Over the last two decades, organisations have transformed their approach towards employee relations. People all over the world realised the importance of wellbeing and the extent to which a business can be disrupted due to a health issue. This has drawn the spotlight on employee wellbeing; the business leaders have initiated changes in their approach to the way they engaged their employees. Employee health has jumped a few spots higher up in the list of drivers for employee engagement.
Can one expect one’s employer to take care of his or her wellbeing?
Organisations know that their employees must remain in good health to be able to deliver outcomes on a sustained basis. Typically, organisations allow paid leaves to cater to certain days of sickness and the large ones go a step ahead to organise healthcare facilities and provide insurance benefits. Recent events have shown that these arrangements could not prevent the pandemic; many organisations were caught napping in adapting to the volatile situations around the pandemic. Some of them were agile and stood out in the market as stronger employers.
Given this context, organisations are taking a hard look at the employee benefits offered by them and employees are networking among members of various online communities to benchmark their employer against the best-in-class. However, employees must not outsource thinking about their wellbeing needs and acting on them to their employers.
Each human being has his or her unique needs to stay healthy and strong enough to ward off the risks. It is hard for employers to run their business competitively and harder to take care of each employee’s unique health needs. Hence, it is impractical to expect that the employer will provide personalised care for each employee and ensure that the employee stays fit in the short-run as well as the long run.
What can an organisation do?
We know, it is tough and possibly foolhardy to attempt to provide wellbeing solutions to each employee matching his or her unique needs. At the same time, organisations are competing in the marketplace to attract, engage and retain talent. They need to think creatively of methods in which awareness among employees can rise about staying healthy and well; personalised care can be facilitated for each employee and genuine care is felt among employees far and wide.
Doing more of the same may not be the answer. On one hand, companies are worried about rising healthcare expenses and at the same time, they are unsure if the expenses are generating the desired value. Hence, they need to review the processes followed in their organisations and bring in improvements.
Secondly, they need to go to the root causes behind rising healthcare expenses incurred by them as well as their employees. Some of these are not getting addressed by the existing programmes. For example, mental health and wellbeing are ignored most often and thus, productivity takes a backseat. Similarly, with remote working as a new practice, the social capital of the organisations has started eroding and thus, work-related stress has been on the rise and consequentially, productivity has been negatively impacted. Another case in point is the need for regular health screening or checks leading to early warning of pressure points which can prevent major disruptions in future.
How do we make these work?
Organisations need to make it an absolute must for the leaders to lead by example and get their hands dirty in designing the right programmes. The leaders have to come forward and be hands-on in reviewing what is working and what is not. Very few companies count sick days, track healthcare expenses and stratify the data to analyse the development opportunities. Fewer organisations involve their employees in designing a practical programme that serves the purpose well. Leaders have to communicate the importance of wellbeing throughout the organisation.
They need to offer platforms where their employees can discover what they need and what the members of their family need, personalise the programme that works for them. They must use a combination of carrots and stick to implement this because the program delivers business results. An example of a stick approach can be to deny performance bonuses and salary hikes for the employees who do not go for annual health screening and design their personalised health programme. An example of a carrot could be to give a 20% bump in annual bonus for the employee diligently reporting progress made against the plan designed in the programme.
Wellbeing programmes are no less significant than the annual operating plan for sales or supply chain. It needs careful thought and rigorous execution!