In our previous article Boosting the well-being of your Employees during Covid-19, we touched on how this pandemic has been causing different negative effects and outcomes on our well-being at home and at work.
Let’s go back a step to look deeper into Corporate Wellness programs. According to Forbes, corporate wellness isn’t a new concept. Johnson & Johnson’s Live for Life program, often referenced as the prototype for corporate worksite wellness programmes, was started as early as 1979. Then, it was seen as ground-breaking. Offering their employees on-site access to behaviour modification tools and educating them on topics such as stress management and nutrition was at that time unheard of.
Fast forward 40 years, where are we now? One would have thought that in these modern times, this concept of corporate wellness would have become so established that all workers would find their workplace euphoria. That is however, not the case and the concept of workplace wellness is never more important and relevant than right now.
What does Corporate Wellness mean to you?
Corporate Wellness in a nutshell simply means adequate and appropriate support at the workplace that encourages holistic employee wellbeing with an ingrained culture of mental, emotional and physical health.
A business that puts wellness at the core should have a structured and maintained programme that offers a wellness solution which cultivates healthy habits among employee populations and improves health outcomes, while also increasing productivity – win, win. If corporate wellness is properly entrenched and implemented, it should boost employee engagement and high returns on investments.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. As businesses grow, it may be hard to maintain a consistent culture especially if leaders do not make the effort to ensure that corporate wellness remains a priority.
An important consideration is your employee profile. Are you a large multinational corporation or a medium sized firm? As a broad example, if you have a young and vibrant workforce, they may appreciate meditation courses or fitness workouts together online as a way to boost connectivity, engagement and managing stress levels. If your staffing profile is more family oriented, you might want to consider childcare support or conduct some activities virtually to include the kids.
Employee Well-being as a priority
Unless and until corporate wellness becomes an integrated part of your corporate culture, it will fall by the wayside. Having a priority list of your goals, will make it easier for you to design and stick with a corporate wellness programme that suits you.
Engaging a third party provider to design a wellness programme and facilitate the sessions would definitely help as a launching pad and provide more sustainable outcomes rather than planning ad-hoc Wellness activities i.e. jogging or cooking or inviting guest experts to speak on topics and then just forget about them.
These activities are unable to track true results on employees well-being and are hard to measure for ROI.
In the short term, perhaps leaders can ignore a decline of employee wellness. In the long run however, there will be an inevitable drop in productivity. There will be burnouts and low staff morale and your business might even suffer reputational damage resulting in difficulties retaining and attracting talent.
The key to any successful corporate wellness programme therefore is the ongoing commitment of the leaders to keep corporate wellness at the forefront of everything it does. Tailor it to your company needs. Remind your team about it. Normalise it. Make it a part of the work day as opposed to an add on if you have time. Select a few seniors or Leaders who are passionate about Wellness and nominate them as Wellness or Well-being Champs to spearhead this program and engage their executives.
Preparing a healthy office environment for the Post Covid era
While the return to physical offices is probably some months off and likely to be staggered, it may be time for businesses to prepare their future work environment and how they can create a healthy and hygienic workplace.
The measures don't have to be huge. They could be small adjustments. For example, do you have adequate hand sanitizers and hand-washing facilities in place? Are there anti-bacterial wipes available at each work desk? Are there readily accessible cleaning supplies to ensure that hot spots such as desk tops and telephone areas are kept clean? It might be advisable to appoint "hygiene ambassadors" within the workplace to ensure that there are people taking ownership of maintaining the cleanliness at the workplace.
Workers will likely feel some level of anxiety going back to work and if the business is seen to be taking ownership and responsibility for creating a healthy and clean office environment, this will help put your employees' minds at ease quickly.
Employees well-being during and post Covid-19 landscape
During this period of increased remote working, leaders should make a concerted effort to ensure employees are not feeling isolated and that they maintain a strong sense of purpose. Many employers have converted to utilising video technology for virtual face-to-face meetings to try and replicate in-person meetings as much as possible, making sure everyone has the chance to contribute and and feel purposeful. Encourage ‘virtual moments’ which are non work-related e.g a virtual coffee or game to build or maintain work colleague connections.
If your organisation already has an existing Wellness and Medical program designed to offer employees benefits, then during this pandemic — consider further expanding your offerings to include additional services:
Paid caregiver leave for employees caring for an ill family member.
Full coverage for virtual doctor visits and online health care services.
Support employees looking to make their space more conducive to productivity by offering reimbursements for home office equipment, like ergonomic chairs or monitors.
Deliver care packages of healthy snacks to colleagues and their families.
Get team members moving by hosting a weekly virtual workout class that even their families can participate in. Make sure to provide easy access to a virtual personal trainer who supports physical health for different age demographics and make it inclusive for non-able bodied employees.
For Working mothers with little ones – consider introducing staggered hours or having story time for kids to help create a supportive environment for childcare.
Some of the above services mentioned will depend on the profile of the corporation to implement, e.g. MNCs may tend to have more resources and structure to provide these benefits.
Engagement Levels and Constant feedback
For Wellness programs to make sense, identify what your overriding causes and concerns are as a starting point. Take advantage of this pandemic period while working remotely to strategise and strengthen the well-being of your staff. Observe and re-evaluate.
Boosting and sustaining the well-being of your teams doesn't end with the introduction of a programme. Staff needs to be consulted and engaged. Before implementation, wellness programs should include prior assessment and feedback from your teams and continuous monitoring.
Our team at Engaging Leaders likes to do things a little differently and uniquely with our Wellness experiences. We facilitate sessions such as Gratitude Challenge or Reach Out hour. Both experiences involve employees having high levels of interaction with their peers and giving back to others in small ways.
With the Coronavirus still at the back of many people’s minds and new social norms still causing stress and anxiety at home and work, this is the time to look at the flip side. What’s actually going right? People who express gratitude cope better with stress and have shown to recover more quickly from illness, and enjoy more robust physical and emotional health, including lower blood pressure and better immune function. This will in turn, boost mental health levels, which has become more prevalent during this difficult time.
Everything a true leader does is always through the lens of care and support. It is easier if your company culture has the foundation set right, hence everything else will fall into place and there is no better time to adjust this than right now. Corporate Wellness initiatives should be a staple in every company's DNA. Now, make it a considerable difference in helping teams become more of a community than a company.
Monica Tan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Tan, Engaging Leaders, leads our clients through a journey of performance and change. With more than 15 years of client and project management experience, she serves as a key advisor to our clients.