Wellbeing should be a priority

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Indian businesses are beginning to invest in employee wellbeing programmes, but their efforts must be led by the senior management if they are to be effective.

India is considered to be an economic superpower in the making with its high growth rate, pro-business government policies and a talented, young workforce. While the influence of India’s young working professionals is expected to rise in the coming years, there is another challenge that the country will have to deal with – that of building a healthy workforce. Moreover, the effectiveness of corporate wellness programmes in India is a matter of debate.

A study by People Matters, published in January 2019, asked over 100 Indian businesses about the effectiveness of their employee wellness programmes.

Hemant Sethi, British Safety Council Country Manager for India.
Hemant Sethi, British Safety Council Country Manager for India.

The report found that businesses have started to increase their spending on workplace wellness initiatives. However, it also found that, on a scale of one to five, Indian businesses rated their satisfaction with their current wellness initiatives at three. This suggests that employers feel that their investment in worker wellbeing is only producing average results.

The research also found that the majority of companies do not offer personalised wellness activity for staff. According to People Matters, this results in less employee adoption and engagement with the employer’s wellbeing programme.

In the UK organisations are beginning to recognise, and act on, the importance of workplace wellbeing. In 2018, the British Standards Institution launched a code of practice, PAS 3002, which provides recommendations to organisations to help them “establish, promote, maintain and review the health and wellbeing of their workforce”.

AS 3002 aims to help organisations to benchmark themselves against the recommendations, to help them to establish early intervention measures to protect workers’ health and to offer guidance on how the workplace can be used “to promote individual health and wellbeing”. India too needs a defined set of practices like these which provide corporates with standards to help them measure their wellbeing programmes.

In the UK, between 2017 and 2018, the Reward & Employee Benefits Association carried out an online survey of 250 wellbeing, human resources and employee benefit specialists. The survey found that three out of five UK employers felt that the mental health of their workers was the area of employee wellbeing they were most concerned about.

In India, meanwhile, according to research by health services provider Optum Health International quoted by the Live Mint website in 2018, only 10 per cent of the 1.7 million registered companies run a formal mental health support programme.

This is despite the fact that a 2015 survey of 1,250 Indian employees by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry found that nearly 42.5 per cent of employees in the private sector reported suffering from depression or general anxiety disorder.

In December 2018, the British Safety Council published a report on wellbeing at work, Not just free fruit: A literature review. This found that employee wellbeing is being compromised by a lack of understanding among employers of how to implement effective health and wellbeing programmes at work.

The report made several recommendations to employers on how to create and evaluate workplace wellbeing programmes. These include:

  • Workers’ wellbeing is fundamentally linked to job quality. Alongside a safe and healthy working environment, fair wages, relationships with managers and colleagues, job design, a degree of responsibility and authority, workload, working hours, and career development, are vital components of workers’ wellbeing.
  • The leadership of health and wellbeing must come from the highest level. Senior leaders of all organisations should ensure that a health and wellbeing strategy linked to corporate objectives is established, and actively drive its effective implementation.
  • Workers must be able to participate fully in the creation and development of initiatives designed to improve their own health and wellbeing. Effective dialogue, consultation and worker involvement will help to ensure that the wellbeing interventions meet the needs of employees.
  • All line managers must be appropriately trained in mental health awareness and the relevant support mechanisms, so they have the confidence to communicate with employees with care and sensitivity.
  • Organisations shouldevaluate the impact and efficacy of their health and wellbeing interventions on a regular basis, to ensure they respond to the changing needs of their workers.

Click here to read the British Safety Council report, Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work - a literature review.

Contact Hemant Sethi here.


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