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A positive approach to employee wellness

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To inspire a physically and mentally healthy workforce, a proactive approach must be utilised. Gone are the days where a depression hotline is good enough; we live in a highly stressful, complicated society. Waiting for an employee to be depressed, and then waiting for them to call into a hotline in order to be assisted simply doesn’t provide an adequate solution. The reactive management of employee wellness has to go.“Waiting for a problem to exist and then offering a bad solution to that problem leads to an unengaged, listless workforce that has the Monday blues all week long,” believes Liane McGowan, founder of Happy Monday CC, a company that offers employee wellness campaigns aimed at employee happiness. “If we want a staff complement that truly buys into the company, we need to buy into them, doing what is necessary to ensure their health and happiness in a pre-emptive manner”.

According to McGowan, there are seven principles that should be followed in any mental wellness campaign. For an engaged, happy workforce, management must recognise the need for the implementation of these principles, which include: developing creativity; teaching staff coping mechanisms for effective stress management; instilling a culture of giving back by recognising the achievements of others in the organisation; an awareness of self and others in the workplace, ensuring that values are set and respect is given; facilitating laughter and movement at work; promoting positive teamwork through teaching effective communication and change management skills; and fostering an ethos of learning.

“Recently some ‘happiness detecting’ devices have been developed to measure whether or not employees are happy. These devices are the definition of reactivity. If employee happiness is managed properly, these sorts of devices will be null and void – don’t wait for a machine to tell you your staff are dissatisfied!” says McGowan. How is this achieved?

By talking to employers and human resources teams in order to develop a full understanding of the employees’ needs, gaps can be identified, rectified and proactive plans made to prevent repeat occurrences. “Once the needs have been established, a unique wellness campaign should be developed to address issues and empower the company to drive wellness proactively in the future,” confirms McGowan.

An essential element of a mental wellness campaign is that it must be flexible. “In physical health campaigns we are dealing with measurements such as BMI; although the percentages may fluctuate, the method of measurement always remains the same. In mental wellness, however, we are dealing with the emotional state, which constantly fluctuates.” As a result, constant contact is required with the workforce.

“The greatest obstacle to effective employee engagement is a lack of communication. This leads to the poor implementation of changes from management level, leaving employees feeling as though they have no value and are not respected. Top management cannot expect employees to support decisions, projects or changes, if it has not effectively communicated the purpose, logistics and value of these workplace elements to the employees,” concludes McGowan.

While physical wellness may develop and engage employees to a point, no one ever says; ‘I hate my job because my cholesterol is high’. It’s time to change the archaic approach to employee wellness, it’s time to change drab corporate culture, and it’s time to start following international trends and paying greater attention to employees’ emotional attachment to their work and their work environments.