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The pandemic has brought significant changes to the way we work and live, and it has increased the focus on employee wellness in the workplace. It is important to note that employers across the country lose about one lakh crore each year due to attrition, absenteeism, and unhappy employees. By creating a happy and healthy atmosphere for our workforce, we could reduce attrition and increase productivity, which are directly proportional to each other.
Today, we are joined by two esteemed panelists who are leaders in their own right to discuss strategies to move towards a more productive workspace.
Shailaja (EVP, Global CHRO & India Country Head - Incedo Inc.) shares her opinion:
As a wellness advocate, I believe that wellness means different things for different people. Over time, I've come to realize that the definition varies based on age groups and their unique wellness needs. Prior to the pandemic, wellness was not a key focus area, but rather something that was in the background. The main focus was on ensuring employees were happy and taken care of from a health and wellness perspective.
However, the pandemic changed everything. As people returned to work, I started hearing three common things that they were struggling with. Firstly, many missed the opportunity to connect with others and have a community to speak to. Secondly, due to the pandemic, many had gained weight and were struggling to get back into shape. Lastly, the overall stress of daily life had taken a toll on people's mental health.
In response, we began to shift our approach to employee engagement beyond engagement to experience. We started thinking about how we could include families and create experiences that everyone could enjoy, like family days and bring your kids to work days. Additionally, we put a greater emphasis on team events and outings to connect people in a more meaningful way.
We also introduced an employee assistance program to support those struggling with mental health, which surprisingly saw a lot of participation, including from family members. We also introduced annual health checkups and introduced allowances around opioids, basic checkups that were not covered in any insurance benefits programs.
Overall, our approach to wellness has become more holistic and proactive, focusing on creating a supportive community and providing resources for both physical and mental health.
Dr. Noel (Co-founder - ekincare) shares his opinion:
Before the pandemic, our company offered flexible benefits for employees to pick and choose from, as we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to employee health needs.I also discussed the importance of understanding the difference between wellness and wellbeing. Wellness is something that people have to put effort into achieving, while wellbeing encompasses health in various aspects such as physical, mental, social, and financial health. It's important for companies to recognize that productivity is not just about the workplace, but about an employee's whole life.
To address this, our company expanded from offering three to four benefits pre-pandemic to offering close to 20 different benefits post-pandemic, including gyms and fitness centers, dental and vision services, and mental health emergency services. We use technology to personalize an individual's health journey and provide them with areas of focus for improvement.
Overall, our platform is built on three pillars: a broad range of benefits, an employee experience that allows them to access services whether at home or at work, and the ability for organizations to understand how employees are interacting with these benefits and what risk factors to take into account when designing future health programs.
So, we're going through an insurance renewal period in the next few months and I've sent out a survey to employees to gather feedback on what's working and what's not. This time around, we're taking the feedback more seriously because we want to understand what we can do differently. One thing we did during the US and India insurance renewal was to offer US employees the opportunity to enroll in India insurance to cover their parents based in India.
This is important because people are geographically dispersed and we want to provide cover for their families as well. Additionally, I'm pushing for mental wellbeing to be a priority. I've noticed more individuals having a meltdown and we need to take care of their mental health. We're looking into workshops and access to professionals who can provide help. We're also creating a network of first responders, including our own employees, in case of a crisis. This was extremely helpful during the second wave and we want to have our own network of support in remote places.
Dr Noel says:
I work with over 500 companies from various industries and each company has its unique way of operating, philosophies, and workforce. Our approach is simple, we believe that if something cannot be measured, it cannot be improved. As a digital platform, we provide our clients with insights not only on utilization but also on risk by analyzing medical information. Setting expectations is crucial to the success of any program. Before our clients even become our clients, we inform them about what they should expect from a particular program. We have benchmarks in place to monitor progress and address any areas that need improvement before it's too late.
Data is essential in understanding how different benefits are used, and communication and creating awareness are key factors in engaging employees. We have seen success in gamifying health in some industries, where employees are rewarded for taking care of their health. Each industry has its own unique challenges, but by implementing learnings from different industries, we can encourage employees to engage with the platform, use the benefits, and ultimately feel good about going to work.
Shailaja shares her thoughts:
As a company, our mission statement centers around the idea of helping our employees thrive and grow with our organization. This means that we not only focus on productivity and contribution, but also on the well-being and satisfaction of our employees. Our philosophy is that a company that can retain its high performers is a company that truly cares about its employees and their success.
For us, being a people-first organization is more than just paying good salaries and providing challenging assignments. It is about investing in our employees and creating a whole package that takes care of their needs. As a young and growing organization, we established a corpus at the board level to be used for the benefit of our employees and for any other social events.
During the pandemic, we used this corpus to support our employees and their families during tough times. We covered the cost of lost wages and everyday sickness, and also provided support for education and job redundancy. Additionally, we provided oxygen concentrators to anyone who needed them through a link that we set up.
Our philosophy revolves around the idea that healthy and engaged employees drive success for our company. We believe that investing in our employees and their well-being is essential for the growth and success of our organization.
Initially, we realized the importance of mental health and its impact on our organization's productivity and overall wellbeing. So, we had organized a workshop for our senior leadership team. The objective was to help our leaders understand the importance of self-care and how they can support their teams in taking care of their mental health.
However, with the pandemic and the resulting stress and anxiety, we realized that it was not just our senior leaders who needed support, but everyone in our organization. So, we decided to cascade this program to all levels of our organization, starting from the middle management level to junior management and eventually to all employees. For junior management, we emphasized the importance of centering oneself through meditation and learning techniques to unleash their potential. We wanted them to focus on self-care so that they can give their best at work. For middle management, we focused on coaching and mentoring their teams and harnessing their team's energy and productivity. We believed that if our middle management was in a good place mentally, they could support their teams in the best way possible.
At the end of the day, we understand that it can be difficult for people to talk about their mental health. But as a leader, I believe it is our responsibility to create an environment where our employees feel comfortable and supported. We want to ensure that our employees take a breath, center themselves, and learn techniques to take care of their mental health, so they can perform their best at work and lead fulfilling lives outside of work.
Dr Noel shares his thoughts:
As a healthcare benefits provider, we believe that technology can be a great enabler for accessing healthcare services, but it requires a commitment from both the organization and the employees to truly see the benefits. While technology brings in a lot of convenience, it is not a replacement for the commitment to health and well-being.
We have seen that organizations with great success in terms of benefit adoption and employee satisfaction are those where senior management has advocated for the benefits and used them themselves. Employees always look up to their leaders, and if they see their leaders using and advocating for the benefits, they are more likely to follow suit.
Technology can take it two steps further in terms of getting employees to engage and use benefits, but it requires the organization and senior management to create that initial push. We have had clients who have even used their benefits program as a talent acquisition tool by showcasing themselves as companies that are employee-friendly from a health and well-being point of view, not just from a compensation perspective.
Overall, while technology can certainly aid in accessing healthcare services, it is up to the organization and its leaders to create a culture of prioritizing health and well-being, and to advocate for and use the available benefits themselves. When this commitment is made, the benefits can be truly transformative for both the employees and the organization as a whole.
As I reflect on my experience with healthcare platforms in my organization, I've noticed that there are certain benefits that are more attractive to employees than others. In my opinion, the most appealing aspects of these platforms are online consultations and the opportunities they provide for employees. However, there are also some significant challenges associated with the adoption and implementation of these platforms.
One of the most significant challenges is the effort required to encourage employees to sign up and participate in the platform. When we ask employees to book their annual health checkups online, for example, it often requires a lot of effort on the part of the benefits team to promote the platform and ensure that everyone is aware of the opportunity. This can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, especially when it comes to coordinating dates, venues, and other logistical details.
I've also noticed that certain features of the platform are more likely to be adopted than others. For instance, simple tasks that only take a few minutes to complete tend to be more popular than those that require more effort or time. This means that the benefits team needs to constantly find new and creative ways to keep employees engaged and motivated to use the platform.
Despite these challenges, I believe that healthcare platforms can be a valuable tool for organizations. However, it's important to recognize that not all employees will be equally receptive to the idea of using an online platform for their healthcare needs. Some may prefer more traditional methods, such as visiting a doctor in person or filling out paper forms. As a result, it's essential to offer a range of options and ensure that everyone has access to the information and resources they need to make informed decisions about their health.
Dr Noel says:
So, what I understood is that keeping the benefits platform top of mind for employees is a challenge. However, technology can help in this aspect. For instance, there is a CRM that can classify users based on their journey and how they are interacting with the platform. The algorithms built into the platform can do the heavy lifting in terms of driving adoption, and there is literally zero human intervention required. The platform recognizes the type of user and can nudge them in different ways. For example, if a user is active on the platform, the journey will be different. Technology can be configured to create awareness about the available benefits and discounted services for employees and their family members. This way, the platform can do the thinking and drive adoption without requiring any human effort.
Shailaja adds her opinion:
I really wish there was an easy system in place that would ask me for my preferences and automatically sign me up for different programs at the time of signing up on a platform. It would save me so much time and effort. I would love it if someone else made the decision for me and I could just opt out if I didn't want to participate. It would be great if all my contact information and preferences were already set up, so I wouldn't have to go through the hassle of logging in and uploading all the information myself. I think this would be a fantastic opportunity to make the platform more user-friendly and accessible. It would be nice to have the option to either sign up or opt-out of these programs, without having to go through the hassle of manually signing up and providing all the information again and again.
Dr. Noel says:
To an extent we do have this, we collect some initial information from employees such as questions about their health, lifestyle, location, family history etc. After that, our platform provides nudges and recommendations, such as taking on a health challenge or reading an article to improve their health. We also notify employees of sponsored health checkups or discounted services they can avail of. While there's always room for improvement, the technology we use can be fine-tuned to provide even better suggestions. I appreciated the food for thought brought up by the discussion.
Dr. Noel says:
In my opinion, incentives are not a one-size-fits-all solution for every organization. It depends on where they are on their journey towards wellness or wellbeing. Initially, incentives can be used to make people aware of the benefits and encourage them to use them. Once they are using the benefits, incentives can be used to make it a part of the culture or DNA of the organization or individual. For example, we have challenges on our platform that incentivize people to avoid sugar or take 5000 steps every day, and we keep incentivizing them until it becomes a behavior.
We can also incentivize teams to work together towards these goals in a healthy manner. Some organizations incentivize people from a social well-being point of view, where the accumulated points can be donated towards social causes like kids, the environment, the elderly, or the underprivileged. The company matches the points earned towards these social goals. So incentives can be individually, team, or organization-driven, and can impact society at large.
As someone who is familiar with platforms like ekincare, I believe that there are a couple of areas where they could directly impact and make my life easier. Firstly, I would love for them to offer a diagnostic service that would assess my health and wellness needs based on the specific demographics of my organization. This would alleviate the stress of trying to figure out which apps or tools are appropriate for my employees to use, and instead, provide me with a personalized list of options to choose from. By doing this, I would be able to make informed decisions and ensure that my employees have access to the resources they need to stay healthy and productive.
Secondly, I would appreciate it if ekincare could provide me with information on industry best practices in health and wellness. As a leader, I often make decisions based on my own research, but it would be beneficial to know what innovative practices other organizations are implementing. ekincare has the advantage of being able to analyze usage patterns and trends, which could be used to create a searchable newsletter that highlights current health concerns and emerging practices. For example, if there is a particular virus or illness that is going around, it would be helpful to receive a notification that advises me to encourage my employees to be more cautious or to take preventative measures. Similarly, if air quality is poor or if there are other environmental factors that could impact my employees' health, I would like to be informed so that I can take appropriate action.
Overall, I believe that ekincare has the potential to be a valuable resource for employers who want to prioritize the health and wellness of their employees. By providing personalized assessments and staying up-to-date on the latest industry trends and concerns, they could make it easier for employers to make informed decisions that benefit their workforce.
Dr. Noel conveys his ideas:
One of the key advantages of using data to tailor our programs is that we can ensure that they are highly relevant and engaging for our clients' employees. By understanding the specific health risks and needs of each individual, we can provide them with targeted advice, recommendations, and support, which are much more likely to resonate with them than generic health advice.
Moreover, by providing real-time analytics and dashboards, we empower our clients to take a more proactive approach to managing the health and well-being of their employees. They can quickly and easily identify areas where improvements are needed, and use this data to make informed decisions about which programs and initiatives to implement.
Another important benefit of data-driven health and well-being programs is that they can help to improve employee engagement and participation. By tailoring our programs to the specific needs and interests of each individual, we can ensure that they are much more likely to be engaged and motivated to participate. This can lead to better health outcomes, as employees are more likely to take an active role in managing their health.
Finally, data-driven health and well-being programs can help to reduce healthcare costs for both employees and employers. By identifying specific health risks and needs early on, we can help to prevent more serious health problems from developing, which can be expensive to treat. Moreover, by promoting healthy behaviors and providing support for employees, we can help to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity, which can ultimately save employers money.
In summary, data-driven health and well-being programs offer a range of benefits for both employees and employers, including tailored advice and support, improved engagement and participation, and reduced healthcare costs. By using data to identify specific health risks and needs, we can provide highly effective and relevant programs that can make a real difference to people's lives.
Shailaja conveys her ideas:
As a company, we believe that our employees are our most important asset, and we strive to ensure that they are happy, productive, and well taken care of. We understand that employee well-being is not just about the individual, but also about their families, and we aim to extend our support to them as well. We are constantly working towards providing avenues for our employees to seek guidance and support when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. Additionally, we aim to foster a nurturing and inclusive community for our employees. While we operate within a limited budget, we aim to provide opportunities for our employees to make choices that are important to them, such as directing insurance premiums towards specific needs. We understand that our employees drive the future of our company, and it is essential for us to invest in their well-being to ensure the growth and success of our organization.
Dr. Noel says:
As an advocate for wellness and well-being, I believe that these should be integrated into our daily lives rather than being something we constantly strive for. The concept of wellness should come naturally, just like how a farmer's daily work keeps them fit physically and mentally. However, I understand that this may be difficult to achieve, and that's where technology comes in. Technology can provide access to wellness resources at an affordable cost, and can be made available at the individual's convenience. It can also simplify health information and provide nudges for people to take the necessary steps towards better health.
I believe that organizations should prioritize their employees' well-being, and that budget constraints should not hinder their efforts to do so. By redirecting savings from hiring and training towards improving employee health, both the employee and their family members can benefit. Technology has made wellness more affordable, as it aggregates various services and discounts, and can scale to limitless boundaries. Through curated networks of doctors and diagnostics, technology can deliver quality services and reduce costs. Overall, I see technology as a powerful enabler for improving employee well-being and making wellness accessible to all.
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