Do most Corporate Wellness Programs actually work?
Corporate wellness programs are fast becoming part of an organization’s stated practice to keep employees at their optimum performance levels. Designed correctly, they can help in another critical area – to reduce costs incurred due to absences, low productivity, attrition etc. But are these programs really effective in giving results that a corporate hopes for? What are the pitfalls companies need to be aware of while designing and implementing one? And why are most companies not taking it seriously beyond a mere statement?
Here is Vani Pahwa, Founder and Wellness Specialist at Body in Motion, sharing her views on how 90% of Corporate Wellness Programs are doomed for failure. She shares her experiences over years of doing deep seated work in the Fitness and Wellness sphere, including with big corporates , and hints at how to create evidence-based Corporate Wellness programs that actually work.
Q. What are ‘Corporate Wellness Programs’?
Employees are the most valuable assets of an organization. Their ‘happiness quotient’ and productivity depends largely upon their overall health and wellness. This ‘wellness’ requires sustained nurturing in a comprehensive manner to contribute to their individual performance, and by extrapolation, to that of the organization.
Body in Motion has designed structured and personalized programs to provide, maintain and enhance the wellness of employees. These are termed as Body in Motion’s ‘Corporate Wellness Programs’. Our extensive experience of partnering with organizations of varying sizes over last several years has reinforced our belief that the challenges being addressed through a corporate wellness program are different from those being addressed for an individual and small groups.
Q. Why have such programs gained currency in recent times?
As I stated in my answer to the previous question, companies (the smarter ones) are fast realizing that even with rapid advancements in technology, their most valuable resource remains their human capital (employees) driving these advancements. The productivity of employees significantly influences an organization’s performance and bottom line. And this productivity is a sum total of more than just the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) commonly adopted to measure employee performance.
Employee contribution (and to an extent their corporate allegiance) is a cumulative effect of their well-being across all fronts – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – both at the work place and off it. Competition and stress has grown exponentially over the years resulting in wear and tear of the human asset. Human agility and resilience (physical, mental and emotional) needs constant nurturing and replenishing. Likewise, stress cannot be wished away, glossed over or treated in isolation, given its omnipresence.
All these influencers of human performance need to be assessed and managed with equal emphasis and in synchronicity. They need to be appropriately addressed for all entities in the chain – an individual, the leadership and the overall company culture. Companies become (and more importantly remain) leaders in their domain when they treat their workforce with the same level of engagement, seriousness and commitment as they treat their portfolio of clients, products and services. Investment in the human asset forms the foundation of a strong corporate performance, leading to excellence, longevity and retention.
Q. Are they really effective? Or has it become a victim of a ‘me too’ culture?
The intent in approach and execution is what differentiates the success of these programs across organizations. And also differentiates between the thought leaders and the ‘me too’ followers. The origins of a successful program are in the honesty, seriousness and commitment of an organization in first acknowledging, then purposefully planning (in deliberation with wellness professionals) and finally, effectively implementing wellness objectives and solutions for its employees.
There is many a slip between the cup and the lip. For a program to be powerful, meaningful, have a fighting chance at longevity and at making any worthwhile impact on corporate culture, it deserves to be treated as more than a passing thought. While it’s not rocket science, it is science nevertheless, and requires a mindful approach towards its design and implementation, similar to what an organization’s core business may require.
Many wellness programs fail to make the intended impact because they operate as disjointed, ad hoc measures, run more in the nature of vacuous events/sessions in offices rather than well thought out, relevant, measurable and progressive programs. They are more noise than substance. It does speak of a casual approach in treating the employee base and demonstrates a certain level of ignorance about the concept of wellness.
Q. What in your opinion is the formula for a successful wellness program?
There is no one “formula” for a successful wellness program. Treating it with this approach alone is enough to negate its success and render the whole pursuit frivolous and aimless.
What it needs to be, instead, is a mindful approach based on honesty of intent, and genuineness of effort in identifying needs and seeking pertinent solutions thereof.
A successful wellness program needs to operate from the ground up. Meaning, it should be
based on what is the real need of its end consumers (employees) rather than someone’s idea of it. The program needs to be sensitive and relevant to the profile of the people it is addressing- demands of their roles, their lifestyle (work and home), their unique and common stressors, coping mechanisms available, and overall cultural influences of the workspace. Solutions need to be designed to cater to and integrate all levels (individual, leadership and company culture). All links in the chain have to be made proactive members for a wellness program to be successful.
Q. How is a ‘Body InMotion’ Corporate Wellness Program different from others?
To put it simply, we understand the power of wellness and its deep potential in allowing individuals to become better masters of themselves, their health and their lives, and what this can collectively translate into for an organization.
Our approach to program design is to make them tools of exponential positive change, sensitive to and operating out of the operational reality of the corporate client. We strive to give an element of measure to the process to gauge efficacy and provide refinement as needed. The goal alongside, is to facilitate greater connect with the employee base (across positions), encourage long term adherence and help make wellness a lifestyle choice.
We offer multiple, tailored solutions to cater to different requirements that are practical and can be implemented even outside the office environment. Our programs lend themselves to scalability and adaptability. We love to (create and) use“agents of change” from within the organization to keep steering the process and drive ongoing enthusiasm and engagement.
Contrast this with wellness models where events, programs and vendors keep plugging in and out of the system without any coherent, long term approach and plan in place. Additionally, there is very little awareness of cultural relevance (role based, location based and industry based). There is no one-size-fits-all even across various offices of one corporate, let alone among different companies.
Best practices require careful thought, planning and execution. Mindful of this reality, BodyInMotion works with organizations to bring sharper focus and better deliverables in the wellness space. We have experience of working with organizations as a singular entity, of addressing varying group sizes within an organization, and of working with senior corporate leadership in individual formats. We can thus, help design a new program or tweak an existing one as the need may be.
Q. What kind of process do you follow in developing a program for a client?
One of painstaking, due diligence.
We acutely value time, effort and sincerity – our client’s, as well as our own. Training people across all sectors, cities, professions and strata, and in various formats (individual, and small to very large groups, in office, off sites etc.), we are regularly exposed to the reality of the work environment pressures, triggers and human responses to them. We strive to use this exposure to design and implement suitable programs in conjunction with the corporate. We act as enablers and executors for corporates across domains with respect to:
- Ground assessment of existing programs (if any) and their efficacy, and/or establish need of a relevant one, if none exists, and implement tweaks wherever needed
- Program design(s) to address unique needs across industry, offices, locales and roles people execute.
- Programmes designed to address what the employees say they need – the Body InMotion ‘Preference survey’ is conducted for the employees, it is data mined, and these inputs flow into the ultimate solution/program designed for the corporate.
- Drive continuous engagement of the corporate family and adopt ongoing assessment practices to keep programs smart, relevant and meaningful.
- Drive a shift in the wellness paradigm from sporadic/incoherent attempts to one aimed at making it a cultural and lifestyle fit.
To allow for any of this to translate into reality, we strive to work as ‘partners in learning’ with a company. This approach enables a deeper understanding of program need, design and deliverables, not just for us, but even a corporate as it gets better connected to its people.
Q. What new developments can we expect from Body In Motion in this field in the near future?
Body in Motion is working on various formats as deliverables, ranging from short half day programs to two-day modular trainings. Options of contact based and internet based engagements have been woven in to allow greater availability, options and reach. We are looking at offering exciting options to encourage a sense of adventure, fitter aspirations and out-of-the-box approach to wellness. We will be pushing for greater integration of mental and emotional wellness quotients, along with the physical, since it is our firm belief that an individual is more than just a sum of parts. Our approach is (and will continue to be) to target all important constituents of a corporate – Individuals, Leaders & Culture.
Q. What are Body In Motion Corporate Wellness Webinars?
As touched upon in the previous answer, these are internet based, interactive sessions that allow people to remotely plug in and be part of specific topic driven programs. Issues common to participants are dealt with, followed by a Q & A session where they also learn from each other’s’ experiences in an encouraging way. This allows people to become participants irrespective of their geographical locations and is a powerful tool to augment contact sessions.
We have received great feedback from people who have participated in our webinars so far. Participants have gone back feeling a part of a larger group and never alone in their journey to become healthy.
Q. Does Body InMotion offer any bespoke programmes to address stress / health concerns of the senior or top management, more specifically CxOs?
Yes. We have witnessed time and again, that leaders face complex challenges in executing multiple roles with finesse. Our C-Suite programs (for CxOs) are designed to work with and enhance leadership qualities, as role models for the rest of the team. Their body language and thought process plays a pivotal role in setting the tone for an entire organization. There are lot more similarities between sports / athletic endeavors and corporate leadership than may be apparent. Both require careful planning, goal setting at the macro and micro levels, setting reasonable timelines, measuring progress and adopting course corrections as needed. In between is the need for recovery at each stage to prevent burnout. Programs for the C-Suites are designed to help them think, manage and behave as powerful agents of change while nurturing their own needs in the face of immense stress. These are highly individualized solutions, mindful of their role, pressures and time constraints.