We continue from Part 1 of this article, where we discussed Being v/s Becoming, the significance of four and how Well Being is the alignment of the four human equipments – mind, body, intellect and spirit…
The present hype about Workplace Wellness and Wellbeing
Let’s ponder over the Business scenario in recent times. In my work as a consultant and a Leadership Workshops’ facilitator, I have found that the emphasis of both large and mid-sized organizations in the last couple of years has veered towards “Mindfulness” and “Mindful Management”. Even Corporate conferences and seminars have been consistently focussing on “Employee Wellness”, “Mindfulness and Happiness” as key Themes in more recent years. The primary driver for this I believe is not a happy one – it is to arrest the four enemies of Corporate Performance and Health: diminishing Productivity, Disengagement, Conflicts and Attrition. Let me admit, I have seen happy organizations with outstanding initiatives without labelling or even recognizing them as “Wellness Programs”. They are just being…
A Forbes article in mid 2017 says: “One of the top concerns for HR executives in 2017 is how to raise employee engagement, and for good reason. Engagement is on the decline across the world, and that spells trouble for business leaders everywhere.” It avers:
A recent study by Aon Hewitt has revealed that employee engagement dipped for the first time since 2012. The 2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement Report, which covered more than five million employees at over 1,000 organizations around the world, showed that less than one quarter of employees are highly engaged and 39% are moderately engaged. In a single year, employee engagement globally dropped from 65% in 2015 to 63% in 2016. Ken Oehler, Global Culture & Engagement Practice leader at Aon Hewitt, attributes this drop to rapid advances in technology that are increasingly threatening job security. Additionally, he says, “the rise in populist movements like those in the U.S., the U.K. and other regions is creating angst within organizations as they anticipate the potential for a decrease in free labor flow.” He expects the trend of declining employee engagement to continue.
Why does this matter? According to the same research, a five-point increase in employee engagement is linked to a three-point increase in revenue growth in the subsequent year. When engagement levels drop, the opposite happens: the study cites consequences such as higher turnover, steeper absenteeism, lower customer satisfaction, and ultimately, poor financial performance.
The same Aon Hewitt report advises companies that while they can’t control worldwide events that are negatively affecting employee attitudes, they can make the workplace more appealing to employees through positive solutions. This includes supportive approaches such as employee development, wellness programs, more flexible work schedules, and ensuring that workers have the training and tools needed.
The Four fold concept of Well Being through Yoga
Let’s understand “Yoga” better: Yoga philosophy prescribes four paths to attain Wellbeing: karma-yoga: the path of selfless action; bhakti-yoga: the path of devotion; raja-yoga: the path of concentration and meditation; and jnana-yoga: the path of knowledge and discrimination. The purpose of this section is to merely introduce the reader to each of these paths, its message, philosophy and possible practices:
Karma-yoga, or the yoga of selfless action, (karm – literally actions) seeks to face the problem of ignorance by eradicating the ego. The ego creates a dreamland of separative existence that disclaims the rights of others. It wants to achieve the impossible, and it desires the unreasonable. Karma-yoga suggests that our egotistic, selfish actions, create walls around us. These walls not only set us apart from others, but they keep us from well being. By performing actions in a selfless manner, we can break down the walls that separate us from the Self. The key message of karma-yoga is: Release yourself from the chains of ego by practicing constant action and not clinging to the results of action. This is the surest path to Well Being.
Jnana-yoga is the path of knowledge (Jnana – literally knowledge). The darkness of ignorance can only be dispelled by the light of knowledge. Knowledge, according to jnana-yoga, has two aspects: fire and light. The fire of knowledge burns all the impurities of our mind, and simultaneously, knowledge enlightens our inner consciousness. But Self-knowledge does not come by itself. It calls for the practice of discrimination between real and perceptions, control of all desires, mastery over the mind and senses, and a deep and intense craving for knowledge of self. Well being naturally follows.
Bhakti-yoga is the process of inner purification (Bhakti – literally devotion). The message of bhakti-yoga is that love is the most basic human emotion. In its purest form, love is divinely inspired. But because of the intervention of the ego, love becomes egocentric, obstructing the free flow of love toward the Divine. Lust, anger, jealousy, and greed and other negative emotions fan the ego. Bhakti-yoga asks us to purify and transform our egotistic self-love by pouring holy thoughts into our mind and transferring all our love and emotions to the divine. Filling holy thoughts into the mind is accomplished through prayer, keeping good company, studying holy texts and most importantly, through service to humanity. When such holy thoughts are poured into the mind, all unholy and impure thoughts are naturally washed out, leading to Well being.
Raja-yoga seeks to attain the Divine by igniting the flame of knowledge of the Self within (Raja – literally supreme). Since it is ignorance that binds the human soul to the world of dreams and desires, only Self-realization can dispel this ignorance. To attain Self-knowledge, raja-yoga asks the seeker to develop strong will power by the relentless practices of concentration and meditation, with the support of pranayama, or regulation of breath, asana or control of posture, and an uncompromising adherence regime. Raja-yoga asks the seeker to confront the deep-rooted tendencies and restlessness of the mind by cultivating a single thought reminiscent of the Divine.
The four kinds of Yoga (literally, Union/ alignment) individually as well as together bring about alignment of Body, Mind, Intellect and Spirit. Let’s look how the essence of the four paths can be brought about in organizations to help conquer the four enemies of Corporate Performance:
Karma Yoga (Action):
- Training on Applied Mindfulness
- Coaching Sessions for Higher Performance
- Constantly Expanding Circle of Control
Jnana Yoga (Knowledge):
- Events/ Seminars on Emotional Intelligence consisting of expert practitioners
- Best Video picks and Simple readings on EI, EQ and related topics
- Practicing ways of Enhancing Awareness in thoughts and actions
Bhakti Yoga (Love and Service):
- Service through Social Responsibility activities
- Mentoring younger professionals within
- Exercising an Attitude of Gratitude through thought, word and action
Raja Yoga (Meditation):
- Daily Practice of Meditation
- Other alternative techniques focussed on breathing, such as Laughter Yoga
- Maintaining a consistent Wellness Regime
Many Indian organizations have some or many of the above practices. The Mahindra Group amongst conglomerates, Accenture, Mindtree Consulting, Tata Consulting Services amongst IT companies, Mariott and Malaka Spice Group among hospitality organizations, PWC among consulting setups, are some of those with well entrenched practices. So what should be the approach for those who want to begin?
Four Steps to Workplace Wellbeing: Diagnostic – Interventions – Measurement –Institutionalization
Diagnostic and communication
It is vital to approach Workplace Wellbeing in the same way we would approach other change interventions. A study of the present needs of the organization with respect to the desired levels of Productivity, Engagement, Harmony and Retention needs to be carried out. What are our specific needs where Employee Wellness can enhance these four? Communication too plays an important role in generating interest among employees. There has to be clear engagement with both Leadership and key influencer groups in the organization. Messaging from executive leadership about objectives can help set a tone that engenders wellbeing as an organizational standard. Studies show that organizations with a clearly articulated wellness campaign are able to invest significantly less on financial incentives.
Based on gaps identified through the diagnostic and a study of healthy practices in other companies, Wellness interventions can be tailor made for the organization. The strategy should clearly be for implementing a sustainable Wellness program, no less. This can be done only through building and reinforcing individual employee behaviours. The organization needs to create a culture of responsibility towards personal wellbeing. Hence, all initiatives need to be extremely well thought out and structured in a way that makes it both possible and exciting for the workforce. The best way is to create a menu of options for employees while gradually nudging them towards making choices. Research demonstrates positive correlations between social support and physical activity. In fact, social interaction is one of the most commonly cited reasons for individuals to engage in Wellness behaviours. Therefore, promoting programs that encourage greater socialization and a supportive peer network is normally an effective strategy to influence positive behaviour change. Implementing team-based activity challenges may help employees develop better interpersonal relationships, which comprises a vital component of well-being. Community based wellness is also more fun, and creates accountability, and as a result increases both frequency and time spent engaging in activities of exercises and meditation.
Measurement and Institutionalization
The next essential step is that of monitoring the effects of the interventions. Organizations need to build simple metrics to measure impact of the various activities within the overall Wellness project. For instance, one may find various groups of employees embracing certain kinds of activities based on their age and peer group. Therefore, the opportunity to improve the overall wellness uptake of an employee population may differ depending on the demographic characteristics of the particular workforce. It’s important to study the progress deeply – to gauge whether the initiatives attract individuals who are inactive and more in need of wellness activities or whether they merely attract those who are already active. If enrolment in programs is dominated by active employees, then they need to be made Wellness Ambassadors. It would be prudent for employers to identify the unique demographic characteristics of their workforce and apply a model to help quantify the costs and benefits of various initiatives to determine the greatest value for achieving and sustaining the Workplace Wellbeing Intervention.
Based on which initiatives see sustained adoption coupled with the benefits experienced by various employee groups, the Workplace Wellness intervention can be tweaked and strengthened. It is imperative that the four main goals of enhanced Productivity, Engagement, Harmony and Retention remain the focus of this intervention. Patience and persistence are great virtues in this effort. The purpose of organizational investment is to make the transition from Employee Wellbeing to Well Done from all involved Stakeholders!
Four Workplace health Benefits as per World Health Organization
Besides being able to counter and arrest the four enemies of Corporate Productivity and helath, proper attention to workers’ health and safety has extensive benefits, as per the World Health Organization:
- Healthy workers are productive and raise healthy families; thus healthy workers are a key strategy
- Workplace health risks are higher in the informal sector and small industry which are key arenas of action on poverty alleviation, where people can work their way out of poverty
- Safe workplaces contribute to sustainable development.
- Occupational safety and health can contribute to improving the employability of workers, through workplace (re)design, maintenance of a healthy and safe work environment, training and retraining, assessment of work demands, medical diagnosis, health screening and assessment of functional capacities
Lets end this articles with a story told about Buddha:
A man said to the Buddha, “I want Happiness.”
Buddha said, first remove “I”, that’s ego,
then remove “want”, that’s desire.
See now you are left with only Happiness!
Lets learn from the three saints. It is important to recognize that we need innumerable Well streets in every city, to create a healthy Wall street!