According to the Health and Wellness Progress Report, a collaboration between the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and Deloitte Global, a record number of two million employees engaged in health and wellness initiatives in 2018.
Organisations are increasingly investing in holistic wellness programs, which go beyond the physical aspects of wellbeing, taking the emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental, financial and spiritual nuances of employee wellbeing into consideration. Studies show that, if implemented right, holistic wellness programs can increase an employee’s physical activity, reduce medical expenses, discourage absenteeism and enhance employee engagement.
An initiative of the Association of Human Resource Professionals (AHRP) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the HR Think Tank Sri Lanka will be hosting a ‘Think Tank on Holistic Wellness’ on 24 October 2019.
Ahead of the event, AHRP President and Brandix Group Chief People Officer Ishan Dantanarayana offered perspective on several related issues. The following are excerpts of the interview.
Q: Why does holistic wellness matter in the workplace?
Today, there are multiple ways an organisation can quickly source funds and resources, but people remain its most important asset. Talent has become the differentiator in driving customer delight, achieving organisational goals, executing strategic plans, fuelling top-line and bottom-line growth, overcoming business challenges, driving innovation, facing competition, increasing productivity and harnessing the best of resources.
Employees should be sufficiently motivated if they are to contribute their best. Employees who are not motivated will not realise their full potential. Organisations usually do not notice the link between a lack of motivation and suboptimal performance. Therefore, the opportunity cost of the unmotivated workforce is not recognised. As such, attracting, motivating and retaining top talent is critical.
In this setting, holistic wellness plays a pivotal role since it considers the overall wellbeing of an employee. Holistic wellness nurtures a culture of caring, connectedness and inspiration within an organisation. The positive effects of holistic wellness initiatives contribute to higher perceived value of the workplace by employees.
Holistic wellness programs take a genuine interest in the employee’s mental, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental, financial and spiritual wellbeing. An imbalance in any of these aspects has a direct impact on the employee as well as the organisation. Thus, uplifting holistic wellness contributes to the optimal functioning of an organisation.
Q: How does holistic wellness differ from the concept of health that we are all accustomed to?
Holistic wellness considers not just physical health but many other aspects that impact an employee. Traditional wellness programs only focus on employees’ physical wellbeing as the repercussions of ill health and communicable diseases directly contribute to a lack of productivity, affecting absenteeism in the workforce. Physical health programs include programs such as yoga, aerobics, cross fit, personal training, nutrition care, weight loss programs, health monitoring and screening, promotion of organic food, health hotlines, health dashboards and awareness programs on living healthy.
However, there are many other wellness aspects that are not directly visible. For example, the business ethos, sustainability, impact on the environment, company values, ergonomic and safe workspaces—all of these contribute to the holistic wellbeing of employees.
Today, employee-centric organisations consider mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing to be of the utmost importance. Many employees face high stress, anxiety and burnout in their jobs due to the fast-paced nature of the digitally-driven business world, organisational transformation, rapid change and around-the-clock work. In turn, this negatively affects productivity, focus, health and work-life balance. Stress induced at the workplace can even lead to depression.
Financial wellness is a key pillar of holistic wellness. Employees who fail to manage their finances always live on the edge. They constantly worry about their financial security and future. This affects productivity. Financially insecure employees do not feel comfortable highlighting issues or providing candid feedback due to a fear of them losing their jobs or positions. This hinders organisational progress. Hence, organisations must consider the high opportunity cost of financial insecurity, which affects the organisation immensely.
Q: What are the new trends in workplace holistic wellness in Sri Lanka?
While the focus on employee health is gaining attention in Sri Lanka, holistic wellness has much more scope to grow. Some best practices in the workplace are assisting employees categorise themselves into Green, Amber and Red categories based on self-evaluation in terms of mental and physical wellbeing. Thereafter, assistance is provided to employees to improve their holistic wellbeing through initiatives such as counselling, stress management and health and fitness coaching.
Today, employee-centric organisations consider mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing to be of the utmost importance. Many employees face high stress, anxiety and burnout in their jobs due to the fast-paced nature of the digitally-driven business world, organisational transformation, rapid change and around-the-clock work. In turn, this negatively affects productivity, focus, health and work-life balance. Stress induced at the workplace can even lead to depression
Encouraging employees to work in stress-free workspaces, creating workspaces close to nature, enabling employees to telecommute and work from home are flexible work arrangements which help employees maintain work-life balance.
Mindfulness at the workplace is also gaining momentum as a method of stress reduction and burnout prevention.
Overall, new holistic wellness programs focus on creating a richer employee experience through better self-care, higher engagement and customised programs.
Q: What can organisations do to promote mental and financial wellness in the workplace?
Workplace mental wellness is often misunderstood. Mental wellness goes beyond one-on-one counselling and resolving emotional challenges. It is much larger than that. Companies today use internationally-recognised tools to evaluate the mental health of employees and to promote mental wellbeing.
These tools can also measure the overall mental health of an organisation. They benchmark a company’s mental wellbeing, identify fluctuations and measure the impact of mental health initiatives. The ability to quantify mental wellness allows HR to demonstrate the ROI of mental health initiatives.
Financial wellness is an area where employees require coaching and guidance. For example, guidance on selecting a car lease, a personal loan or a housing loan can go a long way. Some employees spend beyond what they can actually afford through credit cards; then there are others who are used to impulse buying. Mental resilience is required to lead a simple life and to evaluate choices before making a purchase. Financially troubled employees can be helped through in-office financial wellness coaching, and even an awareness session on financial literacy can be very effective. These sessions can be extended to help employees plan their retirement, allowing them to manage their income and expenses after retirement appropriately.
Q: How can we get employees on board with holistic wellness programs?
Awareness. A simple awareness campaign targeting wellness aspects can change the life of employees and encourage the entire workforce. HR can be innovative in terms of communicating, creating a buzz and executing engaging wellness programs. Some companies utilise gamification to promote wellness initiatives. In addition, Artificial Intelligence-based (AI) tools, health hotlines and health rewards exist, which are easy to adopt. Employees will fully buy into a holistic wellness program if they feel the intention is well-placed; ensure genuine communication and welcoming discussion or else organisations run the risk of being seen as insincere.
Q: What is HR’s role in promoting holistic wellness?
HR must have a genuine interest in uplifting the holistic wellness of employees. In doing so, HR can achieve much. It can share best practices within the organisation and across peer organisations and play an observer’s role. In addition to using recognised tools and surveys, HR must sense the overall wellness of the organisation through their eyes. HR can monitor whether people work late, fall sick frequently, get absent often and look at factors that affect positive workplace climate such as office air quality, lighting, ambience and whether canteens offer healthy food choices.
Employee experience and engagement are aspects that directly affect employee wellness. HR must ensure that workplaces are safe, value-driven and not bureaucratic. Employee experience plays a critical role in executing successful holistic wellness programs.
HR can also promote affordable tools and technologies that help employees maintain holistic wellness. Today there are plenty of AI and gamification-based tools. These can be used to promote and execute employee wellness among employees.
HR must contribute towards creating a culture where employees can communicate openly and freely so that issues that affect wellness are communicated bottom-up.
Furthermore, organisations can employ counsellors, get their feedback and encourage leaders to align their thoughts, actions and investments according to a strategy conducive to wellness.
It is incumbent upon HR to make a case for leadership to invest in wellness initiatives. HR must show that spending on wellness programs is not a cost but an investment.
Improving holistic wellness in an organisation must not be an HR-only responsibility. HR must play the roles of facilitator, enabler and thought-provider while leadership must own the responsibility of workplace holistic wellness.
Q: What advice do you have for an organisation which wants to initiate a holistic wellness program?
Start with a small yet impactful program. Then leverage the positive outcomes of that program to convince your leadership to invest more. Always listen to feedback. Engage the leadership to drive it through a journey in pursuit of excellence and genuine care.