So far this year there have been quite a few deaths from disease, chronic ailment and medical mistakes. There are many ailments that crop up on us when we are not looking. Why should an HR Column harp on wellness? This is because when the workforce is unwell the quality of the output becomes very poor and the return on investment dwindles and changes are made to the workforce or business flow that will end up being of no effect very quickly.
Many of the workplaces of the future so to speak, the goggles and Facebooks of this world have keyed into wellness to such a large extent that it may sound ridiculous to employers from the last century.
There was a time where organisations did not care about health or wellbeing but now you don’t want to spend so much money recruiting training and equipping a member of staff only to either lose the person to ill health or even death. Besides the trauma for colleagues it has also been a waste of money.
I have known two people in the last one month whose backs have completely given out and mobility and sleep have become chores. I was speaking with the founder of a prominent chair company in Nigeria who was talking about ergonomic furniture in the work place. She was explaining that there are some specific measurements that chairs have to be at for them to not only be comfortable but also do things like support the spine.
Many times when we are shopping for office furniture we are either concerned with cost or with beauty but never about how truest comfortable and supportive the furniture will be. She was saying there are companies who hire physiotherapists who come and inspect the chairs before they buy them.
There are chronic back pain sufferers whose problems started with poor work chairs or the problems are aggravated by poor work chairs and other furniture in the work place they need to use.
The paint that is used in offices, again many people just use any paint as long as it is cheap. Paints can be toxic and inhalation of those toxins over time can lead to being unwell. I guess an underlying factor is that going with the cheapest is not always the best thing. On the other hand it is not always about cost. Knowing components involved also helps. Something may not be expensive but be of the best component for that thing.
When companies are purchasing things I suggest that a member of the HR team be involved just to help with looking out for the wellness of the staff. There should be a laid down policy about how the quality of purchases should be agreed upon taken into consideration how it will impact wellness.
This may in the long run force manufactures into producing better quality things or else their products will be left on the shelf.
Fumigating the offices on time with good quality products and also them putting in place good practices that will reduce the infestation of critters and rodents. The HR department needs to come up with policies that will ensure this happens. For example there should be no food brought into the work areas. There should be a place where staff can eat. No food including biscuits and snacks that should be left in desks and in the work area. This clearly means that there should be an area where people can go to eat at least besides their desks.
This clearly shows that when you are negotiating to take an office space should need to be sure that you can have the space you need for the well ness of staff. In the very modern work places not only are they ergonomic and have relaxation spaces where they can sleep if they want them also take into consideration the harshness of lighting and the colour schemes of the environment.
Last article alluded to mental health challenges and about how this is on the increase. Many may come directly from the work environment but not all. Some emanates from outside the work environment. HR has to set up ways and means of detecting some of these issues either by teaching staff about the importance of emotional intelligence so they can be on the alert with their colleagues. Training generally also helps because sometimes even people with mental health issues don’t realise it because they don’t know what it is.
Training in the organisation should not just be on work place issues alone. There should be training on how to keep healthy and how to choose a healthy lifestyle.
The organisation needs to take health issues seriously and institute periodic health checks to help with early detection of ailments that do not have to be life threatening but end up being so because of a lack of detection plans. Also there has to be training on how to manage chronic ailments that already exist.
The organisation had to be sure none of its practices are harming the wellbeing of their staff.
We have been talking about appraisals and how to conduct them. These sessions should also be a time when staff is allowed to give a feed back on their thoughts on improvement to both the work they are doing but also an improvement to the general welfare of staff.
Many organisations believe welfare is giving you a cake on your birthday. This is good if the company can afford it but welfare goes beyond this.
There was the story of a young man who recently got married and had a baby. The mental state of such a person is complex because he is just learning the responsibility of being a husband and father. On Sunday night both his wife and baby took ill. On Monday morning he had to take them both to hospital. He was in a state because he was afraid for them but also mindful he had to be at work.
He planned to call in but somehow in the thick of things he did not. At 9 am his office called to find out when he would be coming in. When he explained his situation the person at the other end of the line was totally unsympathetic and just wanted to know when he would be coming in. Needless to say at the nearest opportunity he left the organisation. He felt and rightly so that the organisation did not care for him only what he could deliver on the job.
This is the time to look out for the physical and mental wellbeing of staff. Money is not everything. Staff are assets that appreciate depending on the way they are treated. Next week we will be talking about succession planning.