I recently caught up with Chin Ai, who is currently serving as the People and Culture Lead at Capbay – a fintech company in Malaysia with 100 employees onboard. Her role primarily centers around training and development, but she also takes charge of HR issues, with an added focus on employee wellbeing.
Navigating this world as we move through and beyond the pandemic, there’s one thing we can’t ignore: employee wellbeing at the workplace. So, with a little help from my chat with Chin Ai, I’ve put together this piece on workplace wellness.
Table of Contents
What is workplace wellness?
Workplace wellness refers to the practices and policies that an organization puts in place to support the health and well-being of its employees and to create a healthier overall work environment.
These programs are designed to promote healthy behaviors among employees and reduce health risks, that can lead to improved productivity, and employee engagement.
There are three types of “health” an employer can choose to focus on – physical health, emotional/mental and financial health.
Physical and occupational health
Physical and occupational fitness initiatives are a great way for companies to support employee health in their pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. Fitness initiatives are a top-notch way for companies to encourage employees embrace a healthier lifestyle. Think about on-site fitness centers or discounted gym memberships.
Nutritional support is just as key as physical fitness. Picture this: working with a counselor on your meal planning and cooking, getting the low-down on nutrition.
Nothing empowers your team like knowledge. Hosting health screenings and educational workshops on common health concerns can help encourage everyone to stay on top of their health game.
Emotional and Mental health
Many employers now offer workplace wellness efforts to support employees mental health, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), workplace stress management workshops, health coaching and even mental health days!
To engage employees to have balance in their work and personal life, offer flexible work options like telecommuting and flexible work hours. Piktochart has gone from remote-first, to fully remote and then now, a fully remote 4 day work week workplace! 🌟
Here are a few steps we can take to boost the financial literacy and find enrichment in employees:
- Host fun and interactive budgeting, investing, career options, and retirement planning workshops.
- Make sure our compensation and benefits packages are competitive and tailored to their needs.
- Provide access to financial counselors who can support them with training, getting new skills, providing tools, resources and customized advice.
Statistics about occupational wellness
A need to look into women working long hours
Did you know that working long hours may increase a woman’s risk of diabetes? A 2018 study by the Institute for Work & Health (Toronto) analyzed 7,065 workers over 12 years and found that women who worked more than 45 hours a week were at a 51% higher risk of diabetes, compared to those who worked 35-40 hours. Interestingly, there was no effect of working hours on diabetes for men. The lead author pointed out that women tend to work longer hours than men, especially when accounting for family and household responsibilities.
As a company with a 50% women make up, we can testify to the above statistic, which is why it’s even more important to recognize that women are at risk of burn out.
Health concerns for those working long hours
According to a 2017 study by European researchers following more than 85,000 individuals from Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland over a ten-year span, individuals who work more than 55 hours per week have a 40 percent increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
And now, on to some good news.
A well designed worksite wellness program can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases in the workers, a Mayo Clinic review (2013).
These encouraging statistics highlight the importance of occupational wellness!
Why is workplace wellness important?
Chin Ai highlights the value of workplace wellness, recognizing its personal and organizational impact. When wellness programs succeed, they foster a sense of belonging, driving engagement and elevating performance.
Employees also have to feel a sense of “safety” that they have someone or multiple they can go to to air their issues. This psychology safety on its own helps to promote wellbeing. With a positive, mission-driven mindset, employees become invested in their company’s growth and success.
I’d like to add that it’s critical for employees to feel valued and purposeful, and not merely cogs in a productivity machine. In fact, a focus on wellness can help companies celebrate what truly matters – the well-being and fulfilment of their team members!
Workplace wellness best practices for employers
Establishing a successful workplace wellness program requires strategic planning and implementation. Here are some best practices to consider:
Design and analyze
Leadership Engagement: Leadership support and attitude are crucial for the success of any workplace wellness initiative. The leadership creating a supportive environment is the foundation to the workplace wellness programs. This cannot be said enough! It is also important to allocate a certain budget and resources to support workplace wellness programs.
Employee Involvement: Setting up a small committee may help the employee have a say. This is also because every organization is different, and the employees may be able to advocate for a more holistic approach as well as offering more variety based on interests. For example, remote workers may have a different set of challenges and concerns compared to in-office employees.
Chin Ai notes having a vocal workforce under her stead, which calls for strategic implementation of sustainable wellness programs that bring a measurable ROI to the company. She engages upper management and employees alike to achieve a balanced and positive outcome.
Clear Communication: Regularly communicate with employees about what the wellness program offers, how they can get involved, and why it’s important. We believe that the part is crucial and here we have a few templates to get started.
Chin Ai believes that having a shared language around culture contributes to wellness.
“We want to make people feel – it’s exciting to work together towards common goals – both as a team and as individuals. We want each person to feel that what they’re working on matters and that their contribution is valued! 🎉”
Confidentiality and Trust: Ensure that any personal health information collected through the employee wellness program, is kept confidential, and communicate this clearly to employees. Building trust and a safe environment are essential to engage and retain employees.
All programs similar to business initiatives by the organizations have to have trackable outcomes. We recommend not going overboard with the tracking but the following as a good starting point:
- Participation Rates
- Biometric Data e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI), and glucose levels.
- Absenteeism Rates
- Employee Satisfaction
- Employee Retention
Unsurprisingly, Piktochart tracked #3-6 out of the above in the pre and post 4 day work week initiative and we are happy to achieve a marked improvement in all areas.
Chin Ai notes that while their company had various wellness programs in the past, measuring their ROI wasn’t always straightforward. However, offering nearby gym memberships was a hit!
After the pandemic, getting employees back to work posed a challenge, but they found many employees needed access to a gym. So, they decided to make it easy by providing gym memberships next to the office. The result? Many formed gym buddies and friendships.
While the ROI wasn’t immediately measurable, in Chin Ai’s experience, the success of these programs was enough to convince company leadership!
Learnings from a HR practitioner about wellness programs
Chin Ai emphasizes the importance of listening attentively and identifying the root cause of a problem. Instead of merely accepting leadership’s request for a gym membership program, she would dig deeper to see if absenteeism or other factors are of concern.
It’s crucial to strike a balance that benefits both the company and the employees. Chin Ai also acknowledges that the management proposal may not necessarily meet the interests of employees. Therefore, she suggests to understand the root cause of the problem that they’re trying to solve here, and to listen to employees, coming up with a solution that would help the employees and at the same time, solve the issue that management has seen.
She also suggests that HR practitioners pre-screen and select vendors with care to cater the best-fit for the organization and its workforce.
Not every company has the same budget, and companies may have different cultural limitations or demographics, so that’s something to keep in mind.
By understanding the needs of all stakeholders and by putting the right components together, the wellness program can really shine and become a surefire success!
HR Trends Concerning Workplace Wellness Programs
Chin Ai cheekily said, “The trend is that a lot of people are now talking about wellness!”
But jokes aside, in the technology sector, layoffs are becoming increasingly common not just in specific companies or regions but worldwide. It can create a lot of anxiety among employees who are in fear of losing their job.
One of the important things a company can do is to focus on the professional and career development of its employees through the concept of continuous learning. This helps employees keep themselves on top of emerging trends, tools and technologies, making them more valuable to the company and ensuring their own relevance in the age of AI.
Although it may seem like a remote topic compared to workplace wellness benefits, the idea of constant learning is a key factor for employees’ mental wellness too. It provides them with a sense of “safety” knowing that they are marketable and have constantly grown professionally, making it more likely for them to stay happy and faithful to the company they work for.
Our concluding remarks
Promoting wellness at work isn’t just about ticking a box. It’s about weaving a culture of health into the fabric of our company.
The result? It fosters a culture of health and wellness that drives productivity, improves employee morale, and enhances the overall working environment.