Why tomorrow’s wellness programs will leave out the ‘tough love’ approach

By Ritesh Daryani

As the traditional workplace continues to go through a massive, potentially permanent transformation, many companies are rushing to bring the dynamics of the in-office experience into the virtual space we all now inhabit. During times of extraordinary change, leadership may feel that clinging to old routines is the best way to provide support for employees. However, right now is not a time to uphold the status quo. Instead, it’s a chance to introduce bold ideas that force a positive shift in entrenched corporate culture.

In the last decade, tech companies fundamentally changed the corporate office environment—ushering in an era of open spaces, catered kitchens and cafeterias, and clubhouse-like atmospheres to attract young and ambitious workers. However, the hollowness of these perks was exposed when offices shut down earlier this year and employees began working from home. Instead of scrambling to find an ad hoc solution to temporarily satisfy employees, a company-wide cultural refocus can do the trick for everyone’s long-term future.

The need for functional mental and physical wellness programs only grows stronger as people grapple with the increasingly blurred lines between home and work life. Providing a structured and enriching approach to well-being can alter people’s understanding of their own selves, both internally and in relation to others, and allow people to bring their A game to work each day. Even better, these tenets of wellness aren’t confined to the workplace; they can extend into other aspects of life, too.

The tech industry is well known, and even revered, for its “tough-love” approach to management and the global successes associated with this style of leadership. Choosing to focus on holistic care may seem confounding—after all, why fix what’s not clearly broken? Many companies are finding that this “churn and burn” model, which moves workers up the ladder, can wreak havoc on HR departments and hinder a company’s progress down the line. A deliberate investment in employees can produce a more effective workplace, as well as a happier and more creative workforce.

In fact, by giving people the tools to put their well-being at the center of their daily lives, companies will notice improvements not only within the employee population, but a ripple effect reaching across communities, societies, the environment, and—if you’re an optimist—the world.

Here are four bold approaches to holistic well-being services to consider implementing into your workplace:

Make the services accessible from anywhere

Having an on-site gym for employees to use at their convenience during the workday is great, until office buildings are closed due to a global pandemic. Ensuring that health and well-being services are accessible both in and outside of the office goes a long way toward future-proofing your well-being program against unforeseen circumstances and providing extra encouragement for people to get involved when it best fits their schedule. For example, live-streamed fitness classes throughout the day, from yoga to dance aerobics, allows people (and their family members, as an additional perk) to join at their convenience and gives their mind a break.

Incentivize, incentivize, incentivize

The reality is people are more likely to commit to a goal when they know there’s a reward at the end for their hard work. By providing incentives for health and wellness achievements, whether that be a gift card or a donation to their charity of choice, people are more likely to fully engage in participating. A little healthy competition never hurt anybody either; consider virtual team activities that can fuel bonding between coworkers and get them outside of their traditional work circles.

Provide assessments and guidance to keep people on track

The finer points of committing to a health goal can get lost in the shuffle of a hectic work and home life. Building assessments into the program helps individuals keep track of their progress, thus fueling more motivation. Having an easily accessible method of tracking, like a phone app, empowers individuals to understand the impact and progress of their efforts whenever they want. If people feel they’re getting off track, or are ready to take their program to the next level, having dedicated professionals (such as life coaches or dieticians) on board to assist them goes that much further toward helping them achieve their goals. In addition, keeping track of overall metrics can inform the leadership of what elements of the program work best for employees, and what can be improved.

Infuse, instead of add on

If wellness is truly a mission, these beliefs need to be incorporated into company rhetoric and reinforced from the top down on a regular basis, not just as a line item in the handbook that’s addressed once a year. Making well-being a way of life will require going beyond the facets of the program and incorporating it into other aspects of work life as well, from management to the workplace environment. Securing leadership commitment gives weight to the effort as well, and shows that it’s a priority for the company, as well as for team members.

Remember: True employee wellness is not a checklist item. It’s a daily commitment to focus on your team’s self-improvement in all aspects, both now and for the future.

As the dynamics of the office continue to shift and work further permeates peoples’ personal lives, providing the opportunities to build a better lifestyle and more successful career for employees can be a lasting positive change to continue carrying on once the dust settles on this period of upheaval.

Ritesh Daryani is the vice president of people and culture at Edifecs, where he is responsible for the function and corporation-wide participation of the company’s Well-being Center, a 23,000-square-foot on-site facility designed to promote the physical and mental well-being of employees.


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