Technology has progressed at light-speed since the time when everyone owned a pager. For those who are not familiar with a pager, it was a small telecommunications device which sat nicely within your palm and would ping you when someone wanted to reach you. One would then frantically search for the nearest payphone to return the call, which often had a queue. Now, in this era, payphones have since become obsolete with the rise of smartphones and the ease with which to own one. With it, also came the need to constantly be connected 24/7, whether for work or for leisure.
With globalization, communicating over different time zones with counterparts all over the world has become a norm. Organizations have recognized the challenge this poses and are constantly looking for innovative ways to make sure that their employees’ overall wellbeing is taken care of, while balancing the needs of the business.
In the past, work-life balance was something which many appreciate but with the changing working landscape, we see a gradual shift from work-life balance to that of work-life harmony - working anywhere and at any time.
Many companies find themselves paying top dollars for employee medical benefits but still find themselves with employee wellness being one of the top challenges within the organization. However, we do need to realize that employee wellness is more than just medical benefits. It is looking at an employee as an individual person, with many different needs to be fulfilled. A good and holistic employee wellness experience should broadly look at 3 main aspects, i.e. Physical, Intellectual and Emotional.
Physical Health: Physical health is one of the easier aspects to tackle and the more common benefits that organizations provide include gym memberships, in-house gyms and also organizing fitness classes. For some organizations, they also provide food for their staff, with specially curated menus, which seeks to enhance the nutritional health of its employees.
In other areas of physical health, research has shown that prolonged sitting at desks can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as postural issues. To combat this, organizations have provided ergonomic furniture or equipment to ensure that their employees physical health is not compromised due to the long hours spent sitting at their desks.
However, all the above would hold little importance to employees if they are not educated on the benefits of enhancing their physical health, which is where the importance of intellectual health comes in.
Intellectual Health: Intellectual health relates to how someone is able to learn and grow from experience. People are naturally inclined towards betterment which has resulted in the evolution of mankind. So, a two-pronged approach can be and is often used by many organizations, to stimulate intellectual health. On one end, the learning & development team under the Human Resources function, focuses on how to upgrade the technical or soft skills of their employees, and on the other end, the team that manages employee engagement organizes events which seeks to engage and equip employees with other life skills. The more recreational activities could include health talks, prevention talks and other recreational classes to cultivate interest and hobbies for employees.
Emotional Health: The topic of emotional health is often a sensitive one, especially in the Asia context, and is possibly the most challenging aspect of employee wellbeing. The discussion of emotional health or mental health often has a social stigma that comes with it. However, we can see that there are more companies who are willing to embrace and acknowledge the importance it has on their employees.
To tackle this, the more tangible initiatives include providing counselling services and stress management programmes. The slightly more challenging one would be creating a culture of a safe environment for employees to openly talk about the problems they face and for them to feel empathy and receive the support they need. In order to be successful, organizations have to take actionable steps in encouraging feedback from employees and ensuring that managers are equipped with the necessary soft skills to drive a psychologically safe working environment.
Employees’ needs have evolved from them being assured that in the event they require medical attention, they are well taken care of, to that of holistic care - physically, intellectually and emotionally. With differing workplace demographics and cultural norms, organizations will have to be agile in recognizing the ever-changing needs of its employees and crafting an appropriate employee wellness experience. And as what Sir Richard Branson says, “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business. It’s as simple as that”.