February: Healthy Lifestyle Month
February is healthy lifestyle month! This means that there is an opportunity to emphasize valuing wellness, convenience and work-life balance in the workplace.
Employees for whom lifestyle is a career anchor like to find a compromise between their personal needs, family needs and the requirements of their career. To take a holistic approach requires that care be taken of the whole person. One cannot detach the worker from the human being. This means that even the broader social and dynamics of employees, such as those related to personal and family lives, must be taken into account. Attention must be paid to a well-balanced work and family life. What needs to be taken care of proactively is thus “body, mind and soul”.
A recent report by the Families and Work Institute and the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the United States revealed that workplace flexibility has a positive impact on employees’ work-life experiences. These low-cost initiatives can lead to increased employee job satisfaction, lower turnover and lower insurance costs. SHRM believes that the United States must have a 21st-century workplace flexibility policy that meets the needs of both employers and employees. As opposed to a one-size-fits-all mandate for all employers, they support a new approach that reflects diverse employee needs and preferences, as well as differences among work environments, representation, industries and organizational sizes. This workplace flexibility policy should support employees in balancing their work, family and personal obligations and, at the same time, provide certainty, predictability and stability to employers.
A strategic approach to managing human resources will include a comprehensive wellness plan and programme. A wellness program should, idealistically spell out what the organization’s philosophy is in respect of promoting and maintaining the general well-being of its human resources. Developing such a strategic framework should ideally also be an inclusive process in which all the stakeholders are engaged.
Questions that can be asked:
- Do you have a formal work / life balance policy that are addressing working during vacation time or during sick time?
- What do Managers / Supervisors do to encourage employees to take time away from work to recharge?
- Do you encourage employees to ask for help when necessary?
Other aspects of managing employee wellness:
- Focus on the ergonomics and design workstations to minimise the repetitive strain on workers in selected occupations to reduce physical and postural strains.
- Provide reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities.
- Health screening and safety auditing. Provide a safe working environment for pregnant and post-natal employees.
- Promote the philosophy that employee health, safety and general well-being are important and beneficial to both the employee and the organization.
- Promoting exercise and the improvement of the fitness of the employee.
- Work-schedule adaptions, flexitime, job sharing, flexi-place and telecommuting.
- Show concern about childcare. An agency can be contracted to provide employees with consultation on childcare and to make lists available regarding childcare options.
- Nutrition programmes can be shared that is very basic to inform employees of the potential benefits of following a good diet.
- Smoking policies should be in place to prevent employees from having health risks associated with smoking.
- Being prepared for emergency situations and managing the health and safety at work.
- Offer social services to troubled employees who need professional treatment for substance abuse.
- Address workplace bullying, which includes persecuting or ganging up on an individual, making unreasonable demands or setting impossible work targets, making restrictive and petty work rules, constant intrusive surveillance, shouting, abusive language, physical assault and open or implied threats of dismissal or demotion.
- Manage employees who are HIV positive and have respect for human rights.
There are some interesting examples of what different Companies are doing or were doing to enhance work-life balance in the workplace:
- Microsoft SA includes in its wide range of benefits free coffee/tea and soft drinks throughout the day, massage therapist visit twice a month, on-site gym with consultant for individual fitness programmes, on-site carwash, and annual children’s Christmas party.
- Old Mutual built a R97 million private shopping centre that contains food outlets, a beauty salon, a hairdresser, an optician, a clothing store and a postal service.
- Santam launched its “Yell to Yellow” concierge service that offers everything from fetching dry-cleaning, paying fines, renewing licences and watering plants, to organising weekend getaways, planning events and moving house.
- Nedbank offers a “ survival” course for mothers returning to work after maternity leave, and runs two crèches at its Sandton offices.
- Hollard Insurance not only has a games room with a climbing wall but also a gym with a full-time biokineticist.
- Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals offer a “Parent in a Pickle” benefit whereby the company pays for an au pair to look after children of employees who are away on business.
- 2012 Employee Benefits, Society of Human Resource Management Report, sponsored by Colonial Life.
- B.J.Swanepoel, et al, South African Human Resources Management Theory & Practice, Fourth Edition, 2008, Juta & Co Ltd.