wellness programs have been formed to cater to the health needs of employees and to pave way for the workplace to be doted upon as one that cares about its employees. After all, stress alleviation is critical in preventing a company’s financial performance from being negatively impacted. A recent study stated that stress and absenteeism cost about Rs. 49.6 crore in the IT/ITeS sector (for an organization with an average employee base of 10,000), Rs. 105.48 crore for the finance/banking sector (average employee base of 5,000), and Rs. 10.5 crore for the travel and hospitality sector (average employee base of 2,000) in total organizational productivity loss annually in India. With such jarring financial stakes, it becomes crucial for companies to proactively help employees tackle and overcome stress.
One route that companies have tried and tested in the stride is introducing corporate wellness programs, which focus on the overall well-being of the employee. A recent meta-analysis of the US market found that each dollar spent on wellness programs saves $3.27 in health care costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs. Perhaps, this explains why the corporate wellness industry is estimated to be worth nearly $8 billion in the U.S. and is expected to witness a growth of nearly 7.8% till 2021. Globally, these programs are estimated to be a $40 billion market despite just 9% of the global workforce experiencing or accessing such programs. This presents a massive opportunity for fitness and wellness firms to evangelize this concept to organizations.
The reasons for companies incorporating such programs are manifold. A key reason being that such programs have a direct impact on the bottom-line of a company – a fact proven by several studies. A report by Harvard Business Review stated that inspired employees are 125% more productive than those who are merely satisfied. Therefore, it certainly goes without saying that companies have been investing millions in ensuring that their employees are happy and inspired.
From programs that aim to improve employees’ health through exercise regimes and healthy diet, companies have been adopting several strategies that help employees boost their motivation at work. Many leading MNCs are increasingly opting for office spaces with an inbuilt gym or are even offering heavily subsidized corporate memberships in well-known fitness centres within proximity to their offices, to encourage easy employee accessibility. Additionally, physical activities like Zumba, aerobics and other workout sessions are being promoted in companies to balance the health and lifestyle of employees who tend to have sedentary jobs.
In the last few years, companies have also begun serving full-fledged meals for those who spend much of their time either commuting during rush hours or working in the office for extended periods. Amidst this, companies have started to realize that the diet that an employee has is a crucial part of maintaining their well-being, and are therefore placing greater emphasis on serving healthier meals. Today, the corporate meal program is more about employee engagement and health as key priorities, rather than the basic need to satisfy hunger.
Estimates suggest that in countries like France, Spain, Italy, UK, and USA, nearly 75% of employees prefer to take breaks during which over 90% choose to eat or drink something. Companies have taken note of these trends as an opportunity to encourage their employees to indulge in healthy eating by placing salad bars and fresh juice counters. They have even started bringing in specialist caterers to help create a more personalized and invigorating environment for their employees. The trend of serving tailor-made meals is also being adopted rapidly by caterers in the form of live cooking counters, to specifically address health issues like food allergies, cholesterol, and diabetes. These caterers also generally offer round-the-clock services to meet the varying work shifts of employees.
A well-known example of meals contributing to more productivity was once witnessed in a leading French company’s strategy meeting discussion. A conscious decision to change the lunch menu to include trendy superfoods like multigrain sandwiches, muesli, leafy salads, granola bars, dried fruits and fresh vegetable juices resulted in a 10% increase in the number of ideas presented. Additionally, the consumption of coffee reduced substantially, while the meeting itself extended by about half an hour for the first time.
The correlation between healthy employees and increased productivity has been an established fact for long. And with the spotlight on talent acquisition and employee retention, such corporate wellness programs help companies to form a closer personal bond with their employees. These programs are increasingly becoming a matter of necessity rather than choice, to increase productivity and efficiency - a primary goal for any organization. To guarantee these returns, it becomes just as necessary to not only adopt such programs but to also enhance the experience that the employees derive from it, in order to stay inspired, showcase better results and eventually boost the bottom-lines.