From madness to wellness
Oh how times have changed since the good old days. When you would have a job for life, when work was about lunching and schmoozing, when you could smoke in your corner office and crack open the whiskey at 10am for your first meeting with a client. Wait, what?! After recently re-watching AMC’s excellent TV series, Mad Men, it brought a number of things to my attention and really got me thinking. Apart from the obvious Don Draper is a legend and I wish I could be half as cool as he is, it made me realise how times really have changed and in my opinion, oh how they have changed for the better.
Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to pour a glass of scotch with a couple of ice cubes for breakfast, all in preparation for a busy day ahead. Couple this with a few (packets of) Lucky Strikes to accompany the fine liquor and you’ve got yourself the perfect morning meal for a busy exec. Fast forward a few hours and they are tucking into their 3rd lunchtime Martini with a cigarette chaser. Now imagine this with little to no exercise. Now imagine this was the rule rather than the exception. Looking back, it makes you realise how mad they really were! And what is even scarier – this was expected of many employees, if you didn’t follow these habits it could have a negative impact on your career.
Now let’s jump to 2017, where things are completely different. Drinking at work is now considered a big no-no in many organisations. Just a couple of months ago, Lloyd’s of London implemented a 9am-5pm ban on boozing, citing a large proportion of discipline and grievances being alcohol related. On top of this, smoking in public, enclosed places has now been banned for nearly a decade which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in smoke-related illnesses. Yet the nation is well not particularly well. A sickness survey found that UK workers take an average of 8.1 working days off per year, equivalent to 3.5% of their working time. This translates to a cost of £16 billion to UK PLC. £16 billion!
I speak with a lot of organisations that feel this pain and want to do something about it. From their point of view, the fewer sickness absences in their organisation, the lower impact it will have in terms of time and associated costs. But on top of this, employers genuinely want, and need, their employees to be well – it results in them being more engaged and providing a higher quality output. It also adds to the wow-factor when hiring new employees into the organisation; they need to market themselves as they would a product or service, so having wellness related perks like free gym membership, free health & dental insurance, sports competitions between teams, healthy food and step challenges can definitely add that extra touch.
I’ve seen a lot of interest in employees being able to opt-in to activity-monitoring in exchange for rewards like lower insurance premiums, cash prizes and a free day off for the winner! It’s all about give-and-take, all resulting in employee wellness and engagement.