Again, after 2 months (sorry, these were really busy and difficult) I’m back to Sharjah Forum and it’s theme.
I participated in the workshop about workplace wellness.
What is it? Wikipedia says
Workplace wellness is any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace and to improve health outcomes. Known as ‚corporate wellbeing’ outside the US, workplace wellness often comprises activities such as health education, medical screenings, weight management programs, on-site fitness programs or facilities.
and these words depict pretty well what we were discussing for quite a few hours but not quite what I was expecting. My thoughts on data I got bit chaotic but frustrating. Frustrating, because for me term workplace wellness and its representation aren’t really present in Polish reality. As a society we manage diseases easier, but get unhealthier, so we need something attractive to have a will to keep our bodies in a good shape. Implementing wellness programmes is a great idea. Which limits us, but on the other hand, saves us. Welcome to the modern world.
Leaving aside all philosophical divagations, my thoughts are simple.
For start: I can’t really recall many companies which would implement workplace wellness. In my Polish reality, it’s just not present. Sorry.
I admit that I’m not familiar with big corporation’s policies as I haven’t worked in one.
But still I have friends and I listen to stories. And how many examples I found? Right now, I can think of like 2-3 that could have been counted. A few days ago, for example, I had a chance to speak to a woman from Amazon and she mentioned such practices. To which extent do they care? I have no clue. It was a birthday dinner, not a work, so we left the topic quickly. But I know that they have, for instance, competition in losing kilograms between teams. Group one, which, in my opinion, makes it healthier*.
On the forum, there were people from organisations and companies who try to promote that or start such programmes. That’s a nice approach. There was a woman from HR department in a big company and she shared briefly their story. They started with nothing and people wouldn’t even care to know the new opportunities and possibilities. Only when they started with fun stuff. First, company parties with healthier food and attractive things to pull out people from behind the tables. Darts for instance. Then they started such things in office hours, implementing workplace wellness programs with very good results.
Engaging people. I was impressed because if I were given the blood pressure meter at work I would use it only being sure that my HR, boss or anyone will not have access to my data. I was impressed because I sincerely believe that people forced=people reluctant. Sorry!
I’d really like to listen to your experience in this field. Maybe I am mistaken and world wellness aware more than I think? 😉 Well, I don’t think so, numbers rather prove my point, but I can’t find my notes at the moment, so my only prove for you is your own experience.
In Poland, we have an obligatory medical checkup once in the while. It should be made periodically. But the rule (law) applies only to employed people. On full-featured contracts. That means in my last company most of the employees had to have all the health tests run. Me, not. I was on a worse kind of contract, with less security and rights. And, in theory, fewer obligations, mhm. Well, it’s not connected, but it was me, not anyone else, who had a brain stroke.
In the big city office in my city, Szczecin, with like few hundred employees, they have like almost no will to implement such programmes. My mom works there and asked she could tell me about these demanded by law checkups, and e-mails notifying employees about such things like free tests, free sports events, such opportunities. For the few hundred people, that’s a whole policy. Better than nothing, but still not the great one.
Next thing is that term „workplace wellness” applies only to healthy, or not-so-sick people.
To tell the truth I chose this workshop just because there was nothing more interesting for me in that stream. And I was disappointed. Because well, once it happened, the term wellness, seemed to change to „treating”. But I still think that workplace wellness should incorporate all employees, to promote a healthy way of work and take care of themselves and making a place of work health-friendly.
Noone would speak about the disabled, or people, who were returning to work, which should be a huge part of an issue. Let’s face the fact: health and well-being aren’t only about reducing weight and good blood pressure.
I had an impression that I was the only voice from the other side. Feeling bit stupid, as if I didn’t understand the issue, I still felt obliged to tell people what was my initial, intuitive, and not so far from strict definition understanding of the issue. I gave my voice of the person, who cannot go back to work on normal, not convenient terms, which doesn’t mean that I would be a worse employee. In a way, in Poland, I am it better to employ as a disabled person. I am cheaper for the person (company) hiring me.
But back to the clue: I gave my voice.
I was thinking about myself and people, who are alike: these to whom the policy has to be adjusted, not those who should be adjusted. I really support all these programmes which, if implemented wisely, can even save lives. But these are like kilometres from at least part of us, people suffering from NCDs (non–communicable diseases). Here wellness in the workplace would mean something more. Or different. And I’m sure, that many would support me.
The first thing is flexibility. Like we are (sadly not everywhere) flexible towards pregnant women. It would be helpful to be flexible. Not to pay attention to nausea or leaving earlier, if the rest of work is done from home. There are so many kinds o work which can be done not only from office. Or these, in which the deadline isn’t like sacred thing which can’t be exceeded. if so, smart planning together with a supervisor would make many of us able to work not worse than others.
Flexibility is a key for me. For sick people, but also for many healthy. I don’t call for bending under demands of anyone, just a clear-headed look on overworked and often bit upset workers.
For me, flexibility is a key. because the person who suffers from heart condition/neurological issues/autoimmune issues/depression (wow, I have most of them) doesn’t have to be the worst lawyer of the year.
During the course of discussion, the moderator asked me what how I would see that in my, personal case. Ok, I said basically what is above. and as I am eager to work again and I am well aware of my limits, I know that my boss would have to trust me a bit and be a bit flexible. I would need boss I haven’t seen so far. That’s why I am working to be my own boss.
It’s twice as hard, but I can work in my own pace.
By the way, I was called then a brave, young woman. Yay! But now I think that in a way it was a bit patronising. Because if I wasn’t invited to an event to say these things, I don’t know why I was. In a way, it was also cool;)
I sincerely believe that next to programmes encouraging people to take care of their own health there should be programmes making the workplace more friendly, not only disabled-friendly but just really friendly. And a mix of them should be called workplace wellness. only the mix.
Last thing (not really, but I don’t have power for more, I have NCDs, sorry;ppp), we all benefit from being healthier. So we all benefit from workplace wellness programmes.
Employees: it’s obvious, sorry:)
the system in general (country, NHS, whatever): having healthy people lowers costs of maintaining of all society. Countries increasingly increase the percentage of GDP allocated to health care. In Poland, it is now over than 6 %. And it would be much less if all people suffering from type 2 diabetes I know didn’t have it. An apple a day…
Employers: numbers also show that such programmes can seem bit money-consuming but in a long run they lower costs of companies.
Don’t ask me how. Ask Amazon;) Or sth.
One more thought on the wellness matter: the conference wasn’t a healthy event.
I’m one of the weakest people I know, my power of will makes me like superhero;) but the event was full different people: young and healthy, but also older people. And we all were smiling, but on the Day Three majority of us had grey from exhaustion faces. Amazing. agenda filled from 8:30 AM till 11 PM. People running on litres of caffeine (hopefully not cocaine) were smiling, but me myself was exhausted. To such extent that after closing ceremony I slept more or less fro 6 PM till 9 AM. More or less;)
If we can agree, that event was a job for most of the participants, we would have to say, that the environment was unhealthy. And this wonderful opportunity didn’t make it up for it.
I know, I know, I’m whining like a sad, frustrated strokie, but the event was demanding like Olympic Games;) I guess it’s always like that. Now I know, I will be more careful to organise my energy and be freer to let things go (i really don’t have to be on every single panel discussion. I want to, but it’s not possible. 🙂 flexibility, flexibility…
* Why group losing kilograms is healthier? Because losing weight for like 10 kg a month is easy for some people. The focus on lowering calories and dehydration. During the course of a discussion about this Amazon competition, my friend told me, that in Dubai they had something like a reward system. You could win gold for losing some weight. So in his gym, there was a guy who lost like 10 kilos or so and won 16 g of gold. But then he was gaining more. didn’t have to give it back;)
Good policy for the city on the edge of bankruptcy. ( ;