Originating from stress management in the 1980s, wellness has come a long way. Recently, the trend towards a holistic wellbeing programme has been put high on the HR agenda. Companies are finally seeing the link between employee’s wellbeing, their productivity and overall business results.

Employees aren’t the only ones benefiting from wellbeing programmes. Companies are facing rising medical costs, often coming from preventable lifestyle illnesses like diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Absentee rates and reduced engagements are slowing down the efficiency and consequently revenue of the organisation.

The isolated initiative

Designing and implementing a coordinated and integrated wellbeing programme is a huge undertaking for any HR team. While a single initiative is unlikely to leave a mark, the focus stayed on physical and emotional wellbeing with the most popular initiatives being:

Physical activity: 58%
Mental health: 55%
Smoking cessation: 54%
Weight management: 49%
Health club memberships: 48%

In this region, the high temperature in the summer time and the perceived lack of outdoor areas to walk or exercise are often used as an excuse to not move. Preparing for a fundamental shift in thinking, organisations can support their employees together with government-led initiatives. Since 2010, Dubai Sports World in association with Dubai Sports Council is offering individuals and teams to play and work out in the World Trade Centre for almost 3 months in the summer.

The holistic approach

To be successful, companies need to identify a well-rounded programme considering the physical, emotional, social, spirituality and financial wellbeing of their employees. But what does that even mean?

  • Physical wellbeing can be defined as the absence of illnesses and diseases and goes further by including lifestyle choices (e.g. around sleep, exercise, nutrition) which can influence other aspects of one’s life.
  • Emotional wellbeing is centred around positive mental health, allowing individuals to cope with the stresses of life, work productively and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
  • Social wellbeing focuses on one’s ability to relate, interact, connect and communicate with other people in their daily life as well as establishing and maintaining positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
  • Spiritual wellbeing is considered to be one’s ability to establish peace and harmony in their life, to act in accordance with their values and to give meaning and purpose to one’s actions and activities.
  • Financial wellbeing is the state where one has control over day-to-day and month-to-month finances, the capacity to absorb a financial shock and the financial freedom to make the choices that allow them to enjoy life.

Limited by budgets, companies can reap the rewards when overcoming the initial challenges of implementing a holistic wellbeing programme. Organisations are not only rolling out a new initiative, more importantly, they’re making a cultural shift. Putting wellbeing on their business and HR agenda rewards them with increases in productivity and engagement and reduced absenteeism rates. Employees express the feeling of being appreciated and valued, higher satisfaction and happiness, resulting in stronger intent to stay.

Example initiatives for each wellbeing area

Wellbeing initiatives don’t have to cost the bank as these examples for each component of a holistic wellbeing programme illustrate:

Physical wellbeing: Get your employees moving. Provide them with a fitness band and organise a step competition for each team or department within your organisation. Studies have shown how competitive we can be inside and outside the workplace. Reward the team with the highest number of steps over a 10-week-period, a long enough period to manifest the new behaviour.

Emotional wellbeing: Stress is one of the biggest risks, impacting all areas of life. Laughter, the body’s natural antidote to stress, is an effective way to reduce stress, tension and trauma. It’s thus no surprise that laughter workshops are becoming increasingly popular. Allowing employees to laugh it off, their focus shifts to a more positive perspective.

Social wellbeing: Employees want to belong and many organisations have recognised the power of social networks. Companies provide their facilities, possible a small contribution, to special interest groups for employees to join. This can range from a sports club over to LEGO construction groups or a company’s own orchestra. Employees are getting to know their colleagues on a personal basis and are developing deeper connections through the joint interest.

Spiritual wellbeing: Performing meaningful and purposeful work which is aligned to the employee’s values enhances their morale, commitment and productivity due to the reduction in stress and burnout. If uncertain about their own values, the employee can identify them by simply asking themselves “What 3-5 traits, behaviours, perspectives or ideas are most important to me?” The direct manager can outline how the employee’s job links to and impacts the overall organisation.

Financial wellbeing: Poor financial knowledge leads to health problems like muscle tension, migraines or other headaches, anxiety and ulcers. Not knowing how to pay the increasing school fees or rents, it’s expected that about 66% of employees in the UAE are experiencing financial stress. Companies are following the trend seen in universities over the last decade: Educating employees on financial and budgeting 101.

You can see how interrelated each area of wellbeing is and why a single, isolated initiative will not lead to the desired results.

Come and join us at Wellbeing 360!

On 10 April 2017, the conference Wellbeing 360 at the Conrad Hotel, SZR, Dubai hosts industry leaders and experts discussing the various levels of wellbeing within an organisation. We will share our insights during the panel discussion “Health and Wealth – the contribution of financial services to personal health and wellbeing”.

Prefer to chat directly about your organisation and your plans of introducing a holistic wellbeing programme? Call us on +971-50-5516322 and learn how we can support you before, during and after the implementation.