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Indian businesses should make workplace wellbeing a priority

India is considered to be an economic superpower in the making with its high growth rate, pro-business government policies and a talented, young workforce. While the influence of India’s young working professionals is expected to rise in the coming years, there is also another challenge that the country will have to deal with – that of building a healthy workforce. Moreover, the effectiveness of corporate wellness programmes in India is a matter of debate.

A recent study by People Matters published in 2019 had stated that limited budgets have been the top challenge for companies to drive workplace wellness initiatives. Though there has been a spike in the investments in health and wellness programmes, there is still scope for a lot more in corporate India. The study pointed out that on a scale of one to five, Indian organisations rated their satisfaction with current wellness initiatives at three, indicating the average results of wellness programmes. A high number of companies do not offer personalized wellness activity resulting in less employee adoption and engagement.

The scenario could be attributed to lack of awareness in defining wellbeing, selecting the best tools for assessing wellbeing programmes and measuring the cost-effectiveness of these interventions. Most line managers lack people skills and end up giving low priority to employee wellbeing which are important factors responsible for poor wellbeing programmes.

The British Safety Council published a report on Wellbeing at Work which defines wellbeing in the workplace and suggests a set of metrics for effectively measuring wellbeing programmes and policies. It puts together a variety of data on workplace wellbeing in the UK and an exhaustive review of the existing global literature and market intelligence.

In the UK organisations are beginning to recognise, and act upon, the importance of workplace wellbeing. The British Standards Institution (BSI) recently launched a new code of practice, PAS 3002, which provides organisations with recommendations ‘to establish, promote, maintain and review the health and wellbeing of workers. PAS 3002 aims to provide organisations with the ability to benchmark and audit themselves against the recommendations, to help them to establish early intervention measures to protect workers’ health, and to offer guidance regarding the ways in which the workplace can be used ‘to promote individual health and wellbeing’. India too needs a defined set of practices like these which offer corporates with standards to measure their wellbeing programmes.

In the UK, between 2017 and 2018, the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) had carried out an online survey of 250 wellbeing, Human Resources and employee benefit specialists across a range of industries. According to the survey, ‘mental health in the workplace is the top priority for almost three in five (60%) CEOs in the UK and the area of employee wellbeing with which their board is most concerned’. In India, meanwhile, according to research by Optum Health International published in September 6, 2018, only 10% of the 1.7 million registered companies run a formal mental health support programme. This is when nearly 42.5 per cent of employees in private sectors suffer from depression or general anxiety disorder compared to government employees, as per an ASSOCHAM study published in June 19, 2019.

The Wellbeing at Work report lays emphasis on commitment, clear thinking and effective action, not just to make workplaces healthy and safe, but also to make a moving impact on improving the lives of all workers.

The report makes several recommendations to employers for creating and evaluating workplace wellbeing programmes, with following proposals:

  1. Employees must be allowed to participate and be involved in the development of initiatives designed to improve their own health and wellbeing.

  2. Line managers must be suitably trained in mental health awareness and the requisite support mechanisms, so that they can confidently communicate with employees in a sensitive and empathetic manner.

  3. Organisations should appraise the impact and effectiveness of their health and wellbeing interventions regularly so that that they adapt and respond to the evolving needs of their workers.

  4. There is a strong link between employees’ wellbeing and quality of work. This is expressed through a healthy working environment, fair wages, robust relationships with managers and colleagues, job design, level of responsibility and authority, workload, working hours, and career development prospects.

Contributed by
Hemant Sethi, Country Head India, British Safety Council India



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