Progressive companies in the USA recognize that unhealthy employees are a financial burden and that wellness programs can provide an effective solution. Instituting wellness programs that help employees adopt healthier behaviors can be an important way to decrease illness, absenteeism, turnover, medical claims; and increase productivity and create a healthier bottom line.
How can Corporate India help to improve the health of Indians ? Traditionally, most companies just pay for their employees’ medical insurance policies, which means they provide financial cover in case of illness. I feel they need to take a more proactive approach and prevent illness ! At present, HR ( Human Resources ) departments think of themselves simply as dispensers of health care entitlements . If an employee falls ill and submits a claim, they feel that their job is to process the claim so that the costs of the medical care are reimbursed. This is very short-sighted !
In the US, employee health management (EHM) programs have been around since the 1970s. However, when employers simply offer free EHM programs and do not offer incentives for participation in them, the uptake of such wellness programs is poor. They attract only those employees who already committed to personal health and fitness, while those most needing to improve these dimensions ignored the opportunity. However, by providing incentives, participation rates of as high as 95% have become possible.
Instead of focusing solely on healthcare and disability claims costs, these programs look at absenteeism reductionism and presenteeism as desired outcomes. They look at employees who have “productivity impairment” behaviors and conditions, including emotional/behavioral problems, inadequate sleep, stress, and similar debilitating factors, many of which are epidemic in call centers and BPOs today, and provide holistic solutions.
Results have been far more positive than earlier EHM investments that focused just on healthcare cost reduction. Productivity “recovery” often increases total economic benefit to employers by two to five times, compared to healthcare cost reduction alone. Progressive companies allow employees to design their own EHM goals, and this has been very helpful since it is the employees’ own personal efforts that make EHM successful.
The good news is that progressive companies in India are now following the US trend. Many companies provide gymnasiums and fitness centers in their campuses; technology companies use the internet to provide their employees with online counseling programs; others offer their employees a free PHR ( Personal Health Record) to help them manage their own health; while others are gifting free copies of the Healthwise Handbook to help their employees to remain healthy.
What’s your company doing to improve the health of its employees ?
NB I wrote this article for Times Wellness, where it was first published.