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Creating a wellness programme that works
Among the factors that make a good company culture, few things rank higher than work-life balance. Gallup reports that out of the 7,000 workers they spoke to, nearly a quarter of them (23% to be exact) say that they feel burnout at work every day or all the time. Furthermore, a recent study among millennials revealed that about one-third of them believe work-life balance is ‘the most important factor when looking for a job’.
Perhaps that is why 80% of companies in the US with over 50 employees now offer some sort of corporate wellness benefits, according to RAND. Furthermore, workplace wellness makes business sense, too. Harvard Business School reports that employees’ medical expenses fell by US$3.27 for every dollar the company spends on wellness programmes. Absenteeism-related expenses, too, fell by US$2.73.
However, having your heart in the right place isn’t quite enough. For a health and wellness programme to work, you need a plan and a leader to make it all work.
A manager’s perspective
Apinya Lapangyawit is a Thailand-based Associate Manager at Michael Page Human Resources. She, too, believes that managers, perhaps more than anyone else in the company, is the agent of change when it comes to wellness programmes. “Based on my experience, corporate wellness programmes sometimes fail because they lack consistency from the top,” Apinya explained. “That’s why managers should be the sponsors or the agent of change. They must be the first ones to put in the effort and contribute to the cause.” Forbes echoes Apinya’s sentiments also, saying that managers are “the instigators and organisers of change”, and they have to “create conditions that are conducive to success”.
If that all sounds like a bit too much work on your plate, here are a few handy strategies to get you started:
1. Incentives. Incentives. Incentives
‘Because it is good for you’ is seldom a good enough reason to get the rest of the company on the same bandwagon. After all, forming a new habit or routine is hard enough in our personal lives, let alone a corporate wellness programme. As managers, perhaps a good idea is to first talk to your team and find out what kind of wellness programmes they like. While some employees might prefer something more tangible or physical, such as free gym memberships and sporting equipment, others might want pottery classes or even time off work.
2. Catch them before they drop off
We’ve all seen it before: corporate programmes almost always begin with a lot of enthusiasm, only for the momentum to wear off several weeks or months later. Your role as a manager, then, is to identify those on the verge of dropping off and find out why they are feeling less than enthused. Going back to the point about incentives, if a free gym membership just doesn’t quite cut it for a small group of employees, be flexible about your options so that they will feel inclined to hop back on board. Remember: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all incentive here. Regularly check back with your team to see what’s working and what’s not.
3. It doesn’t always have to be physical
Health and wellness can mean different things to different people, and Apinya knows this from experience. “In my previous workplace, we had weekly yoga classes organised in the nearby park. That was a corporate wellness programme that my former team and I really enjoyed,” she recalled. With that said, Apinya also said that the programmes weren’t always physical in nature. “For example, we sometimes had massages performed by members of the visually impaired community, as well as direct one-on-one coffee sessions with our bosses,” Apinya shared. “It was an opportunity for us to get to know our leaders in a casual setting, and we were allowed to talk about everything. It’s not your traditional wellness programme for sure, but I think it did wonders for the cohesion of the team.”
4. Be the leader of the pack
At the end of the day, no matter how unmotivated some team members might be, they still take cues from above. If the wellness programme has buy in from the top, it is much more likely for everybody below to follow through with their new routines. With that said, folks in the upper management don’t always interface with the teams on the ground — but you do. As managers, you are the one interacting your team ever day. What you do (or do not do) has a great impact on the success of the programme. So set the example and, as Apinya suggested, be the agent of change.
As for upcoming wellness programmes to implement at the Michael Page Thailand office, Apinya already has a few ideas at the back of her head: “I’ve been thinking about this, and perhaps we can organise several health and wellness programmes around outdoor activities. Cycling might be a great choice, since it allows everyone in the company to socialise, get to know each other and really build a camaraderie. Of course, a corporate wellness programme is only as successful as the people involved in it, and I look forward to finding out what kind of activities will appeal to our team.”
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