Thursday, April 25, 2024

Employee wellbeing beyond wellness days

Every Friday a walk around the nation’s corporations, para-statals and even government departments is a spectacle of casual wear infused with brand colours and impeccable swag. From the well fitted bucket hats (popularly known as spoti) inscribed with each organization’s brand values, to the t-shirts juxtaposition of each company’s brand colors to highlight their artistic oeuvre. What was evident to me was that much of the garb came from some sort of Wellness day.

Wellness days are a staple in many work places, being it private/para-statal corporations, government or non-governmental institutions. These wellness days are usually fun- filled, jam packed days reserved, often on a Saturday, to educate, enthuse and motivate employees about the importance of healthy living often with an invited Keynote speaker. If one really wants to pull all the stops they better host it at some upmarket or exclusive out of town resort to match the ambience of the occasion

On the whole wellness days, when done right, are good for both employees and business. For most employees, it is the one day they feel appreciated and validated by the employer- and therefore likely to reciprocate. It also proves to be a valuable time to educate employees on their total wellbeing /health as people are generally relaxed and therefore more receptive.  The time away from work and strict boundaries allows employees to unwind and re-set their minds & body which can be a positive way to combat stress overload and or burnout.

Wellness days are happy days! They can in some way help foster better camaraderie among employees which may translate to better social interaction/relations and thereby reduce toxicity in the environment.

Other benefits of well-planned Wellness days may include but not limited to

  • Increased resilience
  • Better employee engagement
  • Reduced sickness days
  • Higher work performance

Unfortunately, many organizations never realise the return on investment that these wellness days/programs promise. The reasons are many, and differ according to establishments.

In our experience some of the reasons include;

  1. Wellness days being treated as a once off event instead of being part of a comprehensive wellness program that address real concerns of the employees.

Dedicating one day a year to employees’ wellness is just not enough; workers may feel like the gesture is an inauthentic lip-service because objectives of the wellness activities don’t line up with their actual experience at work – Relevance is key.  An effective wellness day is one that is tailored to meet the needs and demands of an organization’s demographic.

Imagine a situation in an organization where the marketing team is struggling with symptoms of burnout because they’re lacking sleep, work longer hours and constantly on the road. A workshop on good nutrition would not be valuable to them and may even foster further frustration with the organization.

  1. Wellness mangers and welfare officers working in isolation from other managers and leadership. To gain real benefit, employee wellness strategy must be integrated throughout an organization, embedded in its culture, leadership and people management.  It must be one of the key objectives.  Training and resources to support teams, as well as good lines of communication with senior management is also key to ensure workplace wellbeing is embedded in all policies and practices. Management buy-in is also essential deliver all the above.
  1. Wellness managers not asserting themselves enough, to a point where their voices becomes muffled by other managers. This leads to such being relegated to second class managers whose input is deemed unessential or not having the same clout as other managers within the organisation. In most organisations this is even reflected in their remuneration scales. This happens mainly because of lack of tangible proof or quantifiable return on investment of wellness interventions bring.

It is then up to all custodians of Wellness programs to do better to upscale the reputation of the wellness in the workplace from a nice to have  to a must have. This then calls for these programs to have proper measurable objectives, review/feedback opportunities, tracking changes and keeping proper records.

Conversations around the world  show employee wellbeing as a foundation and competitive edge employers use to grow and brand their cooporations. Businesses worldwide are embracing the fact that Health is Wealth, and we would do well to follow suit or at least investigate it further.

The truth of the matter is, If one wants to boost employee engagement and retention, an effective wellness program is no longer a nice-to-have program … it   is actually a must-have.


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