This article was first published in The Rotary News in July 2018.
Good health is not merely the absence of disease.
When you are a working person you often feel short-changed for time. Wellness, however, is not time-bound or reserved for the supermodel, athlete or body-builder; the yogi who has renounced humanity, or the decadent narcissist who seems to have all the time in the world to spend in the gym, obsessed with his fitness and appearance. It is necessary for everyone, particularly the overworked corporate or professional.
Wellness for a working person is not just about exercise and gyms. It should involve everything from how to plan and execute a fitness routine, eat the right kind of food, improve self-confidence and efficiency and most importantly, manage stress, depression and anxiety. Prevention of lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease, using fitness, the right food and lifestyle change should be a priority for anyone who intends to be productive or successful.
Time is probably the most scarce commodity while you are climbing the corporate ladder. You may believe that spending an hour exercising would cut into your work time which you would rather spend crunching numbers, dealing with clients/patients or closing a deal. But to be effective in your work, it is necessary you are at the top of your game physically, mentally and emotionally. Clarity of thought, efficiency, productivity, positivity, and the ability to manage stress are critical for doing great work and for career growth.
There are several aspects to healthy living at an optimal body weight.
Healthy eating is a communal and social issue. Some companies provide food for the employees from an on-campus cafeteria. In such cases, the company must make healthy options available. These are not difficult to implement in a canteen… serving adequate quantities of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and avoiding deep-fried snacks, processed food or sweets is possible when those at the top make decisions to make employee health a priority.
You may believe that spending an hour exercising would cut into your work time which you would rather spend crunching numbers, dealing with clients/patients or closing a deal.
If these options are unavailable, home-packed meal is still the best. A modified wrap, made of whole wheat and soy rotis filled with veggies, paneer/tofu or beans/legumes, keep fruits or nuts to snack on, choose whole wheat sandwiches with chicken/tuna, hummus/tofu over a greasy pastry at a company outing, or opt for a bowl of clear soup, avoiding snacking on chips, sweet tea and coffee. The flourishing fast food and home/office delivery system encourages one to eat high-calorie, low-nutrient-density food if one is ignorant of how to make the right food choices. For this, the individual must understand the basic fundamentals of healthy eating and the innumerable options that are available even while away from home.
Incorporating an appropriate fitness routine into one’s life helps improve concentration, energy levels and work efficiency; helps combat insomnia, depression, chronic fatigue, obesity and various other disorders.
Onsite fitness facilities are available in several large corporate houses in India too. It has become apparent, after the studies done at various organisations that the rate of absenteeism is lower among employees who participate regularly in fitness activities; healthcare costs are lower and productivity and quality of work improve as a direct result of better sleep and stress management. Several Indian companies — Infosys, at Bangaluru, which boasts a 10,000-sq ft gym, Hyundai Motor India, LG factory in Delhi to name a few — have also incorporated convenient health centres within their framework.
Access to a fitness centre is one of the fringe benefits some corporates include for their employees. Isn’t this even better than medical insurance or health screening as it extrapolates into a form of preventive care? Some companies have found it to be so. Prevention from degenerative diseases, obesity, coronary heart disease, deep vein thrombosis, especially for those at sedentary jobs, is possible when employees include a fitness routine into their day.
Access to a fitness centre alone is not sufficient, appropriate guidance and motivation are also essential. Establishing a full-fledged gym, sauna, and pool or tennis court is only part of the equation. Ensuring that the proper science of fitness is applied and practised is also important. Having a qualified trainer in-house, or conducting regular fitness classes on campus are ways of motivating employees to participate in fitness.
Companies can make it mandatory that employees participate in regular exercise programme, and the time be made available for them to do so. Working a 16-hour shift may not be most conducive to include exercise into an already crammed day.
When higher level employees, CEOs and directors are as passionate about improving wellness for themselves as they are for their employees, enthusiasm filters down to the rest of the company. Leading by example is a sure way of improving compliance.
Emotional/psychological wellness: Loving your job is key to a happier workspace. But work is stressful with all the challenges it poses. Sometimes it can be just plain boring.
When work stress is debilitating, learning how to de-stress effectively can be taught. Regular yoga classes, short breathing and relaxation routines, progressive muscle relaxation, mindful meditation, and workshops on stress management will help employees stay psychologically healthy.
The economic benefits of offering such facilities to the workforce are indisputable. An unhealthy employee is a liability rather than an asset to the company. Understanding this reality and working towards preventing it is beneficial to every company. While offering health insurance for the employees, it might make sense to also thwart those very diseases with the necessary preventive measures. This is not only economically advantageous, but also makes for a more dynamic and contented workforce.
Make small changes in the work place
– Encourage healthy living from senior-level management
– Provide the time to fit in a wellness programme, within the working day
– Provide access to a well-equipped fitness centre
– Organise group classes a couple of days a week
– Provide healthy menu in the cafeteria
– Organise talks on physical fitness, wellness, food and psychological wellbeing
– Take regular breaks from sitting. Get up and move every 20 minutes when you have a sedentary job
– Do a few stretches at your desk every couple of hours
– Have walking meeting (instead of sitting meetings)
– Hook up with a fellow worker to go to the gym regularly and motivate each other
– Fun challenges and incentives within the company, for example, number of steps walked or number of pounds lost, can be motivating for employees
– Organise group activities that involve physical movement like games, treks, walks.
The final decision and responsibility to improve one’s health and wellness of course remains with the individual himself. Having professional guidance and a supportive environment at work that encourages such a lifestyle is only an added benefit. If you are fortunate enough to work in such a company, consider it a bonus. Let us remember the British Statesman Edward Stanley’s quote: “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”