The move to appoint a chief fitness officer has come in the wake of the need to look at employee health from a holistic perspective and go beyond just having a health programme in place. The CFO will guide the employees on how to adopt a healthy lifestyle, address specific concerns they may have and provide employee-assistance in the form of counselling. Dr. Deepali Athawale has been bought on board to fill the new position.
Milind Apte, Senior Vice President, HR, CEAT, explains the problems employees face and why they feel the need to have a more comprehensive programme in place. “It is shocking to see 25 and 27-year old young employees suffer from blood pressure and diabetes— the reasons being stress due to travel and at work, combined with the diet they have.”
He adds that unless employees are fit, both physically and mentally, they cannot perform to their full potential and will end up ruining their health further. That is why, they felt it was necessary to look deeper into an employee’s life and adopt a holistic approach towards employee health.
The CFO’s responsibilities include looking at the mental and physical health of employees along with their diet and nutrition. She is available for five days in a month and those in need of consultation can meet her through appointments and prior bookings. People can approach her with their medical reports and receive individual consultation sessions and customised diet plans.
CEAT has put in place employee-assistance programmes as well, through which employees are counselled if they are found to be undergoing physical or mental stress. The counselling services are available for both employees and their families 24 hours a day and throughout the week. Another programme that has been launched includes physical-fitness activities.
“Not many organisations provide individual consultations and customised diet plans. Here, we try to approach the issue at a more personal level to ensure a positive effect at the grassroots itself by appointing a chief fitness officer”
The Company has started running groups across the organisation, comprising people interested in running. These groups run every alternate Saturday and are provided a healthy breakfast on completion of their run. They participate in local running competitions, which lead to national marathons where they improve their skills by coaching with trainers and following a specific nutrition plan, as recommended by the CFO. Currently, similar opportunities are available to employees who are into cycling as well, and the the organisation plans to extend this to employees keen on cycling and also trekking. Employee-assistance programmes and physical-fitness activities are both monitored by the CFO.
On being asked how appointing a CFO was different from appointing a fitness coach or a yoga coach, Apte says, “Not many organisations provide individual consultations and customised diet plans. Here, we try to approach the issue at a more personal level to ensure a positive effect at the grassroots itself.”
“Speaking from experience, employing coaches or installing a gym at the workplace attracts only about 30 to 40 per cent of the employees”, he adds.
Apte cites examples where the CFO has been instrumental in identifying high-risk patients and getting them to the hospital in time. Moreover, during factory visits, the CFO provides specific advice to young employees working there. For instance, they are advised on how to maintain their diet during the third shift and young women engineers are taught to follow a healthy diet during their monthly cycle. Employees are provided advice, which is relevant to their specific stage in life or their career, and that makes changes such as this all the more valuable.
The organisation will also extend this to workmen in the due course of time. “The idea is to embed the significance of health and nutrition into the minds of the workforce at all levels. We try to analyse whether an initiative we roll out is actually useful or merely looks good on paper. For us, it is important that everything we do has a deep and positive impact on the employee”, concludes Apte.