Building a Culture of Health – Where to begin
In my previous blog Building a Culture of Health, I wrote about how a healthy workplace helps build a productive and happier environment within an organization. And how success in achieving this objective depends largely on its Leadership – to inculcate and provide a supportive environment for a ‘Culture of Health’.
I now take that forward to suggest an outline on how to go about it without feeling overwhelmed and where to begin.
‘Talk the Talk’ to ‘Walk the Talk’
Many organizations espouse concern for the health of their employees. And they should. After all it makes business sense to have higher productivity, low absenteeism, greater camaraderie and a general feel-good space to work in. But a successful transition from ‘talk the talk’ to ‘walk the talk’ requires more than fragments of well-intentioned statements and sporadic ‘wellness initiatives’. Synthesizing the parts (individual employees) with the whole (the corporate as an entity) needs adequate focus and evaluation.
Get the Construct right
Organizations that have successfully bridged this gap demonstrate a few common approaches and techniques that can serve as a valuable learning source and a generic blueprint. That said, each corporate entity wishing to emulate success will need to carefully study and outline factors specific to its work ethos, structure and employees. These factors impact all aspects of its intended wellness plan – conception, composition and execution.
A study of subject-pertinent research documents, journals and wellness guidelines reveals some common factors across industry in general, at both the individual and organizational level that need incorporating for any wellness program to classify as comprehensive. These find ample resonance at site as well.
Common Individual Factors
To develop an engaging and responsive wellness program, it needs to consider the solutions it is meant to provide for employees. Although this needs deeper evaluation for each organization and a program developed for their specific intended outcomes, studies have shown a few common risk factors across organizations that can be a good starting point.
PHYSICAL INACTIVITY – Scientific journals and Research studies highlight the plague of long sedentary hours (read lack of physical activity) for a large chunk of the workforce in a corporate set up. The impact is reflected in the increasing health ailments experienced by employees leading to drop in individual and organization-wide productivity.
NUTRITION AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT – Well planned healthy and nutritional meal choices at workplace need to be more of a reality than they are. Diet plays an integral role in maintaining health, weight and keeping chronic health issues in check. Awareness of what is healthy eating (nutrition) is abysmally low and poor. And what is made to pass off as ‘health food’ in office cafeterias (if at all) needs a serious look. Add this to lack of physical activity (first point above) and the health risk factor increases manifold.
STRESS MANAGEMENT – Stress, the silent killer, is a reality for everyone irrespective of their position in the corporate hierarchy. Research points to occupational stress being at an all-time high. Compounding this could be personal triggers. Chronic exposure to stress has a debilitating effect on both, mental and physical health of an individual and both need to be addressed adequately.
CHOLESTROL/BLOOD PRESSURE/BLOOD SUGAR (DIABETES) – Common outcomes of modern day living and dietary habits. Skewed for an alarmingly large number of people, these potentially life-threatening ailments are now surfacing at a much younger age for increasing number of people. Regular screening, education on causes and prevention through lifestyle changes are important.
SLEEP DEPRIVATION – Most people are unaware of how much sleep their body needs and the damages induced by regular sleep deprivation. Sleep is not understood and respected as a critical part of good health. Even fewer know the concepts of ‘good sleep’ and ‘sleep cycle’ and how sleep deprivation can creep up faster than one thinks, increasing propensity to accidents along with impaired mental and physical functions. Shift workers (BPOs, KPOs, Factory workers etc.), medical and emergency responders are especially susceptible to this.
INTER/SOCIAL RELATIONS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA – It is alarming how disconnected we have become from each other in reality under the illusion of ‘being more connected than ever’ via social media. The deep sense of alienation coupled with misplaced measure of self-worth as acceptance on social platforms has sprouted serious psychological issues and maladjustment – in personal and professional spheres. This impacts health at all levels – mental, physical and existential. Through mobile connectivity, one is clued into work 24/7 with rarely any time to switch off and revitalize oneself.
ALCOHOL MANAGEMENT – Whether with friends or while entertaining corporate colleagues, alcohol has become common social currency. Excessive alcohol cuts into any good health effort and ups risk of chronic health issues. While it is difficult for employers to interfere with employees’ outside-of-work choices, it needs to be weighed against how those choices may impact onsite job performance and how it may endanger/compromise employee’s safety at work for which the employer may become liable.
SMOKING (TOBACCO) REDUCTION/CESSATION – Double whammy with this one because health issues of smoking are not just restricted to smokers but passive smokers (those within vicinity of smoke) as well. The list of life threatening diseases caused/compounded by tobacco is big.
Common Organizational Factors
While conception and composition of a holistic wellness program needs evaluation and inclusion of key pain points of employees, its implementation and success is strengthened – to a large extent – by organization level initiatives and support. I had shared most of these in my earlier blog Building a Culture of Health. A visual summary for quick recall:
Recipe for Success
While there is no one recipe that can be called best, the key ingredients remain vitally similar. Prepare the base with Organization vision, will and intent. Add the ingredients of a well-developed program construct based on employee inputs and focus. Season as per need and watch over with regular checks. You are in all probability served a wellness program that works.