The responsibility of employee physical and mental wellness is playing an ever-increasing role in the corporate agenda. For some that responsibility is taken begrudgingly, materialising as token gestures and initiatives. For others, the wake-up call has been answered and leading organisations are stepping up to their responsibility for employee health and well-being. Below are five key areas to create a positive corporate environment.
Provide support in uncertain times
Having business savvy will only get you so far as a leader. Understanding and empathy are two crucial traits to master, especially during a time of unprecedented challenge such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The strict lockdown measures introduced across the globe, understandably, created an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety – employees expressed fear for their job security and the health and safety of their loved ones.
Mental well-being is an issue that is often glossed over, but it can have a detrimental impact on staff health. It is imperative that companies step up to the mark, providing clarity and support to those who need it. Having access to trained specialists such as psychologists can be a godsend for individuals or families that are struggling. In Fine’s case, the company immediately set up an Employee Assistance Program, which offers a 24/7 hotline in English, Arabic, French, Urdu and Hindi. A commitment to employee mental health and peace of mind will go a long way.
Tip the scales of the work-life balance
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is the importance of spending time with family and loved ones. Forced into lockdown, many have re-evaluated how much time is spent in the offices and away from home. While supporting a back-to-business mentality is positive and, undoubtedly, many employees will be eager to get back, don’t be afraid to adapt to the opportunity presented.
The ability to work from home even in a post-COVID-19 world will be a massive boon for employees with families. During the lockdown, working from home enabled staff to feel safe and protected during a time of uncertainty. Ensuring the continuation of that feeling, even though offices are open, will play a huge part in mental health and well-being.
As an organisation, you need to be agile in pinpointing and reacting to the needs and wants of employees. Adapting fast and initiating a change in policy is the best and only way to show you are listening. At Fine, we’ve wasted no time in updating our policy from “Work from Home” to “Work from Anywhere”.
Build a diverse and inclusive workforce
If building a diversified workforce isn’t at the top of your organisation’s priority list, then it should be. Creating equal opportunities regardless of gender, race or creed is fundamental in creating a positive work environment where everyone feels like they have a voice and have equal job and salary opportunities.
Speaking from my experience at Fine, the introduction of initiatives that empower women, closing the gender pay gap and defining career development and promotions have grown from initiatives to being embedded in the company culture. As a result of this, female representation in leadership roles has grown from 0 to nearly 30 per cent over the past three years.
Creating diversity and championing employees regardless of their differences needs to be a core value and a pillar which your company sits on. Only then will you see it pay-off.
Ensure access to exercise
“If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” That’s not just a company mantra, it is a theme carried throughout Fine Hygienic Holding and a phrase I personally associate with. Physical health plays a large role in employee well-being, and not only for the obvious reasons. It is essential in mental health and the work-life balance.
Providing a comprehensive wellness plan for staff by offering access to gyms, exercise equipment and activities will not only create an all-inclusive work environment but also open up avenues to physical well-being that might not be readily available outside of office hours. Gym co-payments, promoting office-wide fitness challenges and wellness sessions and now free virtual exercise classes are all excellent ways of promoting physical health.
We went one step further at Fine and built a comprehensive wellness centre on our UAE premises, which includes a fully equipped gym with 16 new machines, yoga room and high-intensity track. That’s now supplemented by a new machine, the FitStop, the first of its kind in the Middle East, which is designed with the sole purpose of reducing sitting disease.
Fine's Wellness Center
Create a family-friendly environment
Putting employees in a position where they choose between becoming a parent or their career will never garner a positive result; the company will always lose out. Creating an inclusive and family-friendly environment where the choice to become a parent isn’t penalised protects yourself and employees. By embracing and catering to a more personal side of your staff’s lives, you go beyond the employer-employee relationship.
While it may seem cliché for a company to say: ‘we are a family’, I truly believe the greatest success is built on a foundation of invested and looked-after employees. In Fine, this has manifested in a number of policies that benefit new moms and dads. At 16 weeks full pay with the option of an additional 16 weeks unpaid leave, our maternity leave goes above and beyond the mandated amount by the International Labor Organization. And for paternity leave, dads can take three weeks full pay and an additional week without pay.
This is bolstered further by flexible work hours for new moms, an incremental return to work policy and the option to work part-time. Why make employees choose between working and family when you have the ability to accommodate both?
Lafferty is the CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding. With experience as an Olympic Coach, and more than 30 marathons and a Philippine national powerlifting championship to his name, he has applied a sporting mentality to business, and it has paid dividends to employee fitness and mental health.