Employee wellbeing – Just momentary hype or long-term genuine concern?

Pandemic or no pandemic, employee health should anyway be top priority for any organisation

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During the pandemic, some phrases gained prominence in the corporate world — employee health, employee wellness and mental wellbeing. Organisations started launching initiatives to get their employees and their immediate family members inoculated on priority. They designed activities that prioritised employees’ physical health as well as mental wellbeing. Businesses started to sit up and take notice of the harmful repercussions of work stress on their employees’ well-being. Many introduced one-off holidays mid-week or granted extra leaves to those dealing with mental-health issues. Of course, it all sounds good and beneficial for the employees, but will the trend continue even after things return to normal? Will these conversations around employee wellbeing die out once the pandemic becomes a thing of the past?

“I believe, in many organisations, especially in the IT sector, employee health was always a top priority, and the pandemic merely gave it a push. Now, instead of being just an HR priority, it has become a business necessity, so much so that it has become a priority for the board. Board members are regularly taking updates on the vaccination drive, which have come to be a major business goal now.”

Rajesh Balaji, CHRO, Matrimony.com

These are very pertinent questions, because pandemic or no pandemic, employee health needs to remain a top priority for organisations. So, it is important to know how serious employers are when it comes to the wellbeing of their workforce. Are they all just jumping on to the bandwagon to follow something that happens to be the trend at the moment, or are they genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of their employees?

The HR leaders have mixed views. There is no doubt that the pandemic has forced all organisations to focus on employee wellbeing. “I believe, in many organisations, especially in the IT sector, employee health was always a top priority, and the pandemic merely gave it a push. Now, instead of being just an HR priority, it has become a business necessity, so much so that it has become a priority for the board. Board members are regularly taking updates on the vaccination drive, which have come to be a major business goal now,” says Rajesh Balaji, CHRO, Matrimony.com.

 

“In the Indian context, even after the pandemic gets over, organisations will always keep the employee wellbeing agenda right on top. This is because, the number of socially-responsible investors— who give major emphasis to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) rating of the organisation is increasing — while investing in a company. This particular metric indicates how socially responsible an organisation is. Under the ‘social’ category comes employee health and workplace safety.”

Babu Thomas, CHRO, Shalby

Babu Thomas, CHRO, Shalby, is of the opinion that in the Indian context, even after the pandemic gets over, organisations will always keep the employee wellbeing agenda right on top. This is because, the number of socially-responsible investors— who give major emphasis to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) rating of the organisation is increasing — while investing in a company. This particular metric indicates how socially responsible an organisation is. Under the ‘social’ category comes employee health and workplace safety. For the sake of their ESG rating, organisations will continue to take employee health and wellness seriously, even after the pandemic ends.

In fact, Thomas also shares that organisations have now realised that pandemics of this nature can hit us any time in the future. So, they will have to allocate resources for the same. “Now that companies have provided employees with health-risk coverage, they will also need resources that can be deployed — if required — in case threats to their employees’ health crop up in future,” explains Thomas.

Kinjal Chaudhary

“Within nine to 10 months, this employee wellbeing wave will subside. Employee health was not a major concern in the first wave either. It was only in the second wave that businesses experienced disruptions because every household reported a positive case. If the situation remains normal and if the third wave doesn’t turn out to be as fierce as the last one, organisations will refocus on business growth with fury.”

Kinjal Choudhary, HR consultant and former CHRO

Balaji also agrees that employee wellbeing will remain a top agenda for the HR and th organisations as a whole, at least for another two years. “No company will repeat the mistake they made post the first wave. Nobody will let down their guard this time around,” predicts Balaji.

However, Kinjal Choudhary, HR consultant and former CHRO, holds a slightly different view. He feels that within nine to 10 months, this employee wellbeing wave will subside. He strongly believes that during the lockdowns, many businesses have suffered heavy losses, and therefore, the focus will again return to business growth. “Employee health was not a major concern in the first wave either. It was only in the second wave that businesses experienced disruptions because every household reported a positive case. If the situation remains normal and if the third wave doesn’t turn out to be as fierce as the last one, organisations will refocus on business growth with fury,” mentions Choudhary.

‘Should employee wellbeing always remain on top of the priority list of organisations?’ Each and every HR leader will answer with an emphatic ‘yes’, but whether they will sincerely practise what they preach, is something we need to wait and watch.

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