Forbes Middle East


What Actually Is Workplace Wellbeing?

Catherine Darroue
What Actually Is Workplace Wellbeing?

Workplace wellbeing is a key issue for any company that wants to be successful. Look after your employees, the reasoning goes, and they’ll look after you. Not surprisingly then, according to a recent study of over 1,250 employees and HR Directors in the UAE, 49% of HR Directors said that the availability of ongoing programs to support wellness in their company was good. However, only 20% of employees in the UAE would say the same.

Perhaps the disparity between the perceptions of HR professionals and employees is partly created by a narrow understanding of what produces a true sense of wellbeing, both at work and more generally. Certainly, workplaces should be looking to prevent stress, anxiety, and depression. But for staff to thrive, we need to aim higher than a lack of negative symptoms. This is a point made by the World Health Organisation, which defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Organizations need to take a 360° view and adopt personalized and inclusive strategies that address holistic health. This is really the only way to ensure employees have access to the right support and interventions at the right time. This might sound intimidatingly complex if you are dealing with diverse or large workforces, but actually it doesn’t have to be the case.

Just as medicine is moving away from best-selling drugs to precision medicine, people are becoming more active consumers by informing themselves about what’s available and demanding more convenient options. Personalizing provision, therefore, could just be a question of finding ways to champion this and support people on their path to attaining personal health and wellness goals.

In a world where we’re used to doing everything on a screen, many employees also benefit from access to online wellness programs—the kind that let them move at their own pace to address whatever it is they want to work on. These are particularly useful for introducing emotional wellbeing strategies such as mindfulness, which is associated with employee wellbeing and job performance.

And there are other ways to take advantage of technology and virtual healthcare too, by putting people into immediate and easy contact with trained nutritionists, coaches, and primary GP care, whenever they need it. Accessed via a phone, a computer screen or an app, these days virtual health services can neatly bring together the clinical expertise that is required, the accessibility and flexibility that people demand, and the compassionate, human touch of speaking to a real person.

Cutting-edge science also offers a way to personalize healthcare. Genetic health and lifestyle testing can provide personal information on things like nutrigenomics (the relationship between the food we eat and our bodies), sleep, stress, and fitness, allowing individuals to gain a better understanding of how these things affect them. As well as a measure of insight, it offers people reassurance that they’re following the right path for them and that they’re able to make tweaks if they want to.

There is sufficient evidence to back up the tangible business benefits of a purposeful and flourishing workforce. People with a strong sense of wellbeing enjoy a whole host of positive outcomes, from being healthier and happier, to enhancing their creativity and problem-solving skills and becoming more productive. This, in turn, leads to a higher level of performance, fewer days off and a lower level of turnover and burnout rates. This is something every organization can get behind.

Catherine Darroue is the Senior Director of Customer Proposition for EMEA at Aetna International.

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