Microsoft. Google. Apple. Three of the most recognizable companies in the world with more than just technology in common. Workplace wellness or workplace wellbeing, as it is referred to in the US is quickly becoming topic du jour within many Fortune 500 companies. Happy healthy employees translates to higher profit and lower turnover- this simple equation has HR Directors investing in the obvious and the quirky health offerings to ensure all the employee’s wellness needs are covered.
Consider the fact that the average adult will spend over 90,000 hours of their life working, normally within an office environment. Consider the fact that only 9% of the world’s 3 billion plus global workers have access to any kind of workplace wellness program or initiatives. Minor illness- normally related to a low immune system, stress and injury are three of the top five universal reasons for employee absenteeism. Imagine how impactful small changes within those 90,000 + hours can be on an employee’s overall wellbeing.
What can companies do to combat office syndrome? Workplace wellness efforts can be categorized as follows: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary prevention encourages healthy habits which every employee can engage in such as stress management, exercise and healthier eating habits. For example Minor Group offers weekly complimentary yoga classes and discounts for gym partners such as Guavapass and Virgin Active. Apple has an onsite fitness and wellness centre which offers personal trainers, dieticians and massage therapists.
Secondary prevention targets behavior which is consider an indicator of poor health. For example, smoking cessation programs, health screenings for female health or cardiovascular disease related risk factors and ‘Biggest Loser’ style competitions to reduce an unhealthy BMI. A recent study showed workplace wellness interventions performed on high-risk cardiovascular disease employees indicated that at the end of a six-month trial, 57% were reduced to a low-risk status. Microsoft has a program called ‘Know Your Numbers’ which provides employees and their spouses’ screenings for heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure, along with mammograms and flu shots.
Let’s not forget mental health! Data from the recent AXA PPP Health Tech Survey 2017 revealed that 41% of employees have experienced symptoms of mental illness at work. Companies such as Accenture provide confidential support programs while the Microsoft CARES employee assistance program offers free personal and family counseling, stress management and referrals for child and elder care.
Tertiary health programs address existing health problems and aim to help control or reduce symptoms, or to help slow the progression of a disease or condition. Such programs might encourage employees to better adhere to specific medication or self-managed care guidelines for issues such as diabetes or arthritis. Johnson & Johnson, the leading personal care company found that since they begun utilizing wellness programs, the company has saved over $250 million on employee health care costs since 1995 with an ROI of $2.71 for every dollar spent.
Some ideas for companies to consider:
- Walking meetings- Let’s get those steps up by holding meetings in motion as opposed to the traditional meeting room. There are many free apps which can be downloaded onto any smart phone to track steps- hold a competition, get employees moving towards the most number of steps and reward the winner with a Fitbit or other fitness tracking device to encourage ongoing effort.
- Complimentary body and mind classes- yoga, mindfulness, CrossFit, muay thai, circuit training, running club. There is no limit to the offerings available for fitness of the mind and body these days. Start the day energized with a high intensity work out or close a busy day with some Zen meditation to ensure a peaceful night’s rest.
- Sponsor your employees to enter fitness challenges- Thailand has a varied calendar of activities such as Spartan, Ironman, Test of Will etc.
- Regular educational seminars on different aspects of wellness- Minor hosts a “wellness series” of seminars on subjects such as ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine for Office Syndrome’ or ‘Healthy Glowing Skin’ for corporate employees.