Healthy employees equal healthy companies
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had emphasized health and well-being as crucial and pivotal issues to human society.
Good health and well-being is the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of the UN, part of the 17 interlinked global goals launched in 2015 and designed to be “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” Two years later, specific target goals, action plans, and success indicators were drawn up for each SDG.
In 2018, the WHO launched the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA), encouraging all nations to prepare their infrastructure and programs to boost any and all forms of exercise among their populations. According to the WHO, 20% of people around the world do not meet the weekly minimum requirement of 150 minutes of moderate activity to achieve good health. Consequently, that percentage of the world population is projected to become obese by 2025.
Today, it’s 2022, and the WHO has warned that the sedentary nature of people during the quarantine, plus all that stress eating, has pushed the world to reach the worrisome health benchmark three years ahead of schedule.
A good corporate wellness program goes beyond subsidizing or even providing free gym access to employees. A sustainable program must be embedded in a work environment and culture that supports constant physical activity.
Let’s not even talk about longevity here. We are aiming for a simple extension of good health. Among companies, conscientious owners and managers would always want a balance between corporate gains and maintaining the wellness of their employees. After all, good health among workers translates to good productivity for the company.
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that worksite physical activity can improve employee health and also help the company save money on health costs. According to CDC studies, company wellness programs increase employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, boost employee morale, and help attract and retain high-quality employees.
I have been serving many companies for 26 years as a corporate wellness partner. A good corporate wellness program goes beyond subsidizing or even providing free gym access to employees. A sustainable program must be embedded in a work environment and culture that supports constant physical activity.
What would that look like?
Pre-employment would be a process of measurements and profiling, first of all. An employee should be assessed not only in terms of knowledge, acumen, and aptitude, but also in terms of mental health, emotional intelligence, and maturity in handling situations of conflict and failure. An employee’s general health, health risks, and current fitness should be looked at. Lifestyle or genetic markers for future health problems should be acknowledged, and the person encouraged to adhere to a program of self-discovery and improvement.
During onboarding, employees should be made aware that their state of health and well-being (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) has a bearing on how they will be able to advance in their careers, and how they can maintain a good work-life balance. Disease leads to the removal of ease or balance in one’s life, disrupting the ability to work, among others. Around 80% of all hospitalized illnesses are caused by poorly managed stress.
There has to be a wealth of information for the workforce through information bulletins, an online library of credible links to health and related subjects, virtual or face-to-face lectures, active workshops, and the creation of advocacy groups made up of passionate volunteers who are keen to share their learnings and practices on health and well-being.
A Chief Wellness Officer for every company would help stretch the imagination of organizations to design programs that would truly nurture the health and well-being of employees.
In this new world where office files are kept and pulled out from the cloud, it’s easy to have an office with no borders. One can pedal on a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill while reading or answering emails. In fact, it is healthier for employees to stand for three to four hours while working on their computers than sit on a chair for the whole day. They can also march in place or walk side to side to keep active.
How about giving employees a free cup of salad or fresh fruit for every 5,000 steps they’ve taken? That’s a double win. Companies won’t only support employees who walk more (and take the stairs instead of the elevator), but actually reward them with something that will keep them healthy.
A bell can ring every hour to signal that people should change stations (walk a floor up or down), drink a glass of water (they should have drunk eight glasses by the time work is over), or do simple stretching and breathing exercises. These exercises can be done for four minutes every hour or seven minutes every two hours, ensuring 150 minutes of activity per week for all.
A Chief Wellness Officer for every company would help stretch the imagination of organizations to design programs that would truly nurture the health and well-being of employees. Such activities can be fun while also helping build rapport and camaraderie among the team. Most importantly, it would help them commit to a daily dose of wellness, to the ultimate benefit of the company itself.