The future of a firm lies in the capabilities of its staff, the development of talent and subsequent reformation of policies and strategies to suit the constantly changing environment in which it operates.
The health of employees is critical in attaining such competitive advantages. Thus, helping employees feel their best and stay fit has become one crucial role HR must embrace.
In practical terms, a rise in occupational accidents triggers a spate of events. First there is the increase in absenteeism, the loss of work hours/days, increased health costs/premium which ultimately affects productivity and the bottom line.
Health care is fast becoming one of the major costs organizations are having to deal with. Smart businesses know better than to allow such costs spiral out of control. While there is a limit to what organizations can control, below are a few common initiatives HR could champion to ensure employees stay healthy.
1. Fitness Centres: While not all organizations are big enough to own theirs, a practical alternative would be to subscribe to one. Under the umbrella of the firm, employees can gain membership. In my opinion, it isn’t enough to just sign employees up to these facilities, there is a need to push for consistent attendance by way of specifying a time and day in the week for each department to proceed to the gym. At the same time, while it will be useful to recognize/reward consistent attendance, unjustifiable non-attendance should come with sanctions.
2. Diet: Where an organization provides lunch for staff, it is essential for it to pay adequate attention to the quality of food provided. In addition to the quality, HR is to ensure there are a variety of food options which take into consideration special dietary requirements as well as their availability. The source of drinking water should be verified and the cleanliness of caterers/utensils/lunch room ensured. In a situation whereby a third-party/meal vendor is responsible for meal times, employee satisfaction surveys should be undertaken to ensure standards are maintained.
Arguably, not all employers provide meals. In such cases, what can be done is for HR to ensure lunch allowances are costed at a rate sufficient to afford employees a decent meal.
3. Health Care: Although basic, it isn’t news to find that some jobs do not come with any provision for health care or health insurance. Making adequate health care provision in itself is a form of motivation to employees and endears them to their organizations (who may as well be failing in other areas).
4. Periodic Health Checks: It has become commonplace to read of employees dying on the job due to either stress or some other unnoticed, albeit, basic health issues that could have been easily prevented if more priority were given to the subject. Organizations can minimize such occurrences by having periodic ‘health days’, where medical services are rendered to staff to check basic things like blood pressure, sugar levels, cholesterol etc… It will be useful indeed to ensure such records are properly kept and recommendations duly implemented for the identified staff.
5. Vacations & Reasonable Work Hours: The benefit of this cannot be over-emphasized. HR must strive to ensure that every staff takes his/her leave days in the year. No single staff must not be so important that he/she is unable to proceed on leave. This in itself constitutes an operational risk to the organization. That said, working reasonable hours (or the option of taking work home where applicable) will serve to reduce stress and consequently, avoidable health risks.
In closing, the above tips are quite basic and quite easy to implement. An organization can only do so much. Cases abound of organizations who have provided these facilities and support for employees but still, the expanding waistlines, the relentless panting at the top of the stairs; and a few belt buckles popping at will still prevail.
Sometimes, one finds that organized fitness sessions for employees are the only times the employees ever “counts 1 to 10 while on the floor” if you know what I mean. Hence, doing the minimum does go a long way in improving employee welfare and ultimately, productivity.
So, When did you last go for a jog…?