Wellbeing: An apple a day, not enough to make an employee stay

We are embedding health and wellbeing at the heart of our business strategy because our people are our greatest asset, and we recognize that a healthy, happy and committed workforce is vital to our business success.11

 – Alex Gourlay, Co-Chief Operating Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.

Is it not the responsibility of parents to take care of their children’s wellbeing? Or a school’s responsibility to take care of their students? Keeping the logical consistency in mind, should it not be the organization’s duty to, at the very least, provide and promote a culture of wellbeing? It is not just for the sake of employees as healthy employees are by default better performers. Thus, companies need to invest in the right place, and wellbeing is one such factor that will help in increasing productivity.

If we go strictly by the law in India, employees cannot work for more than 9 hrs a day and 48 hrs a week. According to a study by the Swiss investment bank UBS, which studied 77 cities around the globe, employees respectively in Mumbai and Delhi work for 3,315 hrs and 2,511 hrs annually1. According to another study by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), around 13.8% of employees in India work for 60 hours or more1.

Considering the time employee spends at a workplace, their expectation of an environment where their wellbeing is taken care of is only fair. Wellbeing is a holistic blend of social, psychological, and physical health. Providing for just one of these aspects will not do the intended job, and thus, there must be a balance between the three.

A company should be selfish in keeping employee wellbeing in mind

A study by ASSOCHAM in 2015 stated that 42.5% of the population of employees in the private sector suffer from depression or general anxiety disorder. Furthermore, a 2016 survey that studied employees around 30 firms reported that 46% suffer from extreme stress due to their work2. On the other hand, employees who lead healthier lifestyles help companies in various ways.

“By investing in wellness programs, employers are in a unique position to drive engagement and create healthier, happier, and more productive workforces.”

Rebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare Chief Consumer Officer3

According to the 2018 Wellness Check-Up Survey by UnitedHealthcare, 62% of employees felt wellbeing programs increased their productivity and 56% reported they took fewer sick leaves3. According to the Employee Benefits Report, 2017 by SHRM, 91% of employees deem healthcare initiatives as important. Furthermore, Workplace Wellness Trends 2017 found that more than half of organizations providing wellbeing programs found a decrease in absenteeism, 66% reported better productivity, and 67% of employees feel more satisfied4.

How do you go about creating a culture of wellbeing?

There is a clear requirement for organizations to put wellbeing interventions in place. But how does a company know where to start from? Or what areas under wellbeing should their interventions focus on? Following are the three areas that add up to ensure employee’s wellbeing:

1) Physical Wellbeing: In simplest terms, physical wellbeing is when there is an action plan and intention to prevent diseases. Organizations can help employees through promoting healthy eating practices, fitness program initiatives, and flexibility in work hours, etc. This in turn helps the company’s health and reduces company costs as well. Coca-Cola put in place a fitness program in which 60% of the employees participated, through this, they saved an estimate of $500 a year per employee. Coca-Cola’s fitness programs included initiatives where employees could track their sleep and steps, participate in fitness challenges, weight management, and stress reduction among others.

In another case, Coors Brewing Company was able to reduce their absentee rate by 18% in employees who participated in workplace wellness programmes3. Another study reported that on the days, employees went to the gym, they were more productive, managed their time better, and had better interactions with their colleagues. More importantly, they went home with a feeling of satisfaction4. Clearly, physical health has a direct impact on how an employee spends his/her day during work

2) Psychological Wellbeing: Psychological and emotional wellbeing are the two broad aspects that come under the bracket of mental health. Fortunately, it is gaining momentum and more and more organizations are paying attention to this factor. According to the 2017 report of WHO, 57 million people in India are affected by depression5. Archana Bisht, director at 1to1help.net, says that there is a large number of people contemplating suicide, and among these people, a high proportion is of those who are currently working6. A Wall Street Journal report, Indian millennials spend an average of 52 hours a week in their work which is more than what millennials in other 25 countries that were studied7.

The competition is high and the environment where people can talk about their grievances is low. The stigma attached to mental illness is another trouble that employees go through. People are not willing to talk about mental health because of the fear of being judged. This creates a vicious cycle. Unless a person is mentally stable, s/he will not undertake a task with complete responsibility, nor will s/he be able to put in best efforts. Employers, thus, need to first understand the gravity and importance of psychological wellbeing themselves. Secondly, work towards creating an environment where people are sensitive towards each other’s psychological needs. Lastly, by then providing the right interventions to help create and promote a healthy culture

3) Social Wellbeing: Human beings are social beings, they spend a lot of their time in their respective jobs, and thus, expect to form good bonds in their workplace. However, if colleagues around them aren’t supportive or are instead a reason behind their stresses, they will look for other opportunities. Employers must consciously create a culture of inclusiveness that ensures employees don’t feel alienated. Interventions that promote togetherness should be set in place. This will also create a positive impact on an individual’s psychological wellbeing.

People’s skills are quickly becoming obsolete. That makes the future very uncertain stated Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer at Wipro6. Social groups help employees dealing with similar problems come together. A sense of belongingness helps employees to feel less alone in the issues they might be facing. This creates motivation among people as a group to work together, and subsequently start working on themselves as well. Thus, organizations are helping themselves by creating a social environment of trust and collaboration

Case Study: Wellbeing and M&S

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has about 85,000 employees in 53 countries. M&S believes wellbeing is an important part of an individual’s life and thus, plays a critical role in an organizational setting as well. M&S introduced programs that were suggested by employees to ensure maximum participation. Programs such as the annual weight loss challenge and BIKE 24 charity challenge. Around 4 metric tons of weight were lost during the weight loss challenge while improving staff engagement.

These interventions, since their launch, have tremendously helped M&S through a turnover rate improvement (down to a low of 0.50%; as of Feb 2013), and sickness absence rate falling to 7% in one month. Furthermore, over 13,000 employees use M&S’s ‘planahealth.com’ website, 5000 employees undertook pledges to take steps towards healthier lifestyles, such as by drinking more water. M&S’s efforts also helped it win the BITC’s workwell award in 20138.

Get Well Together, Get Well Better

An organization is as well as the employees who are working for it. A culture that promotes the importance of social, psychological, and physical wellbeing ensures better concentration, less absenteeism, and improved social bonds. This helps in creating an environment of trust, leading to employees taking further charge of their respective works and making them more productive. So, the question is: Is your organization doing enough to provide the right social, psychological, and physical wellbeing?


  1. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/employees-in-mumbai-work-the-longest-hours-take-least-vacation-days-ubs-2582023.html
  2. https://www.firstpost.com/living/mental-health-and-the-workplace-time-for-indian-companies-to-take-employees-well-being-seriously-4428925.html
  3. https://blog.wellable.co/wellness-programs-increased-productivity-reduced-sick-days
  4. https://www.springbuk.com/2017-health-wellness-statistics/
  5. SHRM and Zoojoobee; Wellbeing and Engagement Outcomes; A collaborative Study between SHRM and Zoojoobee India
  6. https://hbr.org/2014/10/regular-exercise-is-part-of-your-job (HBR Study)
  7. http://www.searo.who.int/india/mediacentre/events/world_health_day/whd_2017/en/
  8. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/jobs/46-of-workforce-in-firms-in-india-suffer-from-some-or-the-other-form-of-stress-data/articleshow/52696795.cms
  9. https://www.firstpost.com/living/mental-health-and-the-workplace-time-for-indian-companies-to-take-employees-well-being-seriously-4428925.html
  10. http://engageforsuccess.org/wellbeing-employee-engagement-case-study-marks-spencer-wellbeing
  11. https://meetzipongo.com/blog/15-quotes-inspire-employee-wellness-program/
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