Year : 2014  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Workplace wellness programs: Myth or reality?

Xivananda Priolcar 
 Medical Director- Ge South Asia, John F Welch ­Technology Centre, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Xivananda Priolcar
John F Welch ­Technology ­Centre, 122, EPIP, Whitefield Road, ­Bengaluru 560 066, Karnataka

How to cite this article:
Priolcar X. Workplace wellness programs: Myth or reality?.Indian J Occup Environ Med 2014;18:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Priolcar X. Workplace wellness programs: Myth or reality?. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Sep 20 ];18:1-2
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Health and well-being are top priority of corporate India. The theme of the 2014 IAOH national conference is "health and well-being at the workplace-key drivers for sustainability."

Many of the enlightened organizations drive various programs to support Health and Well-being at workplace with solid reasoning as to what should be content of the program and the justification for the same while many other organizations just jump on the bandwagon without understanding the full benefits of such programs. Hence these organizations end up in offering some hotchpotch activities to their employees.

Until date, there is no universal definition or agreement on what wellness really is. For different persons, the meaning of wellness is different. Besides in corporate world, it is a much misunderstood and often abused term.

Very few organizations have structured preventive health programs. These are seen in mainly multinational corporations, large sized Indian private limited and public sector companies. This is because these organizations actually roll out these preventive health programs after thorough data analysis and have knowledge, resources and commitment to drive these programs irrespective of the cost. This has helped sustain these programs over the years. There are many examples we know of companies who have sustained their program over long periods of time ranging from 5 to 10 years. Different companies calling these programs with different names like health by Numbers, Fit for Life, Vibrant Living, and Health Ahead and so on. These are more progressive organizations and would continue to invest in these programs irrespective of business downturn. They firmly believe that there is always return on investments (ROIs) in these programs and their objective is to create a Culture of Health in their organization.

Now let us discuss the other set of organizations, which constitute the bulk of the organizations in India, who want to rollout "Wellness Programs" because they want to look good. It may be a checklist item if they are giving their entry for "Best Employer Award." These programs are seen as one time employee engagement activity rather than a strategic initiative. ROI are not measured because the activities are not in sync with real issues. Quality measures around program content and deliverables are questionable. Then there are other set of organizations who would be tying up the Wellness programs with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) related activities. Now with the new amendment in the Company Act, CSR being mandatory, the profit making organizations have to spend on CSR and hence renewed interest in Wellness Programs.

Over the last decade, various providers have sprung up offering the so called "wellness programs." A substantial number of these providers have no medical or scientific background. Usually, these outfits are run by someone with an MBA or IT background, will rope in some investor and some para-medical support to start their business venture. These are in there purely because they have seen huge business opportunity, have their skills in marketing and sales and corporate contacts. Suddenly, India seems to be a big market for these wellness program providers especially in IT hubs such as Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. Some of the providers of "team-building" activities have rechristened themselves as wellness providers.

For companies which have employees in their 20s or early 30s, and mainly office based environment, without any regulatory requirement like the Factory Act, the focus is to provide motivation at work thereby help in retention. Hence, any activity, which attracts this younger crowd, can be easily accepted as wellness program. Hence, anything remotely connected with health would be termed as wellness program. The activities would include a range of activities from say bollywood dancing, kickboxing, and yoga, pilates to giving free movie tickets or entry to bowling alley, which might be justified as stress busters!!

To add to this most of the medium and large hospitals have also started offering Wellness programs. If one sees the content of the wellness program, it is nothing but the traditional medical checkup or the one which was known as the "Executive Health check-up" in the olden days. To add to this they would offer health talks.

A well thought out Workplace Wellness Program should include the following:

Health Risk Assessment (HRA)-various standardized questionnaires are available. These questionnaires have been designed based on:Age/gender mortality risk (38-44% weight) reflecting the individual's probability of dying from all causes if all modifiable risks are eliminatedHealth behaviors and health status (50% weight): smoking, exercise, alcohol use, overweight, blood pressure (BP), total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol etcPreventive services (6-12% weight): BP screening, diabetes screening, cholesterol screening, preventive vaccination, cancer screening, etc.Based on HRA, identify any dangerous risk combinations: These risk combinations can be attributed to the following risk groups viz. Disease, psychological, addictive, and age-relatedPrioritize risks for each individualAssign each individual to an intervention level/disease Management/Health Promotion/Prevention ProgramDesign Integrated Wellness/Preventive Program aligned to the organizational goalsPeriodic reviews/feedback and adjustment to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the program.