As we move past a time when a full-blown pandemic was punctuated by lockdowns, mask mandates, and increased stress levels, many big impacts continue to linger. Companies are now actively looking both inward and outward with the aim of improving themselves – as a work culture, as an organization, as a place where employees are happy. It is a time where HR leaders are looking at things with a fresh perspective and reimagining what the future holds.
The HR industry is now in a phase of reimagination and innovation and health and wellness have shot up on every organization’s priority list.
In a roundtable session hosted by People Matters and ekincare, and moderated by Panchali Das, HR Head, Zenoti, we had leaders sharing their thoughts about the importance of employee wellness and also best practices. Titled “Reimagining healthcare and wellness for your employer brand Strategy, Technology and Impact”, the discussion brought to the foreground the need to manage employee expectations while providing them with useful and practical health benefits.
Different facets of wellness
“When it comes to mental health and mental wellbeing, we need to educate the leadership about its importance. If there are two things coming in their way – work and employee health – they are supposed to give priority to employee health,” said Swathi Chityala, Manager HR, Head Digital Works, said.
Aruna Preetam, Global Head Total Rewards and Performance, Cyient, agreed. “We all talk about it but don't do enough about it. Firstly, there is the stigma, then there is the awareness, and then there is the action. People don't fully comprehend it. If your team and manager doesn't understand it, where should one go?” she further asked the gathering.
“While we are talking about financial and other kinds of wellness, we also need to focus on career wellness. Post the pandemic I find a lot of employees switching off and not caring about their careers anymore,” Pepsico’s Senior Director and Head HR Avantika Nigam questioned.
Insurance coverage for employees
“One of my observations post the pandemic has been that a lot of our employees have ended up becoming caretakers for the family. And the erstwhile standard insurance coverage of Rs 5 lakhs is not sufficient anymore,” Srinivas Talluri, Senior Manager HRBP and Employee Experience, Cigniti said. “We also need to ensure that the cashless facility we provide can actually be availed in case of emergencies,” he added.
Considering its drastically increased importance to employees and their families, Employee insurance is an area where a lot of organizations have stepped up post the pandemic. Many HR leaders at the discussion, be it from a technology/IT background or manufacturing or essential services, spoke about providing employees with solid insurance plans with flexible top up options.
“More clear cut health avenues for the employees is what is required,” Kingsley Kurien, Deputy General Manager & Group Head - Human Resources, AXIS Clinicals Ltd, said.
“We used to offer voluntary top-ups and I used to wage a battle with my insurer every time trying to make sure we had enough flexibility for our employees,” Aruna Preetam said.
Changes in expectations from employees
Most speakers at the event were also of the view that there had been a very discernible shift in employee expectations with the onset of the pandemic. This shift has persisted even as the pandemic has taken a bit of a backseat (for now).
“A challenge we have faced in the manufacturing sector is providing a “flexible environment”. What is a flexible work environment? Every job has its own challenges and in our sector we can't offer the kind of flexibility that others, especially the IT industry, is offering. But still talent demands it. So how do you figure it out? Because if you don't, you won't get the right talent and you will have to fill positions with mediocre talent,” NFCL’s CHRO Sankara Reesu said.
“It used to be very easy for us to incentivise working in a different timezone. We can no longer convince employees to work according to different timezones,” Cigniti’s Srinivas Talluri said.
“I think during the pandemic people didn't know where to turn to. So the only logical place for that they came back to was the employer. But I agree that employee expectations have outpaced what the employer can offer,” moderator Panchali Das said.
Towards the end of the session, Roopesh Balakrishna, VP Marketing ekincare, steered the conversation towards having quantifiable goals and outcomes when it comes to wellness. “How many of us have defined clear outcomes for health and benefit programs? How do I make sure that when my company puts out a vision statement, health and wellness figures are among the top priorities?” he asked.
“Much before mental wellness was a thing, it was a thing in Pepsico. We have apps related to mental wellness. Hard metrics is where there is scope for us to improve,” Pepsico’s Nigam said.
Better prepared for the future
“We have moved from preventive medicine to chronic medicine, and now we have a new category - emerging diseases. At ekincare, can we predict what will happen in the future? No. But can we learn from it and be better prepared for the future? Most definitely,” Arpit Agarwal, VP Sales, at ekincare said.