How businesses can support employees’ mental health
The article has been authored by Neeraj Balani, managing director, International SOS, India.
Corporate health and wellness programmes offer opportunities to elevate awareness regarding the need to create a healthy work environment. A healthy workforce goes a long way towards building organisational resilience. Corporate health and wellness programmes have been around for a long time in India. Many organisations adopt it to align with national health and safety policies, running their programmes as a check box while many others adopt these to fulfil their duty of care and use them as competitive advantage to increase productivity.
It must be noted that while quick fixes are simple, successful health and wellness programmes require commitment, long-term planning and alignment with the company’s culture and values. As we emerge from the shadows of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen an increased focus by organisations on employee health and wellbeing initiatives. International SOS has been at the forefront of providing health and wellness services to large organisations for 30 years. However, we have seen some marked changes on this front in recent months.
We propagate emphasis on the design and integration of health and wellness programmes into organisations which are tailor-made to help managers and employees identify issues before they escalate into large-scale problems by providing access to qualified and professional support. While there is much literature on this topic in terms of return on investment and the benefits of such programmes, we want to focus on some current trends and roadmap for a successful health and wellness programme design and adoption in Indian organisations.
We list some of the milestones on the roadmap which are essential for any organisation to think of, before embarking on this journey:
1) Define the purpose of the well-being programme: Think of it as a journey rather than a race to implement. Find the right expertise to define the journey of well-being for your organisation. Today many companies focus on delivering an annual medical check-up. Is that it? Well, not at all. Chances are that if you are an IT company in India with an average population age of < 30 years, 50% of your workforce may not even need an annual health check-up which has radiology built in. A doctor should decide who needs a medical check-up, not an insurance
premium “freebie”. To add to this, so much data on employee health collected goes to waste because it’s treated as a “transaction”. Neither does the organisation gain any knowledge nor does the employee reap the benefits of his health check records from the past.
2) Find a trusted partner to consult, design, implement and govern: Medical programmes including well-being need medical expertise. A non-medical person cannot design or govern a medical programme.
3) “Deliver less”, efficiently rather than “deliver more”, cheaply: I always ask my customers; will you take your loved one/dependant to the doctor you have hired or the clinic you have set up in your workplace? If the answer is no, then say it out loud. Delivering health and wellness to employees cheaply or inefficiently is worse than not delivering anything at all. I make this statement, keeping aside the fact that as an employer you are subject to medico-legal liability for providing sub-standard/non-quality services to your employees via your contract with a service partner.
4) Find an orchestrator for your well-being programme: A big learning from the IT industry was the importance of governance for any large and complex programme. While well-being may not have huge budgets, with its target mix of medical and wellness services and reach of programmes (to your employees and their dependents), it better be orchestrated well.
Some current trends in health and wellness programme set-up, which are being discussed in large organisations in India are;
a) How should employee health and wellness programmes be defined by geography? When you are a global organisation and thinking of this as a global benefits programme, you will have to come up with a global construct which takes care of local cultural and regulatory needs.
b) Who should be eligible for the corporate health and wellness programme? Is it the employee or is it the employee’s family or the employee's extended family? This is the question which has come to the fore since the onset of the pandemic, especially in countries where medical infrastructure is not up to date.