The future me.
“Wellness” is this buzzword that escapes a pinpointed definition. Interning in Beijing and writing for Network HR Magazine on wellness in the corporate world has given me plenty of absolutely glorious hours to muse on this phenomenon I find so fascinating. I’ve been interviewing Human Resources Managers in Fortune 500s on what wellness means to their companies. Nearly every interview has begun with something along the lines of, “What is wellness?” on their end. Well, you just stole my first question there, didn’t you? Now, this can and should be partly attributed to the language barrier and also to the fact that “wellness,” no matter where you are, is a trendy word emerging too fast for its own good. Of course, this complication is easily overcome with a bit of time and dialogue.
A cup of coffee in the morning. Making sure you get in a daily sweat. Eating healthily. Family time. A yoga class. A glass of red wine after dinner. Like it or not, these are all forms of wellness to someone out there. I hit some of mine. Here’s my universal formula. If it makes you happy and it’s also supporting your quality of life, you’re contributing to your wellness.
So how do we fit “wellness” into a box, if the box is different for everyone? Is there a box? What can be said for certain is that people are a company’s greatest asset. Thus, people need to be taken care of. Their wellness requires attention and support. If this concept is ignored, people leave and find a support network elsewhere. So let’s talk about forms of wellness. There’s workplace wellness, emotional wellness, intellectual wellness, physical wellness and work-life balance wellness, to name a few. Companies offer what I am going to call foundational (commonplace) wellness programs, such as insurance-based programs, medical checks and savings programs. These are plans that many – in fact, most – companies have some form of to support employee quality of life. “Insurance plans,” “remuneration” and “benefits” are routinely echoed down HR department halls to ensure good employee-employer relations, and to boost PR.
But. There’s a caveat.
Creativity rules. We live in 2012. Yes, insurance matters. Yes, remuneration matters, and yep, you guessed it, benefits matter too! These are standard wellness programs that measure tangible employee wellness: how much money an employee receives during sickness, how much money the company will match with employee savings, and the health status of the employee. But you can provide these things, and not give employees all of the care they want. People are smart. Programs are important, but culture is the basis needed for programs to be initiated, to work and to grow. People want to work for companies that creatively and energetically approach their wellbeing. A more realistic and intentional means of categorizing “wellness” is due. We can see it in terms of what is basic and bare minimum and separate that from what is cutting edge.
I’ve given you a taste of the foundational (and somewhat bland…) basis for employee wellness that most companies have down pat. Let me give you some examples of exciting and innovative initiatives I’ve been learning about during the interview process.
-Friday afternoon 30 minute free massages for Sales and Marketing Departments….where can I sign up?
-Game room hours during lunch and after work
-Teambuilding outings and overnight retreats
-Sports clubs, yoga clubs, gym membership
-Companies competing against each other in global teams to get the most steps logged over a 16 week period
-Flexible release time for exercise
In the States, 67% of the adult population is overweight or obese. This tells you why a medical check isn’t gonna cut it. We already have the problem and we need proactive programs that reverse future damage before it happens. Companies that approach corporate wellness from an innovative angle are smart because they see the relationship between their people’s success and the company’s. The result is higher productivity, lower turnover and less costs for the company.
I am writing this article on corporate health and wellness because I am determined to see companies catch up to what I believe needs to be the norm for corporate culture. I want my dream workplace to be a reality. I want to work in a place that invests in my wellbeing in the ways I want to be invested in. First, I want sweat to be compatible with the workplace. I want the flexibility to go to the gym during lunch. I want a shower and a changing room in my workplace so that I can actively transport myself. After I get my rainbows and butterflies and corporate yoga, I’m sold. Another form of workplace wellness I’m looking for in a future job is the investment in my development. I want my skills to be honed, evaluated and honed further. I want a company who has a plan for me, invests in my growth and pushes me to achieve my long-term goals.
If these ideas seem lofty, it’s because they are. I’m not saying I won’t have to compromise on some of these expectations for a paying job that’s not a boot camp instructor extraordinaire. Although, that would be fun. Future part time job? Yes.
I’m saying that times are changing and innovation is big. Big enough that if this generation wants corporate yoga, or more appropriately, needs corporate yoga, we’ve got it in the bag. This moment we have is special. I’ve seen first hand that it is a singular moment in which corporations are asking to define the expectations meant by “corporate wellness.”
Let’s make it big.