Don’t get me wrong, they are good at creating awareness around health issues and risks but not so much in terms of sustained behaviour change in the workplace and here’s why…
Many wellness days focus on standard health tests such as blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, HIV/Aids, stress levels etc.
It’s all great and well knowing the results of these tests, but there is often little to no education done around what the next steps are in the process after the wellness day to help the employee implement the required changes. Majority are told to go to their GP to get it checked out. There is also very little tracking and measuring of those identified employees as to their progress post diagnosis.
For example: someone gets a high cholesterol test result. The responsibility is left up to the employee to see their doctor to get it checked out. There are few (if any) checks and balances put in place from an organisation perspective to follow up on whether said employee has actually addressed the issue, what their recommended treatment or prevention measures are and how they are being enabled in the workplace.
Coping mechanisms (e.g. substance abuse, addictions, emotional disorders) are often hard to detect as it falls under emotional well-being – and often the signs only become evident when it is too late and employees are burnt out or just not able to cope anymore.
Considering Employers pay to host these wellness days, they should have access to the overall results and well-being of the company as a whole to help them implement changes where they can in the workplace.
Dr Jacques Snyman, managing director of Integrated Care Solutions at Agility says:
“South Africa has had a 500% increase in sick leave since 2001 while a mammoth R19 billion is lost every year because of absenteeism in South Africa. It may seem like an obvious thing to do but investing in the health of your workforce is a business imperative that can result in higher levels of productivity, decreased rates of absenteeism and ultimately more zeros on that highly coveted bottom line,”
For example: if 30% of the workforce has cholesterol ratings that are high/above the norm, what measures can employers implement in the workplace to enable employees to combat this?
Some options to consider:
- Implementing healthier choices in the workplace (e.g. replace vending machines with healthier product choices).
- Encouraging physical activity in the workplace if the environment allows (e.g. showers, walking paths, gym)
- Aligning with global trends by reducing salt and sugar intake in staff canteens
However, the biggest change comes from addressing the mental and emotional well-being of individuals as this is ultimately what drives their actions and behaviour. Often hard to do in a corporate environment but it’s the small steps taken that can have the biggest impact.
Some options include:
- Creating a culture where emotional issues are openly addressed and supported within relevant boundaries (i.e. no stigmas, labeling etc)
- Having a strong support system through traditional and non-traditional roles (i.e. medical aid services, employee well-being programs, training and development, external consultants such as coaches.)
- Empowering individuals to have a healthy work/life balance (e.g. flexi hours, family days etc)
Ultimately at the end of the day, what gets measured, gets done. If employers want to be seen as a company that employees want to work for because the organisation aligns to their desired lifestyle, they need to implement, track and measure all those factors, what works and what doesn’t work.
Paula Quinsee is a Relationship Expert in Johannesburg. She teaches individuals and organisations how to cultivate healthy relationships in both their personal lives and workplace using emotional intelligence, Imago Therapy and NLP principles. Paula is also the author of Embracing Conflict – a self-help guide filled with practical tools and insights. Attend one of her regular monthly workshops for great empowering tools.