Emerging Paradigms In Corporate Wellness

Growing incidents of work-related stress and burnout, rampant lifestyle disorders, rising occurrence of non-communicable diseases, perceivable lack of mindfulness in maintaining good health, coupled with the pressing need for building healthy organisational culture have resulted in the emergence of “corporate wellness” as a new paradigm that is redefining employee engagement perspectives across the globe.

 

Corporate wellness refers to the various health promotion initiatives taken by organisations to promote physical, mental, financial and spiritual wellbeing of the employees at the worksite and beyond. The fundamental principle that guides modern day organisations in adopting corporate wellness practices is that any investment in the health of employees would alternatively benefit the organisation, as there would be fewer claims on insurance, higher camaraderie and happiness at the worksite, and employees would be more devoted and productive in their work.

 

While there is no limit to the innovativeness and ingenuity in the structure of these programmes, the purpose more or less remains the same – ensuring general wellbeing of workers, intensifying employee engagement, raising productivity, and cutting down the number of sick leaves and the expenses on health insurance and other operational overheads in the long term. An increasing number of organisations today are realising the importance and benefits of these corporate wellness programmes. For instance, Accenture, in its vested partnership with ISS (a wellness service intermediary) witnessed reduction in 9000 hours of absenteeism and a quantifiable 3% increase in productivity. Union Pacific Railroad, a US based transportation corporation and a strong proponent of industrial wellness had through its own smoking cessation programme achieved radical reduction in the number of employees who smoked – from 40% in 1990s to 17% in 2007. One of the recent reports released by Assocham has suggested that a gross saving of nearly US $ 20 billion could be achieved by Indian companies by incorporating corporate wellness practices. It further estimates that for every rupee spent on wellness programmes, Rs. 132 could be saved on absenteeism cost while another Rs. 6 could be saved on healthcare cost.

 

We could trace back the oldest wellness programmes to the days of human relations movement in the early 20th century, when Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger suggested various workplace changes to boost worker morale and productivity. Subsequently, the various labour legislations, as outcomes of the recurrent interplay between the tripartite machinery of the government, the labour bodies and the employers too have resulted in several progressive developments in the front of occupational health and safety of workers.

 

Corporate wellness programmes today are expanding their scope from mere focus on health to a thrust on a wide array of activities like financial wellbeing, psychological counselling, retirement planning, parental counselling, etc. At this juncture, the emerging cloud-based, integrated digital technologies are playing the role of grand enablers as most of the companies are extensively using these technology-driven tools to provide much deeper level of engagement with employees. The rapid advancement in these Software-as-a-Service technologies and ubiquitous computing have seen a remarkable increase in the number of tools, services, and service providers in the wellness segment. Technology permits effective management of all facets of the employees’ life including diet, weight, physical activities, sleep, daily routine and habits which could be effectively tracked and tuned. Several organisations today are using the services of third party technology providers in delivering an integrated bouquet of dozens of wellness innovations that could be mixed and matched or personalised. These so called wellness intermediaries have strong linkages with the insurers and wellness divisions, health coaching companies, employee assistance providers, group benefit brokers, human resource consulting firms etc.

 

In Quotes “Corporate wellness programmes today are expanding their scope from mere focus on health to a thrust on a wide array of activities like financial wellbeing, psychological counselling, retirement planning, parental counselling, etc.”

 

Various kinds of wellness programmes

 

The wellness deliverables come in a variety of formats. Many companies have in-house wellness programmes while many have outsourced their wellness initiatives to third‑party service providers. In a nutshell, there are three kinds of wellness programmes: awareness-oriented, activity-oriented and result-oriented. While the focus of the awareness-oriented initiatives is to make the employees aware about healthy lifestyle choices through awareness campaigns, workshops, educational programmes, mailers and leaflets etc., activity-oriented programmes are more hands-on in approach by directly involving the people with their proactive participation. Some of the common activity-oriented programmes are gym memberships, weight loss programmes, walkathons, sprints, marathons, sporting events, health fairs etc. The result-oriented wellness initiatives on the other hand provide an integrated and holistic approach in providing a combination of both awareness as well as activity based programmes. They focus on promoting healthy organisational culture through mindfulness and conscious action towards general wellbeing. Some of the wellness innovations in the leading companies have been presented alongside. The wellness solutions offered by the companies could be customised and personalised as per the individual needs of the employee.

 

Noticeable global trends

 

With changing times, wellness perspectives are changing as well. The global wellness industry is expected to grow at the rate of 7% over the next few years. The 2018 Global Wellness Economy Monitor released by GWI estimates the worldwide wellness economy at around $ 4.2 trillion, with the workplace wellness economy at around U$ 47 billion. The report further highlights that barely 10% of the global workforce is covered under any kind of wellness programme. Thus, there is a tremendous opportunity for growth. In India too, the corporate wellness programmes are gaining strong footholds with several companies adopting new age wellness practices to redefine their engagement perspectives with employees. Some of the noticeable global trends related to workplace wellness have been discussed below.

 

1. Diversified Wellness Services: The corporate wellness programmes until recently were focused on smoking cessation and weight loss – the primary concern being the general health of employees. The shift has now expanded to deeper employee engagement through activities more than just physical wellness – this includes, amongst others, combination of financial wellness, mental wellness and career development efforts. More organisations today are offering financial wellness programmes such as personalised retirement planning, investment advisory, portfolio management and insurance services. Besides, mental health programmes too are gaining popularity. While mental health programmes were considered taboo earlier, more employees are embracing mental health programmes today as part of collective workplace wellness initiatives.

 

2. Personalisation: Personalisation permits a deeper level of engagement with employees and is instrumental in building trust and confidence. Organisations aside, even employees across generations are becoming increasingly concerned about maintaining good health and are showing more consciousness about their looks, dressing, and appearance. Moreover, many employees wish to keep a degree of privacy and personalisation in the multitude wellness interventions around. Every employee’s voyage to healthier lifestyle is unique and a “one‑size-fits-all” approach does not produce great results. The new digital platforms permit employers to effectively host their wellness programmes and provide their employees the ability to choose appropriate wellness goals based on age, current health status, interests etc.

 

3. Growing Internet of Things: The developments in AI combined with those of IoT are being extensively used in health management, monitoring, risk assessments, diagnostics and suggesting immediate remedies for better health. The AIs are being ever are used to analyse data received through IoTs for intelligent decision-making, analysis of data, and providing healthcare organisations with better insight and strategies.

 

4. Healthy snacks and natural fruit juices: More organisations today are adopting healthy snacks and drinks in their setup. While the traditional vending machines had high-calorie items like soda, coffee, wafers etc., the new generation vending machines are giving off healthy, low-calorie and nutritious snacks, fruits, dried nuts, veggies etc.

 

5. Alternative Therapies: More corporates today are accepting and incorporating complementary and alternative therapies like Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Yoga, Acupuncture etc. in their workplace for holistic wellbeing of their employees. The Swiss Government specifically permits classical homeopathy and herbal medicine for full coverage under national health insurance. Many homeopathic and ayurvedic wellness service providers like Dr. Batra’s and the Art of Living have corporate partners.

 

6.Sleep Awareness: Sleep deprivation remains a pressing challenge for many young as well as senior workers. A survey conducted by the electronics company Philips found that over 90% of the Indians are sleep-deprived (with sleep less than eight hours). More organisations are realising the importance of good sleep for their employees, and are taking intiatives to ensure that their workers are able to consiously monitor and improvise their sleeping disroders through sleep wellness programmes.

 

It remains to be seen how the corporate wellness industry shapes up in the coming days – nationally and internationally – but one thing could be predicted for sure: more employers would include workplace wellness as one of their high priority concerns and strategies for long-term organisational growth, employee engagement and productivity.

 

EXHIBIT

                                                                                       

COMPANY

ILLUSTRATIVE WELLNESS PROGRAMMES

Accenture

Employee Assistance Programs, Confidential Support, Tell-a-Doc, Discounts for Gyms

Chandler Chicco Agency

Biometric screenings, on-site chair massages

Dell

Colour –coded cafeteria (to encourage more plants), Well at Dell (retirement planning tool)

Eastman Chemical Co.

Personalised financial advice to employees

Expedia UK

Wellness Allowance

Facebook

Transit options (e.g. bike sharing)

Genentech

Guided meditation, business travel health kits, free healthy snacks

Google

People & Innovation (PiLab), Onsite Healthcare Services, Fitness centres, Community Bikes, Financial wellness resources, Volunteer time

Hasbro

Foster care, adoption leave

Intuit

“Fit for Life” program, Mediataion , mindfulness classes

Limeade

Weekly surveys

Microsoft

Volunteering, Smoking Cessation, Zumba Classes, Know Your Numbers (Health Screening), CARES employee assistance program, Free personal and family conselling

Mobify

Yoga classes

Netflix

One year paid time offs to new moms and dads

Nike

Indoor sports

Philips India

Sleep Awareness

Prudential

Financial wellness tolls for workers

SpaceX

Paramedical services (message therapy etc.)

TCS

Joy of Giving, Online learning, Competeive Running Events, stress management counselling, health screening

Tinder

Health Newsletters, Wellness Posters

Walmart

Advance payroll

Zappos

Wellness Adventures, Recess Tuesdays

ZocDoc

Fun Room

Chinmoy Kumar is Founder of The Learning Network (TLN) in Ranchi, Jharkhand and is a faculty member in HR at Institute of Management Studies, Ranchi University, Ranchi. Kumar carries with him more than seventeen years of experience in academic research, teaching, training, placements and academic administration. He has published and presented dozens of articles, papers and case studies on various facets of business management and is an active speaker.

Comment

0/3000 Free Article Left >Subscribe