All well in office? Employees care about more than just their salaries

There are health and wellness aspects to jobs that matter to most employees

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Towards the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies all around the world began to talk more about employee wellness. Reports appeared about the "Great Resignation", with PWC’s poll of 52,000 workers in 44 countries, titled the "Hopes and Fears" survey, that noted one in five people were likely to change jobs in the following year. The reasons were varied.

Remuneration was no longer the sole focus, for example, of Gen Z – employees born between 1996-2010. On top of their list was community, flexibility and freedom of choice. They felt there were other job options on the table and so they nudged companies to prioritise work-life balance and championed the importance of mental and physical health and wellness.

Wellness is not just a trendy buzzword. It is a vital component in employee retention, attraction and in fostering a healthier, more productive workforce. By definition, wellness is the act of practicing healthy habits daily to attain better physical and mental health. And as the demands and expectations at the workforce evolve, so must the approach of companies to employee well-being.

There are several technology companies doing it right. Google, Microsoft and Salesforce are some of the leaders in this space. These organisations focus on giving employees support in multiple areas of their lives. Google for example, has wellness centres on site and provides fitness, well-being and cooking classes on-demand.

This is not only through good compensation and career progression, but by incorporating an internal mechanism that puts wellness at the top of the list

While most companies do not have the resources to offer such perks, they can create company-wide systems to support employee health. Some organisations in the UAE, for instance, offer employees support based on their fitness levels, with funded opportunities to take part in fitness events throughout the UAE, such as the Adnoc Marathon in Abu Dhabi and Dubai's 30-day fitness challenge for 30 minutes a day, or Dubai 30x30.

These are all steps in the right direction. According to McKinsey research, or their Great Attrition Study: “The Covid-19 pandemic has led more and more people to re-evaluate what they want from a job – and from life – which is creating a large pool of active and potential workers who are shunning the traditionalist path.”

Much of this remains true even as many parts of the world have bounced back from the pandemic.

In the US alone, the voluntary quit rate is 25 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels, and McKinsey notes that many companies are likely to find that “job openings will persist in crucial positions,” an issue that can’t be resolved by reshuffling the current workforce. This begs the question: how do companies adapt to retain their staff?

While workplace flexibility and meaningfulness of one’s work are seen as the main factors in keeping employees happy, this is brought to life by the employer’s ability to actively foster a healthy community, a sense of belonging and well-being within the workplace, while being inclusive and highlighting support among colleagues. Companies can do this by giving employees a shared purpose. This could be done by incorporating well-known fitness and wellness events as part of their annual calendar and having a wellness team that works with employees to reach their goals, whether a half marathon or a park run.

Employee wellness, however, goes far beyond offering gym memberships or the occasional yoga class. It encompasses physical, mental, and emotional health, and it has a profound effect on job satisfaction, engagement and retention. For example, one study found that 90 per cent of business leaders have seen an improvement in performance and productivity when they’ve implemented wellness practices.

This is not only through good compensation and career progression, but by incorporating an internal mechanism that puts wellness at the top of the list. At some of the companies who do it right, employee’s nutrition, lifestyle, mental health, exercise and ergonomics are considered. Employees at First Abu Dhabi Bank have access to a suite of specialists through an internal portal, where they can follow programmes based on their needs.

In order to attract, retain and look after its employees, company leadership should be focused on a long-term approach and work on a better employee value proposition.

In his book, The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek discusses how to play the infinite game in business, which also applies to health.

Playing the infinite game of health involves a shift in perspective from short-term gains to long-term well-being. It's about understanding that good habits take time to create. By focusing on health, wellness and community, companies will over time foster better cultures.

In a fast-paced world, the pursuit of health is often viewed as a finite game – a short-term objective with a clear endpoint. Sinek discusses the idea of infinite games versus finite games. Applying this mindset to health can lead to more sustainable and holistic approaches to well-being. Companies can do the same to support their employees build the best versions of themselves towards and actively seek more support and embrace change.

In the post-Covid era, the region is moving further into the direction of health, wellness, purpose and longevity. Many more employees don’t value money if they don’t have the time.

In order to achieve growth and retain top talent, evidence shows it’s important for companies to take on the responsibility of employee wellness. Organisations need to look past traditional approaches, such as providing employees with an individual wellness budget, where one’s approach to health could be sporadic and without clear support towards implementation.

Wellness is key in tying this together, retaining confidence and driving organisations forward. Wellness education also extends out of the workplace and to homes, which means employees naturally inspire and encourage younger generations and their peers to understand that in the infinite game of health, the goal is not simply to win but to keep playing.

Published: January 22, 2024, 8:30 AM