While we are all stretched for time to meet deadlines, it is equally important to stretch a few muscles for our own health. For corporates, creating a culture of movement is something which can go a long way in enhancing productivity and boosting employee morale.
Sedentary Lifestyle is defined by Wikipedia as a lifestyle involving little or no physical activity. Modern-day jobs which involve less of manual labour and more of sitting at your desk and working on a computer make the entire global workforce extremely prone to a sedentary lifestyle.
We have all felt that sore foot, an ache in the back or a twitching eye once in a while. These are all symptoms that we are not moving enough which puts us at risk of preventable lifestyle diseases like backaches, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression and many such health problems.
For corporates, this means lost productivity due to employees taking time off to recover from diseases. With more employees going to the hospital for preventable diseases, it also increases the annual cost of health insurance premiums which is generally borne by companies.
“Corporates can play an important role in helping employees overcome sedentary lifestyles and related ailments. To do this, they need to create a Workplace Wellness Program with a 3 step approach – Educate, Engage, Empower.”
The differentiating logic behind such a program has to be the focus on ‘prevention’ instead of ‘cure’. This program should be part of the overall employee engagement calendar so that there are constant activities spread across the year and not just a one-off event.
Let us begin with ‘Educate’, the part which is like a foundation for the entire wellness program.
HR teams should conduct sessions with employees to create awareness of a sedentary lifestyle. The sessions can be a mix of activities and practical experience sharing, probably by someone who has suffered from such issues in the past. This can be followed up by emailers on the topic and posters being put up in strategic locations to act as reminders.
Try to make employees aware of the various facts and consequences related to lifestyle issues. You can use FOMO i.e. the Fear Of Missing Out on good things in life as a motivation for employees to participate in wellness programs. Make sure your communication addresses ‘Why do I need this?’ and ‘What’s in it for me?’ questions effectively.
Once you have created the buzz, it’s time to mobilize some action – ‘Engage’. This is the interesting part where you are removing unhealthy behaviours and creating healthy habits.
You can roll out one Wellness at Work initiative every quarter. Convert it to team challenges and publish weekly updates on the HR portal and your company’s social media pages to increase participation.
You may go one step forward to include families of employees in such initiatives as well. The more the merrier as group dynamics, family involvement and peer pressure are known to boost participation in wellness programs.
A few examples of competitions you could run are – Steps@Work (who walks more when in office), H20 Champ (drinking more water), Desktop Yoga Sessions, Speak Your Heart Out Sessions, Weight Loss Challenge, Hobby Classes etc. Remember it’s not just the body, it is also the mind that can get sedated. So, focus on all-round activities.
Technology can be a key facilitator in this stage. The use of modern-day fitness trackers and apps available on mobile devices will ensure that your Wellness Program is customizable to individual needs and available to employees at a time best suited to them.
And of course, once your employees are educated and engaged, it is time to ‘Empower’ them to make wellness a part of their lifestyle at work and beyond. This can be done by having the right combination of HR Policies, Rewards & Recognition and Office Infrastructure.
Ensure that your HR policy allows employees to take time off from their work to participate in wellness initiatives. Give employees a variety of wellness programs and allow them to pick the ones which suit them the most. You can even make ‘Team Wellness Score’ a part of the manager’s KRAs.
Create a team of ‘Wellness @ Work Champions’ who will conduct random audits and award spot prizes to employees exhibiting healthy behaviours. You may also have the policy to recognize and reward employees who have chosen healthy habits like ‘Bike 2 Work’ instead of driving OR ‘Talk the Walk Meetings’ etc.
It is good to have your onsite gyms, meditation rooms, breakout zones and indoor games areas. But before that, you should ensure that your office furniture is ergonomically designed. Take an expert opinion on this because it is one thing which impacts everybody 100% of the time.
Converting some of the existing meeting rooms to stand up meeting rooms is also a great idea. Giving employees access to external fitness centres, mindfulness programs and meditation classes also empowers them to inculcate the healthy behaviours in their lives.
“The intention is to have a continuously running wellness program that slowly becomes engraved into the culture and DNA of the organisation. In the long run, this will weed out the sedentary lifestyle and have a major impact on employee engagement, satisfaction and morale at work. This will enhance productivity and can also turn out to be a great tool to retain employees.”