Keeping well at work

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With research showing a direct link between high productivity and the health and wellbeing of the workforce, Indian businesses are stepping up their efforts to support the mental and physical health of their teams.

Today, creating a company culture that values staff and prioritises employee wellbeing and happiness is at the top of every company’s list or priorities if they want to continue to be successful.  

The Covid-19 pandemic also put the spotlight on the importance of everyone’s mental and physical wellbeing, making workers and employers alike realise that a healthy workforce is not just important from a moral standpoint but also from a financial standpoint.

Photograph iStock credit http://www.fotogestoeber.de

When the workforce is content and engaged, they put in more effort and there are associated positive outcomes for the organisation. In fact, effective business leaders understand that it’s wise to focus on wellbeing because it’s the right thing to do.

A report from the UK mental health charity Mind found that FTSE 100 companies that “prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10 per cent”. The report adds that companies who support staff wellbeing “reap the benefits through enhanced morale, loyalty, commitment, innovation, productivity and profitability. Open and supportive workplaces benefit everyone – employees, employers and the bottom line.”

Meanwhile, a study by the computer technology multinational Oracle found that 88 per cent of employees feel their definition of ‘success’ has changed, and they’re now prioritising their work-life balance, mental health and having a meaningful job over a steady pay packet.

Furthermore, a 2021 survey report found that 40 per cent of organisations have a documented wellbeing programme in place, and 50 per cent of organisations offer health benefits to employees, such as health screening or health awareness programmes.

Organisations are dedicating resources to addressing the spectrum of wellbeing – which includes physical and mental wellbeing, personal financial wellbeing and even ‘planetary’ wellbeing (education and awareness on the importance of sustainability).

Indian businesses are seeking to support employee wellbeing

In fact, key Indian companies in a variety of industries are making great strides in supporting the wellbeing of their teams. 

In September, consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble India (P&G India) announced that it is expanding its mental wellbeing initiatives with the ‘Happy Minds 2.0’ program.

The programme shifts the focus from mental health to mental wellbeing, and consists of a number of initiatives aimed at supporting employee mental wellbeing. These include counselling services at work, preventive mental health check-ups,  the expansion of flexible working arrangements for employees and enhancing the awareness of the company’s leadership so they can identify and act on mental wellbeing impact indicators within workgroups.

The programme aims to help build resilience within workgroups and empower and enable employees to feel more comfortable starting conversations about their mental wellbeing, both in and outside work.

Srinivas P.M, head of human resources at P&G India sub-continent, said, “At P&G, we believe
that our employees are our most valuable asset and we truly care for them and their families. We have undertaken deliberate efforts to prioritise their health and wellbeing, which is yielding visible results.

“Our approach has been comprehensive and holistic, wherein we are treating mental wellbeing as a critical part of the overall health and wellness of our employees.

“With Happy Minds 2.0, we are pivoting from mental health to mental wellbeing, in a more positive, proactive and holistic approach, with equal focus on the overall happiness quotient of our employees. As they say, prevention is better than cure.”

Encouraging staff to speak about mental health

For businesses such as Ferns N Petals, a flower and gift retailer that describes itself as India’s number one gifting brand, having an open-door policy which promotes uninhibited communication on any challenges an associate (worker) might be facing due to work commitments or on a personal front is critical. 

“We have a periodic skip level session, informal discussion around work, 90 days programme for new joiners, townhall, pulse survey etc, to create every opportunity possible for employees to speak up, which helps in mitigating the risk of any mental health issue,” said Vikaas Gutgutia, founder and managing director of Ferns N Petals.

“We keep a close track of any serious cases and facilitate counselling sessions with health professionals.”

According to Gutgutia, Ferns N Petals’ decided to implement an integrated wellbeing programme as this approach directly reflects the company’s core values of inclusion and happiness at all levels. “Being in the business of delivering happiness, experiences are key to everything we do,” said Gutgutia.

“We are committed towards delighting all stakeholders, and employees’ wellbeing is paramount. We monitor and drive the agenda of wellness very closely.” 

The gifting brand has also introduced healthy and ‘super’ food options in its staff cafeteria as part of its various wellness initiatives. “Our all-round engagement initiatives, like sports, zumba, yoga etc, ensure every associate’s involvement in the wellness programmes,” explains Gutgutia.

“We also run a safety workshop periodically apart from our regular wellness programmes which are part of our engagement calendar, like health check-up camp, 360 free medical consultations etc, by leading professionals and healthcare providers.”

Gutgutia said that investing in employee wellbeing and encouraging workers to grow as individuals has directly boosted the company’s productivity and efficiency.

“We have made it [worker wellbeing and personal growth] one of the key projects and it is one of the key deliverables for leadership across the organisation, which we all understand will directly impact the topline,” he said. 

Gutgutia added that the company’s investment in wellbeing has led to a reduction in employee absenteeism and disengagement, and there are genuine signs of higher employee motivation, which in turn will benefit an organisation’s balance sheet. 

“While the balance sheet testifies short-term goals, things like less-than-average industry attrition [worker turnover] and high numbers of applications for a job opening, help us become cost-effective and lead us to a sustainable growth; meeting our long-term objective of people with business as we drive employees’ wellbeing as a part of our culture and belief system,” he says.

Photograph: iStock/fizkes

Wellness leave days

Meanwhile, furniture and bed retailer Wakefit.co rolled out a ‘no questions asked’ wellness leave policy in early November for its staff. The policy allows staff to take a period of ‘no-questions-asked’ leave once a month.

The workforce can take time off to unwind and rejuvenate themselves, therefore supporting their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Wakefit.co staff can also use their wellness leave for leisure activities.

“With this policy, we hope to encourage our employees to unwind, focus on their health, and spend time with their loved ones by taking their wellness leave with no questions asked,” Umanath Nayak, head of HR, Wakefit.co, told the Economic Times newspaper.

The company also introduced a ‘Right to Nap’ policy in May 2022 to enable employees to take a power nap between 2.00 and 2.30 pm, and a flexiwork policy for new parents.

“These initiatives are impactful steps towards enabling a healthy work-life balance among its workforce,” it said in a statement, reported by the Business Insider online news service.

Digital mindfulness platform

Meanwhile, the global financial technology platform Intuit’s ‘Well-Mind’ programme provides its workers with a digital mindfulness platform. The platform features over 1,000 self-paced tools and sessions to cater to individual needs. The company also offers one-to-one counselling with qualified experts through its employee assistance programme. 

Jharna Thammaiah K, director and India site people and places leader at Intuit, told Analytics India Magazine that the company’s ‘Wellbeing for Life’ programme has also been enhanced to support employees’ emotional, financial and physical wellbeing needs, offering them an annual reimbursement to cover expenses connected with supporting and maintaining their wellbeing. 

Meanwhile, group health insurance – which covers some or all of the costs of medical care in the event of illness, disease or accident – increasingly forms a core part of the health benefits package that companies offer to employees and their families.

However, Pune-based health and insurance technology start-up Loop says that its data indicates that around 65 per cent of companies only offer group health insurance as a health benefit. This means it only covers the cost of essential medical treatment and does provide – or cover the costs of – preventive wellbeing programmes and services, which are designed to keep staff physically and mentally well in the first place. 

However, businesses, in collaboration with companies such as Loop, are now creating holistic employee health and wellness programmes, over and above the basic medical insurance cover that they provide to staff and their dependents.

“Companies are conducting annual health check-ups and lifestyle disease camps to facilitate proactive testing of basic health parameters and conditions like diabetes and hypertension, that Indian employees are becoming more prone to,” wrote Amrit Singh, co-founder and CRO of Loop, in an article for the Financial Express news website.

“Secondly, they are educating their employees on preventive healthcare measures like eating right, improving their fitness, being more active, getting better sleep, among others.

“Mental health programmes have increased with many companies providing employee assistance programmes (EAPs) on mental health,” he added.

“Employers have also, in partnership with companies like Loop, started providing access to doctors and medical advisors who are available to employees 24×7 to deal with any queries, consults or emergencies.

“In conclusion, there is an upswing in group health insurance cover being provided to employees to cover sick care, but coupled with preventive health and wellness services to ensure that employees stay healthy as well.”


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