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BW Businessworld

Workout For Bonus

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There is no getting around it. A strong balance sheet is inextricably intertwined with a healthy workforce. Employee health and well-being are the newest buzzwords in corporate India, with most companies working feverishly to integrate wellness programmes into their work cultures.

Thus, it is no surprise that we are going to see more in-house gyms or discounted gym memberships, on-call nutritional counsellors, wellness programmes and active design workspaces this year. It is clear to all that work stresses apart, employee health habits — or a lack of them — are a significant reason for the growing prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension. 
 
Nothing motivates like money does. Corporates in the West have long realised that the easiest way to entice employees into signing up for (and participate in) a wellness programme is to incentivise it. But this can be achieved only after some essential wellness services are already in place such as an executive health scheme, health and productivity planning and on-site healthcare by external agencies for health risk assessments, vaccinations and lifestyle disease management and prevention plans. 
 
Indian corporates can do several things to promote wellness within their organisations. Let us talk about the top five wellness programmes that can be used separately or concurrently with each other for best results to maximise employee wellness initiatives and change ‘India Sick’ to 
‘India Shining’. 
 
Risk And Reward 
This is a simple way of getting employees interested in their own health and well-being and preventing or diagnosing health problems — reducing healthcare costs. It could be used as an annual company-wide initiative to recognise and reward employee awareness and participation in healthcare initiatives. Each employee is expected to fill out an online annual health risk assessment (HRA) — a series of questions designed to get them interested in their own health. This could help prevent/diagnose health problems, and the lower an employee’s health risks, the higher the award value. The award money could be redeemed every year or carried over. 

Inbox Alert
A great way of educating employees on healthy behaviour and good food habits — not just for themselves but their families — are newsletters. Employees could receive a weekly wellness newsletter in their inbox or be able to log on to an online wellness-incentive microsite. Such communication is a great way for companies to educate their employees. Articles, tips and wellness quizzes can be made use of to 
incentivise employee participation by offering them a chance to earn rewards. This is a proactive wellness initiative that often generates great interest, provided the themes are tweaked in keeping with the corporate’s ethos and 
specific needs. 
 
Digital Health Coaching
It’s an excellent, cost-effective, though relatively unused (in the Indian context), web-based format that draws on the expertise of hundreds of healthcare professionals and is backed by the latest scientific research to create personalised solutions. This is an ideal option for large organisations because it is an inexpensive way of reaching large populations in varied employer and healthcare settings. The digital coach can counsel employees on modifying unhealthy behaviour, offering personalised solutions for smoking cessation, exercise regimes, weight and stress management, improving work-life balance and creating a schedule to take medications as advised by doctors. It is also an inexpensive, scalable way of replicating live counsellors and educators. Participation could be incentivised by offering rewards to employees who enroll — and stick—to personalised health plans.
 
Besides being the perfect wellness solution for a growing population that seeks instant communication and immediate answers and solutions, digital health consulting also ensures confidentiality for issues and concerns where employees may be unwilling to approach an advisor or healthcare expert face to face.  There are enough examples worldwide where digital coaching has helped reduce corporate healthcare expenditure.
 
Physical Activity
It is well known that physically active employees take fewer sick days off. Increasingly, corporate India is latching onto the idea of sponsoring sports days, benefit walks and runs for different charities and offering rewards based on employee participation and performance. The growing 
popularity of the Mumbai Marathon’s Corporate Challenge is a case in point. In fact, the 2012 edition of the marathon saw some 154 companies fielding 223 corporate 
challenge teams.
 
Worksite Wellness Challenges
Individualised counselling can only go so far. The best way to ensure employee wellness is to induce good-natured rivalry and competition. Employee engagement is crucial to a successful corporate wellness programme and goal-based worksite wellness challenges such as weight loss competitions, walking (read stepathlon) and exercise are a great way to get people started. These programmes are a proven, fun way of building teamwork and motivating employees to lead healthier lives and reduce healthcare costs. 
 
All it takes is small innovative steps to nurture a fitter, happier workforce. Workplace wellness has to be an ongoing process that requires more than preparedness and commitment. It requires a major cultural shift and active employer and employee involvement. Ultimately, corporate India needs to believe an exercise-induced endorphin rush is more satisfying than a plate of oily samosas.
 
The author is a health coach and chief content officer at Nykaa.com, an online beauty and wellness platform