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According to the Center for Disease Control, workplace wellness refers to any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behaviour at the workplace and to improve health outcomes. It consists of a variety of activities such as health fairs, allowing work from home option, medical screenings, wellness newsletters, access to healthy meals/snacks at work, weight management programs and on-site fitness programs and/or facilities.
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By Mandar Apte
Perhaps, it would be very easy to prove that by offering workplace wellness activities and programs companies can save money in the long run by improving overall workforce health, productivity and also enhancing employee morale. However, there are two key challenges that are often cited for any workplace wellness program:
- Lack of a “pull” from staff for wellness activities that are offered on site (beyond the initial rush following new year resolutions)
- Lack of support for holistic health modalities, commonly referred as complimentary and alternate medicine (CAM) e.g. yoga, meditation, tai-chi, Ayurveda, etc.
These challenges might not resonate with companies based in the Silicon Valley where potentially there maybe a higher awareness of healthy lifestyles and greater exposure to world cultures. However, in many work locations these challenges could be real and will need determined efforts, both from staff and leadership, to co-create innovative solutions to achieve the goals of the workplace wellness mandate.
One such approach was pioneered almost a decade ago that addressed both these challenges. We created an employee driven initiative called AWARE (At Work As Responsible Employees) that focused on enabling a “grassroots” discussion at work about the practice of yoga breathing and meditation based relaxation technologies. The initiative was driven by passionate colleagues who believed in the benefits of these modalities with support from the organizational leadership. Many colleagues, who were trained in teaching yoga and meditation, stepped forward to offer their time and led lunch time “info” sessions to other colleagues who were interested in learning more about these practices. These info sessions focused on providing a practical experience of “easy to learn and easy to practice” yoga, breathing and meditation techniques that reduce stress and improve personal health and wellbeing. We have reached out to over 2000 colleagues so far!
In recent years, many CEO’s have now started publicly sharing how integrating these practices can create a business advantage. Global initiatives like the International Day of Yoga sponsored by the UN and conferences like Wisdom 2.0 also add to the credibility and provide a stamp of approval for the benefits of yoga and meditation at the corporate work place.
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