New workplace rulebook: Is your companying offering holistic wellness?

Holistic wellness, which refers to an approach to life that focuses on the physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial well-being of an individual is the new rulebook. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

The desire for flexibility and many other things besides money are defining the new-age employee.

A few years ago, working in a company offering medical cover, gym membership, interest-free car loan, and a promise of promotion bought employee loyalty.

Now, these perks don't matter as much to the new age employee who wants an office they love, some set-aside spaces for mental and physical wellness, in addition to financial wellness.

Holistic wellness, which refers to an approach to life that focuses on the physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial well-being of an individual is the new rulebook.

Have Kenyan companies inched closer to helping employees get happier, healthier, and more productive? Is it an additional cost to the businesses?

Physical wellness involves setting aside spaces for exercising like gyms or paying for gym memberships or investing in office canteens. To some employers, these investments are paying off with fewer sick leaves.

Emotional wellness involves allowing flexi working hours, for instance, to ease the burden of parenting or caregiving of a spouse or child who is sick.Employers say this boosts productivity and makes the workers happy. A Kenyan auditing firm, for instance says, it has seen the number of female executives rise since the introduction of flexi-hours, a group that used to fall off the top management ladder once they start bearing children.

Sheila Wangari, a career coach, says emotional wellness has become an important aspect of managing employees. That the failure to understand one’s emotions can lead to conflict in the workplace.

“When you are not able to identify {the emotional cues} and therefore don't know to manage that, you get angry and you can blow things out of proportion when triggered,” she says.

Financial wellness is the ability to know your worth, especially for job seekers. The amount an employee quotes as salary should be equal to what they are bringing to the table.

Spiritual wellness is the connection between one and something or somebody greater than self. It gives a sense of purpose and meaning in life. It informs someone's principles, values, and ethics and directs his or her actions.

“Spiritual wellness will look different for different people. It is personal,” says Ms Wangari.

With busy life and work schedules, Ms Wangari advises that people should regularly go for therapy.

She says therapy does not only come into play when one is facing problems but also sharing about a promotion, or scooping a deal that pays well. She adds that therapy can be within friends, not just trained therapists.

How effective are wellness programmes in organisations?

Jane Mutisya, the founder of the Career Management Centre in Nairobi says that even though companies have wellness programmes, some are just transactional and for ticking the box when enquiries are made.

Most office gyms remain dormant yet the companies market them as add-ons. Ms Mutisya adds that wellness should go beyond medical covers, and also have the Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) where they can talk in confidentiality about what they are going through.

Additionally, adequately training managers so that they learn how to manage the modern employee who is unlikely to be productive and loyal to a toxic workplace is key.

“If you are task-oriented and focused on work, you are very toxic to your employees. When you are just focused on pleasing people, you are toxic to the business,” she says.

Managers take the biggest responsibility in ensuring holistic wellness of an employee and mostly when they are giving corrections. But most do not understand how to correct without demeaning an employee.

For instance, managers who favour employees- giving others more work while others less, will affect these two employees differently with the one with a lot of work feeling overwhelmed while the other one feeling incompetent.

The money factor also comes to play as it affects productivity.

“How much are you paying your employees? Can they afford basic needs?” Ms Mutisya poses.

Talks of investment plans also come in handy in promoting the holistic wellness of employees by ensuring they are saving for their future.

Ms Mutisya echoes that having suggestion boxes is archaic as no employee drops any complaint or suggestion there while CCTVs are mounted all over office spaces.

However, concerned employers have Employment Satisfaction Surveys, such as the Employee Net Performance Score, which are annually examined to improve the services they offer to their employees.

Some strategies for ensuring employment holistic wellness are expensive such as regular team building activities, having stressed employees brings down their productivity capacity and in turn affects the organisation’s output.

Having seen people quit jobs, Ms Mutisya says that quitting should be the last result and at times the best when one’s self-esteem and values are trashed or eroded.

Thanks to Covid-19, some corporations have incorporated wellness leaves where an employee just takes a day off to work on their wellness.

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