The Culture of Health - The Next Big Thing in Engaging Employees

Almost all organisations race to keep their talented staff engaged, enthusiastic and productive. Of late, however, there seems to be a reduction in staff motivation, probably due to the lethargy of working from home and making the transition back to the office. As one acclimatises back to an office environment, one needs to also revisit the strategies for a healthier workplace culture.

An emerging idea in engaging employees may well be the practice of a Culture of Health or COH. The concept of COH was initiated by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Harvard University which uses a 4-pillar framework to examine organisational and societal well-being. One of those pillars is Employee Health.  

So what Employee Health strategies can be implemented to engage employees? Here are some ideas.

Employee Emotional Wellbeing
This aspect can be enhanced by reducing stress through greater flexibility in the allocation and scheduling of work. For example, working from home can help reduce the stress from social interactions within a work environment. Employee assistance programmes can be provided for employees' access to counselling and psychological support. In addition, training on mental and emotional health awareness could also be offered and communicated organisation-wide.
 
Employee Physical Wellbeing 
This can be promoted through providing access to healthcare such as medical coverage, insurance or even providing basic onsite medical facilities. Even sponsoring gym or sports memberships would also incentivise employees to adopt a healthier physical lifestyle. If the organisation offers cafeteria privileges, and promotes healthy employee lifestyles - these can be manifested through serving or providing healthy options in canteens and vending machines, optimising indoor environmental quality, and introducing health-related apps and platforms.

Employee Financial Wellbeing
Interestingly this aspect of well-being is something that is rarely considered but can be driven through strategies such as conducting financial literacy and financial management programmes which provides education and guidance for employees on financial issues ranging from managing one’s credit to preparing for retirement. Employee financial assistance programmes can be offered such as grants, study loans, and scholarships for education and training. 

Organisations need to realise that the well-being of their people often translates into several business benefits including greater productivity, improved retention, employee engagement and an increase in the psychological contract between employees and their organisations. An emphasis on employee health and well-being also acts as a key factor in attracting talents and in enhancing the brand of the organisation. With well-developed and supported initiatives, the organisation’s wellness programmes will yield not only sustainable results but also a happy and productive workforce. 

Covid-19 has been an eye-opener for many organisations on how they may reset the way employers and employees work together. Businesses that fail to grasp the opportunity of resetting this relationship run the risk of being left behind by competitors who use the culture of health as their competitive leverage to get ahead.

 

Vijaya Malar Arumugam
School of Hospitality and Service Management
Email: vijayam@sunway.edu.my