In developing countries around the world, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) or firms with less than 200 employees are playing an ever-increasing role in economic and social development. The World Bank estimates that in emerging markets, most formal jobs are generated by SMEs, which create 4 out of 5 new positions.
SMEs may have more limited financial resources than large firms and employee wellness programs may not seem to be a practical priority, but the outcome is far greater than you think. In a study by Towers Watson, employers with highly effective health and productivity programs generate 20 per cent more revenue per employee, achieve 16.1 per cent higher market value and deliver 57 per cent higher shareholder return.
So, regardless of your budget or headcount, there are lots of practical tips to foster better health benefits in the workplace that you may implement for you and your team members.
Outlining a health policy
An organization that was serious in promoting workplace wellness should have a stated health plan to be implemented. This includes aspect such as insurance coverage, maternal policy and smoke-free policy. Health policy will not only promote employees’ wellbeing but also attract the best future employee while adding values to the company’s reputation.
Provide a healthy physical environment
A clean and comfortable work environment with sufficient sunlight and relaxing furniture will help make the office feel less intimidating to the employees. Our innate nature to be close to nature, what scientists refer to as ‘biophilia’ should be celebrated by the inclusion of live plants in the workplace. Studies have shown that plants in the workplace increase productivity, improve stress management and provide cleaner air, among other things.
A health-supportive environment that supports the outlined health policy should also be implemented. A written supportive policy for breastfeeding mother, for example, should include conducive breastfeeding space, while a bicycle-friendly initiative should be followed with an allocation of bicycle space and such.
Encourage healthy lifestyles
Encouraging exercise among employees helps in the production of hormones that assist in the regulation of metabolism, sleep, concentration and motivation. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also found that regular, aerobic exercise can boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory, learning and emotions.
Encourage healthy lifestyles in the workplace by providing a weekly lunchtime exercise or yoga class or free gym memberships. A periodical or yearly sports competition can also be a good initiative.
Build a support community
Initiating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will be easier if everyone is in the same shoes. Providing a platform to share fitness milestones online can be great initiatives that promote support for each participant. This includes using slack, google hangouts or other application for employees to share their fitness milestone and for giving encouraging words.
In term of mental health, working together for charity and volunteer work can help boost emotional wellbeing through altruism. Altruism or voluntary behaviour that is motivated by concern for the welfare of the other are frequently associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms, happiness, and enhanced well-being according to multiple studies. Let your employees vote on a chosen charity and work together as a team on the selected days, either during or outside working hours.
Make a healthy diet a culture
A healthy diet should also be cultivated by giving healthy options and minimizing temptation. This can be done by providing healthy snacks and drinks in the office. You should also encourage your employees to take a lunch break in a communal area or outdoors rather than sitting at their desk. Even 20 minutes away from the computer screen will refresh tired eyes and increase productivity for the rest of the day. Reduce temptation by keeping healthy snacks such as nuts and dried fruits in clear containers, with the less healthy options in opaque containers.
Lead and promote
The lead of the company should set an example on the wellness programs by participating and letting your employee know that you are active in it. It will be a better promotion than just a word of mouth. Encourage individual participation in the program periodically. The right incentives are sure to boost participation. Programs like point-based rewards for reaching fitness goals can be highly motivating. Once certain accumulative points are reached, reward your employees with massage therapy, gadgets, spa or other gifts according to your budget.
In addition to outlining and providing a wellness program, be more flexible in its execution. As much as you would like to have the entire company to participate in certain fitness events, it might not be feasible for everyone. Instead, promote a positive focus on family and friends and encourage your employees to use their holiday wisely.
Offer flexible working practices if possible, which include working from home to promote a healthy work/life balance. Work-related communications should be confined within office hours to reduce the likelihood of anxiety associated with being hyper-connected to their screen.
Flexibility can also be given in the form of a play zone. A comfortable, clutter-free and inviting space that allows employees to take a 15-minute break and relax with music, a book or magazine or even a quick snooze.
Allow spirituality in the workplace
The ‘‘search for meaning’’ has been one of the most quoted phrases in examples of people who
quit their jobs to lead a more spiritually enriching quality of life. Undoubtedly, the lack of a meaning in their purpose of daily work can lead to existential sickness.
Providing space for spiritual expression encourage employees fulfilment by allowing them to bring their spiritual attributes to the workplace. Research suggests that the encouragement of spirituality in the workplace can lead to benefits in the areas of creativity, honesty and trust, personal fulfilment, and commitment, which will ultimately lead to increased organizational performance. This could be done by encouraging people to speak openly about their spiritual ideas and helping them to relate these ideas to the company’s values.
In 2014, a typical employee in Thailand spends an average of 2,284 hours at work per year, compared to the global average of 1,780 hours per year. Now, imagine if most of this period is preoccupied with stress and unhealthy working conditions. Here lies the reason why working culture can make or break a nation. For SMEs who made up 99.7% of Thailand businesses, cultivating workplace wellness for their employees will not only benefit them in the long term but also the nation at large.
If you’re looking for a place to start Luma’s group health insurance plans include a wide range of benefits that will increase employee health, including discounts of gyms and hotels. We are happy to find a plan that suits that will leave a positive impact on you and your business, contact us today.