Mindfulness: Key to unlocking the potential of Wellness programs
Corporate wellness programs are evolved significantly over the years. With the initial intention of ensuring employees remain productive for businesses; they have, in the 21st century, evolved into a program through which companies are aiming to provide their employees a holistic solution in managing their health and well-being in general. Right from introducing health check-ins to providing employees tools and techniques to create a proper ‘work-life balance’, HR professionals have over the years evolved the practice of Wellness programs into a much more robust component of people management practices within the company.
The journey till now has not been without hiccups. By evolving its focus from just investing in employees with high health risks, HR professionals today seek to create a larger appeal within their companies to ensure that such wellness programs get employee participation. This was a major challenge with traditional wellness programs. Built with on the initial premise that "If you build it, employees will come", companies today have realized the importance of engaging more actively with employees to ensure their well-being on a regular basis. This meant the allocation of a specific budget by institutional heads on creating wellness programs without really focusing on how to ensure employee participation.
And this becomes a major headache for many HR professionals as the health of an employee becomes an important factor in ensuring their productivity. A recent Gallup report stated the two most important factors to ensure employee productivity are employee engagement and their well-being. This makes the success of institutionally run wellness program even more critical for HR professionals to drive employee productivity. Healthy employees are essential to the continued growth and productivity of any company. Employee wellness programs can potentially save companies from incurring significant health care costs. Most illness is stress related and directly preventable. Advancements in the field of neuroscience and research on brain science have shown a significant effect of stressful work conditions on an employee’s cognitive ability to perform their jobs more efficiently. The workplace is ideal for promoting healthy habits of employees that can transform corporate culture and improve lives. While most HR professionals today are cognizant of this fact they usually end up designing employee well ness programs that prescriptive and perfunctory.
One of the recent trends within the field of corporate well-being has been the inclusion of ‘mindfulness’ as a practice to help employees cope with increasing work-related related stress and its subsequent effects like anxiety and depression. Being an on-going and continuous process of being cognitively more aware, mindfulness is psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences. By using components like meditation and yoga as a part of it, mindfulness as a practice is increasingly finding application in many modern day wellness programs being run within companies like Google. As a regular practice, it provides the following advantages to employees:
It Makes Your Brain Adaptable
A vital benefit of meditation has been its effects on the way the human brain is structured to function. Research reports and MRI findings have shown that regular meditation allows brain to modify itself, both structurally and functionally, on the basis of the stimulus given to it. This feature of the brain is called neuroplasticity. If executed with the right intent and vigor, it can help employees to create new neural pathways that help them adjust to changing work demands while keeping their cognitive and emotional well-being in check.
It makes current wellness programs more effective
Mindfulness activities like meditation and yoga have shown to provide employees a stronger mental and physical well-being that in turn, increases the effectiveness of other components of an employee wellness programs that a company runs. For example in an institutional research 2008, Dr. Zusman asked hospital patients suffering from high blood pressure to try a meditation-based relaxation program for three months instead of medication. Afterwards, 40 of the 60 patients showed significant drops in blood pressure levels. The reason is that relaxation results in the formation of nitric oxide which opens up the blood vessels for better circulation. Such benefits strengthen the impact of other wellness initiatives.
It helps create stronger impacts by reducing costs
Another benefit of implementing mindful practices is the cost advantage it provides over other wellness techniques. Being predominantly an introspective process of being aware of the external and internal functioning on the human psyche, HR professionals don’t incur significant cost when it comes to establishing a corporate wellness program which provides yoga and meditational facilities. But HR professionals need to ensure that encouraging such practices must also go beyond creating stop-gap structures like offering lunchtime yoga at the office. The practice needs to be integrated in the way the company functions and looks at well-being programs
In the end, the success of any corporate wellness program comes down to integrating it into the company's culture. Implementing changes that build mindfulness into your company’s culture will allow the benefits of your corporate wellness program to extend throughout; even beyond the workplace.