Employee Wellness and the “Why?”

By Chandra Dalmia

Why should companies care about the wellness of their employees? Why not? The proof is in the pudding but is it easy to see? Companies like J&J, or Mercer have put into place programs that foster the wellbeing of their employees, and the super brands equivocally show the growth. So why is it taking so long for other companies to see the light? Do they need more proof? Why isn’t everyone jumping on the bandwagon?

Ahh, but we know the real reason why companies do not jump at the concept of wellness for their employees… it’s an added expense. Typical companies in the UAE shell out millions of Dirhams for salaries and health insurance coverage for their employees, so why isn’t that enough? They typically question, why do I have to spend more? The answer is that they should be willing to invest in those that spend countless hours working for their dreams, without hesitation.

We also know that doing “good” for our employees is paramount and ensures their productivity, thereby increasing the bottom line, but how do we calculate that productivity? This is debated constantly in regards to wellness programs, but it’s not that difficult. If we look at calculating savings accrued by decreased absenteeism, we might have a better view.

Take for instance Johnson & Johnson (J&J), whom we all know to be a giant but still manages to ensure that their employees are healthy and well. Not only by providing health insurance but by creating a comprehensive program that address all areas of wellness as indicated in the diagram below:

Wellness

(Copyright: Smart Wellness)

They have also been able to calculate that since the inception of their wellness program in 1996 until now, they can say that they save an average estimated value between $2-$4 (~AED 3.67 : AED 11) per employee, year on year! That is for every $1 spent on the program. Talk about an ROI! But is that enough? J&J also boasts that due to their program which also puts the responsibility of health on the employee, a marked average of $565 saved per employee was noted.  So with all these savings, you would think companies would be jumping at the opportunity to start their own programs. But alas, this is not the case. Education, I think, is the key here; where we need to inform companies what the benefits are of developing comprehensive wellness programs, teaching them how easy they are to implement, and that the initial investment is not as large and intimidating as it may seem.

If we can accomplish this task of educating the key decision makers, then it would be a lot easier to focus on retaining intellectuals, keeping company knowledge in the company, and developing a community and culture that fosters the total growth of employees. Also showing an interest in the employees, a concept shortsighted in the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries, would be welcomed refreshment in the employee pool, which is all too often polluted with stories of companies mistreating their employees. In the end, showing companies that investing in the health of the employees will inevitably lead to a healthier and of course happier employee base. And we all know happy employees are more productive employees!!

Chandra is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Smart Wellness Consulting, a local consulting firm in the UAE that specializes on providing wellness solutions to Corporates.  You can connect with Chandra via Twitter @SWCAware, Or LinkedIn 

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