By Philip Gregory, Senior Regional Executive: Johnson Controls GWS, Middle East & Africa
One of the biggest challenges for organisations of all sizes is to attract and retain talented employees. Traditionally, recruitment strategies have focused primarily on creating competitive compensation packages and offering candidates clear opportunities for career advancement. Today, a new criterion has joined the list of must-haves for potential employees: Workplace wellness.
In a 2014 study conducted by Global WorkPlace Solutions (GWS) and CoreNet Global, 75 percent of those surveyed said that when seeking a new position, it's important that a potential employer support health and wellbeing. Once in the job, more than half (57 percent) said they would be likely to stay longer if their employer valued health and wellbeing.
What's behind the emphasis on wellness? GWS researchers have been examining that and other trends that have the potential to impact the real estate and facilities management industries. And when it comes to wellness, two macro trends are emerging:
1. Our personal attitudes about health are changing.
People no longer wait until they get sick to pay attention to their health. In our research, a majority of respondents (72 percent) said they were actively working to improve their current health condition.
2. Technology now enables us to be more proactive.
Want to check your heart rate during your daily run? Take a look at your wrist. Wearable technology has taken the fitness industry by storm. According to Juniper Research1, sales of bracelets and smart watches are expected to reach $4.5 billion this year, fuelled largely by younger generations of digital natives who use technology to measure everything possible.
Those two trends are combining to create a powerful dynamic: Individuals are taking greater control over their own health and wellbeing. And as our research shows, employees want their companies to put a priority on wellness, too, suggesting work and health are inextricably linked.
Implications for employers
The study showed a majority of survey respondents (75 percent) feel their job has an impact on their wellbeing - and not necessarily for the better. Between their work and their private life, more than half (53 percent) responded that they were stressed during a normal week, caused by:
· Pressure to balance private and professional commitments (79 percent)
· High expectations toward myself (72 percent)
· Constant availability through technology (53 percent)
As a result of the stress, survey respondents said they felt overwhelmed, tired and less productive.
There is an increasing amount of evidence linking productivity and wellness. According to a 2012 report by professional services company Towers Watson2, nearly 66 percent of the companies that have workplace wellness programs perform better than the competition.
So what can organisations do?
GWS researchers asked attendees at industry conferences to consider two very different approaches to promoting workplace wellness.
In the first scenario, the employer would play an active role in improving the health and wellbeing of his employees through the use of control. Employees would fully disclose their health status and, while in the workplace, advanced technologies would be used to monitor and measure the employee's health in real time. For example, sensors could be used to monitor stress levels, which would then alert the employee to take a break when levels reached a certain threshold. Or, stressed-out workers could retreat to a designated relaxation room, like the one designed by Healthcare leader Philips3, to calm themselves.
In the second scenario, the employer would rely less on control to achieve wellness objectives and, instead, would promote health and wellbeing through trust. In this scenario, an individual employee's health status would remain private and an emphasis would be placed on encouraging wellness through greater work-life balance. For example, employees would be given the freedom to choose where, when and how they work most productively.
Not surprisingly, the majority of people surveyed favoured the approach to wellness built on trust. In all likelihood, however, workplace wellness programs of the future will probably embrace elements of both approaches and may include features such as onsite fitness facilities, healthier meals and snacks in the cafeteria, flexible work schedules and the use of web portals and other technologies to encourage healthy living both onsite and off.
A growing number of companies are leveraging wellness and wellbeing to drive business value. According to a 2013 study by the non-profit think tank Rand4, about half of U.S. companies now offer some kind of wellness initiative to minimise the impact of chronic disease on employee health, curb the cost of health care coverage and increase competitiveness. GWS research shows the trend gathering pace globally for at least the next ten years.
The growing demand for workplace wellness programs is a trend organisations can no longer ignore. Workers are taking control of their health, making wellness a priority, and they expect their employers to support their efforts. To remain competitive, companies must demonstrate a commitment to wellness.