In the wake of the 2012 National Healthcare Conference, Healthcare 20/20, Workplace Wellness has come to the fore for healthcare stakeholders and employee groups in the Cayman Islands. It is the new concept in town that everyone wants a piece of. But what is it?
What is workplace wellness?
It sounds like a no-brainer these two words put together, wellness and workplace. But what exactly is wellness?
According to Generali Worldwide, wellness is described by some as “a state of optimal wellbeing” and by others as a process of becoming aware or enlightened about choices that lead us away from or toward a balanced and fulfilling life.
All of these approaches agree on seven things – the seven dimensions of Wellness. These are the physical, social/cultural, environmental, occupational, spiritual, intellectual and emotional states where we can be well or unwell.
How are wellness and the workplace related?
If we spend our years between the ages of 17 and 65 working nine to five, five days a week, 48 weeks of the year (sick leave and vacation taken out), we spend some 31 per cent of our waking life in the workplace. This is 31 per cent of our prime! And how many of us really only work only 9am to 5pm?
Wouldn’t you say that 31 per cent of your life is important? If you aren’t well during that percentage of your life, how can you be well in the balance?
Two biggest obstacles to wellness
What is in the way of your wellbeing? For the individual, it usually comes down to two things – time and money. The money objection usually comes in the form of “It’s expensive to join a gym,” or “but the microwaveable lasagna is less expensive than the ingredients” or “I can’t afford yoga classes.” As for the time objection, this is even more flexible. “I can’t fit cooking in when I get home at 7pm and I’m exhausted” or “I have kids, where do you expect me to find the time to work out?”
These two things are often heavily affected by your relationship with your work. Interestingly enough, the biggest obstacles to wellness for employers are also time and money. Is the return on the investment worth the cost of a workplace wellness programme? How much time will it take away from production/billable hours if we encourage our employees to get involved in their own wellness?
Looking at it from another angle
It is an old wisdom that your greatest asset is your health. It is also said that a business is only as strong as the people who run it. If an employer’s greatest asset is his employees and an employee’s greatest asset is his wellness, then doesn’t it follow that an employer’s greatest asset is the wellbeing of his employees?
And what do wise employers do with our assets? They consider them a priority, they work to make sure that they are well maintained and that their value does not depreciate, they invest in them to make them more valuable. If businesses are able to do this with assets that are not living things, how much more rewarding would the returns be if we could invest in the wellbeing of the human beings, our greatest assets?
Getting time and money out of the way
It doesn’t have to break the bank account to make wellness a priority. It doesn’t take thousands of dollars or hundreds of hours to have an impact on the wellness of your employees.
Here are a few inexpensive options that could have an impact on the wellbeing of your employees. Occupational: Mentors/buddies, someone who is assigned to your new hires to care and lead, guide and help them adjust to a new working environment. Let your staff know you care by assigning someone to care for them.
Spiritual: A quiet room for meditation, prayer or just simple quiet time can make the world of a difference in the day of an employee. They can transition out of the bustle of their day and into a cross legged seat in a comfortable quiet room and get in touch with the present.
Intellectual: Book clubs and culture groups encourage employees to use parts of their brain currently ignored in the day to day functions of their jobs. Getting together over a new work of art, poetry, play can feed the creativity and innovation of your team while they enjoy themselves.
Emotional: Mental health days. In parts of the UK and Canada these are called “duvet” days. You get two a year for those days when you just want to snuggle in that blanket all day.
Physical: A running club/walking club after work or before work. This gets your staff out and in the fresh air together, changing the energy and working their muscles.
Social/Cultural: A family beach day. We have seven miles of gorgeous beach that is freely accessible. Get to know your staff and have them get to know each other, have their children play together and their spouses put faces to the names of the people they spend 31 per cent of their waking life with.
Environmental: Ergonomic workstations and sufficient lighting in the form of a desk lamp can keep your staff away from the chiropractor and comfortable right at their desks at work. A little colour can also go a long way.