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Why companies need to invest in employee wellness

Companies and organisations realise that the mental and physical wellbeing of employees is the bedrock of a successful business

Companies need to prioritise employee wellness..(Unsplash)

By Shrenik Avlani

LAST PUBLISHED 01.04.2024  |  08:00 AM IST

A focus on the health, fitness and general wellbeing of employees is a relatively recent phenomena among Indian companies. The fact that fitter employees are happier, more efficient and perform better, are more sharply in focus these days, especially after corporate India had to deal with the immediate challenges of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdowns. Organizations are now looking beyond simple employee fitness and taking measures to ensure wellness, including mental health. The reason is simple: Wellness has a direct bearing not just on job satisfaction and performance, but also overall organizational morale, output and performance. 

Business leaders and HR experts also note that prioritizing employee wellness helps reduce absenteeism, lost work hours and high turnover rates, saving the organization both time and resources with regards to recruiting and training new staff members. “There’s been a noticeable shift in how corporate entities approach employee wellness, particularly concerning mental health. The Indian corporate sector is making commendable progress in tackling the stigma associated with mental health, nurturing a culture of support within the workplace, and offering vital resources to enhance overall employee well-being," says Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, co-founder and CEO of the nutrition business Fast&Up. 

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From enhanced productivity to positive organisational culture, there are plenty of benefits, says Dr. Shaunak Ajinkya, consultant psychiatrist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai. “When employees feel mentally well, they focus better, make informed decisions, and contribute effectively to their tasks. This ultimately leads to increased productivity. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety which can exacerbate or lead to other major mental health issues like panic attacks, depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia or suicidality." 

He cites a recent McKinsey survey where 47% respondents felt anxious when there was no clear communication from their firm about the future. Ajinkya adds that employees who feel supported are more likely to show up for work consistently. “Studies have shown that a positive work environment fosters higher levels of engagement and more commitment, leading to better performance and job satisfaction of the employees," He says. 

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When one employee struggles, it can impact the morale of the whole team, adversely impacting collaboration, and overall performance, explains Ajinkya. When organisations actively address mental health, it creates a culture of empathy, understanding and support. This attracts, and is more likely to retain, top talent.

“Laws and regulations increasingly require employers to provide a psychologically safe workplace and reasonable accommodations for mental health conditions. Failing to meet these obligations can lead to costly litigations and reputational damage," adds Ajinkya. 

To ensure employee wellness, organisations are putting in place various measures including flexible working hours, comprehensive medical coverage, yoga sessions, meditation classes, mental health awareness campaigns and sports and fitness competitions. 

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At infotech and software giant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which is a partner to multiple races around the world, including the New York City Marathon, Tata Mumbai Marathon and the TCS World 10k Bengaluru, the company recognizes that employee wellness is intertwined with organizational success. “In the dynamic landscape of corporate culture, employee wellness isn't just a perk, it’s a prerequisite. Employee health and wellness have been a top priority and we embrace holistic wellness. It plays a pivotal role in fostering a positive work environment," says a TCS spokesperson. 

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“With a significant presence of Gen Z individuals within our organization, it’s crucial to prioritize both mental and physical health management. This generation is keenly aware of the significance of maintaining wellbeing in the workplace," adds Venugopal. 

Kellanova India, the company behind popular brands including Pringles and Kellog’s, has a structured programme called “My Total Health" for ensuring mental support. “This comprehensive framework, comprising four fundamental pillars — physical, emotional, financial, and social health — has enabled us to encourage a culture where every individual feels empowered to thrive," says Nimisha Das, senior human resources director, Kellanova India. The company partners with Amaha, an external mental health support organisation, which facilitates comprehensive support through counselling services for employees and their dependents. 

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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