Keeping the body and mind fit for work can feel like spinning plates even at the best of times — whether it’s finding a way to top up our energy levels without resorting to endless cups of coffee, combatting back pain from sitting at a desk all day, resisting the temptation to pull all-nighters, or strengthening the immune system to shield ourselves from the latest office bug. Traditionally, the fast-track to wellness has been the gym, and some companies are known to offer free or discounted memberships to their employees.
But what if you’re not a fan of exercising in front of other people? Or for that matter, exercising at all? What if you have a family to care for, or other commitments outside of work, and you find it challenging to fit in a regular exercise routine? A corporate wellness programme at work may well be the answer.
To find out more, we spoke to Sammy Gebele, the founder of SACOSA, which helps companies invest in their employees’ health and inner strength through the setting of individual goals and the help of a personal coach. Sammy is a former management consultant and project manager, with over 12 years of experience guiding change on a company level. As a corporate wellness programme, SACOSA is premised on four pillars: Guidance and Motivation, Nutrition, Exercise, and Recovery. The catalyst is employee autonomy. Think of it this way: under the guidance of a coach you add more vegetables and healthy proteins to your diet, while minimising sugar, and put together a simple exercise routine. You try out meditation to get a good night’s rest. In the end, nobody’s keeping watch and making notes — what’s most important is your personal incentive to make sure you stick to these four pillars. Rather than being intimidated by individual needs, and the daunting amount of time and energy spent trying to solve these problems, companies would do well to recognise the unique qualities of each of their employees, and to see how tailored solutions could have a positive impact on the workforce. Companies might consider assigning each person a budget, which they can spend on wellness activities of their choosing each month. It’s all about recognising the full needs of each employee.
Put simply, investing in employee health and wellness will have a positive effect on efficiency, longterm well-being, and employee loyalty. A happy employee is a productive employee — not just at work, but in other areas of their life. Companies offering highly effective health and wellness programmes experience a 40% higher retention rate in comparison to companies with less effective programmes. This is nothing to be sniffed at; far from stagnating company culture, employee loyalty creates a sense of security, thus allowing individuals to organically grow into their role. It can also decrease sick days by 25%, thus relieving some of the pressure from teammates who have to pick up the slack in others’ absence — absences that could have been prevented with the right use of programmes that look out for employees’ health and well-being. While it’s the company that offers the programme, it is the employees who make it what it is. They can throw in ideas about their needs and how they’d like to improve their well-being, as well as the big problems that are hindering them from doing so. It needn’t turn into a session for people to air their grievances about the work environment — think of it as a unique opportunity to shape your brand, and set an intentional culture. With regard to tracking the success of the programme and seeing a return on investment, a business should formulate KPIs. These can be both tangible (retention rate, sick days) and intangible (work-life balance, employee morale).
Mental health and emotional health have a symbiotic relationship. If your self-confidence is at a low, you may find it difficult to ask for help. In short, if we’re mentally exhausted, we’re most likely going to be physically exhausted, too, which can become part of a vicious cycle. Part of professional life is looking after yourself — you are more than a money-maker, after all. You invest so much into your work, and you need to make sure that you’re always at the top of your game.
TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS
Before you introduce a wellness programme, research what’s out there, what’s within your budget, and what your employees could really get out of it. Health and wellness is intertwined with our lifestyles and our psyche — all the more if we’re working demanding, full-time jobs. Identifying barriers to taking care of oneself may take some honesty, and perhaps even a trip to the doctor. But the more honest the employees can be with themselves and their needs, the more useful the programme will be.
Checking your email after hours, at weekends, or even on holiday may make you feel in control, but the truth is that this unhealthy habit can quickly lead to burnout. Don’t let your employees adopt habits like these — or even better, ban email-checking after hours entirely. Observe whether they feel pressure to work overtime, too, examine why they feel this way, and consider adding cap on overtime.
Getting into the right wellness rhythm will be a work in progress. It’s important not to start of setting personal goals that are too high, as this can only lead to disappointment. Encouraging employees to take regular, short breaks and making holiday time mandatory are just two simple ways that you can create an environment in which people won’t feel guilty for recharging.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
A corporate wellness programme is bound to ofer your employees ways of feeling better that they haven’t had an opportunity to try before. If they’ve always wanted to try bouldering, or switch their morning cofee for a mate tea, now’s their chance to do it and get inspired!
Attitudes towards exercise should be reframed so that it’s no longer a chore, but a key component of life and maintenance of self-confidence. Progress should be assessed along the way. Employees could even be encouraged to try pairing up with a coworker for added motivation. A solo exerciser may well become a social exerciser!