Too often, conversations about health and wellness in the workplace end with those on the line of production. Executives and those who work near their desks typically receive more training on how to do their jobs and what they should be doing to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But there is great potential for productivity and creativeness when employee health programs last for all levels of workers.
The idea for this article was sparked by a discussion at the annual TEDMED conference. There I heard speaker Kevin Bonsor, VP of Operations at Philips Healthcare, discuss why their company has such a great culture for health and wellness. Philips, the $15B healthcare technology company, managed to get 96% of its workforce to improve their health and reduce obesity in countries worldwide. They did this in one year! So how did they do it?
They partnered with Boston Scientific and made health and wellness part of everyone’s job description. Health coaches helped employees set goals based on their age and weight but could not give unsolicited advice.
The “wellness in the workplace” program included these steps:
First, ask employees to rate their weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Assign them a health coach who helps them set goals in these areas. Offer programs in 10-minute increments at various times during the workday. Give prizes to those who have successful weight management programs. Provide easy access to healthy food and drinks at all times.
Instead of going through a lengthy process of setting up a policy that does not directly relate to job performance, they got everyone involved from day one. They wanted everyone to start thinking about health and how it relates to their daily tasks. Instead of just setting goals for an overall reduction of health risks, they recorded each employee’s weight and cholesterol levels and then came up with a plan that would work for their lifestyle.
When this entire process was finished, the company ended up with 96% of its employees successfully completing their wellness plans. This is with only 10 minutes out of each day dedicated to these programs! By making it so easy to be healthy, Philips showed everyone how important it was to create a healthy work environment. While companies are always talking about 1 + 1 = 3 when talking about productivity, Philips created 1 + 6 = 7 or even 1 + 10 = 11 because the amount of dedication goes far beyond just doing your job.
In addition to the 1 + 10 = 11 effects, Philips experienced a reduction of absenteeism by as much as 32% and an increase in productivity of 12%. When employees learn how to manage their weight and cholesterol levels, they become more productive and provide better customer service and create a healthier environment for themselves and others.
While it is challenging to implement such a healthy program because of all the corporate policies and procedures that need to be put in place, Philips shows that it is possible. The company had its entire workforce involved from day one. Everyone was aware of why their jobs were important and how good health helps future performance at work. Everyone was invited to join in, and there was an equal distribution of who will help others and who will be helped. It was a fair and equal distribution of resources but still managed to create such a productive team.
This concept can also be applied in the developing world, where many corporations have difficulty securing a competitive edge by simply doing things differently. If you want to do business with the people in this world, you have to think about how they live differently from us or even better than we do. There is no need for beating around the bush when your customers want the best products, services, and opportunities for future growth. If leaders are earnest about improving health and wellbeing, they need to think about making business better.
By looking at health and wellness as part of their job descriptions, Philips has shown possible. There is no need to create a long process to enact change since by making it part of people’s jobs, they can see the effect within weeks. This is because everyone will be working towards the same goal of improving health, and by making it part of their job descriptions, they will want to keep this from falling apart from all new policies that may come into effect. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved because being healthy means you get to be more productive and get paid for it while at the same time giving back to your community.
Most people might look at this scenario and think it is too idealistic or even impossible. It sounds incredible that a company could manage to achieve such a feat in such a short period. But you need to realize that innovation comes from a place of need, and this kind of approach to health and wellness wasn’t needed before because life was much different. For example, if there were no food or healthcare issues, few people would have been concerned about these areas.