How you can bring movement (literally) into your wellbeing policy

22 March 2022
Ellen de Vleeschouwer

Rising need for caring employers

The wellbeing of employees is under pressure, according to figures from the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (NIHDI). In 2021, almost half a million employees were absent for extended periods of time. One third of those absentees were struggling with psychological problems. Yet absenteeism is not a new problem. The total number of absentees has been rising year after year and has even registered an increase by 130% since 2000. Of the 1,000 employees surveyed by Waldon in cooperation with market research agency Ipsos, no fewer than 25% said they felt there was a 'high probability of being incapacitated for work for more than one month in the next three years'. This percentage even rose to 46% where the employer was not perceived as caring. The biggest culprit? Stress. And the working population points an accusatory finger at the employer.  

That is precisely why it is more than necessary for every organisation to become a caring employer", Mrs De Vleeschouwer says. "In other words, you need a sophisticated wellbeing policy, whereby you as an employer provide the necessary framework in the office as well as remotely.

The importance of personalisation and gamification

But how does an organisation get its employees on board? "Wellbeing is a shared responsibility first and foremost," explains Mrs De Vleeschouwer. "It all starts with your employees becoming aware that a healthy lifestyle is important. But precisely because this awareness is not present in everyone to the same extent, it is essential that you do not use a 'one size fits all' approach. I often draw a distinction between three types of employees. The first type includes the people who already swear by a healthy lifestyle. As an employer, not only should you  reward them, but they are also the perfect ambassadors who can get their colleagues on board! The second type consists of their counterparts, those who don't believe in it at all. Trying to convince them often has the opposite effect and you wind up wasting a lot of time. Finally, there are the ones in the middle: these doubters need a little push to be able to see the added value. They deserve absolute focus! Employers can win over such employees with information campaigns, competitive challenges and other gamification elements."

"Physical challenges are beneficial to the other pillars of wellbeing also."

In more concrete terms, challenges on the wellbeing front can help employees get started in a fun, exacting manner. "In terms of physical activity, think of small-scale tasks on a daily basis, such as short group meditations during the lunch break, or a collective target of 10,000 steps a day," illustrates Mrs De Vleeschouwer. "Of course, this only works if the management team also joins in.” Practice what you preach, otherwise you will never get your employees on board. An additional advantage of such initiatives is that they are also beneficial to other areas of wellbeing. Bolstered mutual connections and team spirit, for example, are also important for mental and social wellbeing. Sometimes I notice too much focus on the mental aspect. Whereas that is important, of course, we must not forget that many employees still work in ergonomically unfavourable conditions. This is certainly a problem at home: not everyone can afford to set up their workstation ergonomically.


Evidence-based approach bears fruit

An important point worth noting here is that ad hoc initiatives will yield little in the long run. Employers who want to experience the long-term advantages, benefit from a strategic wellbeing policy with evidence-based programmes. "Once Waldon has focused on an organisation's vision of wellbeing, an action plan follows," Mrs De Vleeschouwer explains. "We clarify the importance and the effect of challenges in workshops with both management and staff. In this way we ensure maximum promotion and participation in everything an organisation does."

To make such a corporate challenge a success, Waldon works with proven experts from the various wellbeing domains through its Wellbeing as a Service offering. It also appoints a Wellbeing Manager for each client and uses scientifically validated techniques such as nudging. "A well-known example of this is a series of images of footsteps on the ground that direct a person to the stairs instead of the lift. But it actually goes much further than that," Mrs De Vleeschouwer clarifies. "We pride ourselves on keeping our finger on the pulse: only with constant measurements do we ensure a clear ROI.”


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