Today I had the opportunity to reflect on Wellness @ Work.
At the start of this grey and rainy day (with terrible traffic) I got the following piece of wonderful inspiration from Barbara Torfs’s Facebook page: “Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life”.
I first listened to Isabelle Vincke, HR Manager at AG Insurance, a large insurance company with more than 4.400 employees. First of all, Isabelle points out that their Communication and HR Director, Raphaël Copis, is member of the Management Board, so that HR Always matters, also & especially at executive level.
These are the pillars on which AG Insurance has built its Wellness @ Work approach, “AG Insurance, Supporters of your Life” :
- First of all, AG Insurance implemented Teleworking: more than 90% of the workforce (4.400 employees) is allowed to work at home. This was a big change for the organisation: less focus on “control”, etc. so this required training for both people managers and employees. And of course, this required a switch from 100% paper-based working to a paperless way of working. Not easy.
- In terms of stress management, AG Insurance offers individual support & counseling: so far, this triggered more than 300 interventions, 82% of these were related to private-related issues !
- With regards to physical wellness, AG Insurance offers the i change program to its employees, offered by Claudia Put‘s BrandNewHealth: some employees prefer their own private approach, but many / most employees truly enjoy this program. This program is complemented by a “Free fruit” offering, by an “Easy Facilities” offering (fitness, etc.)
- A “Welcome Back” program: when employees return from (longterm) illness, this is a very difficult process. Often, these employees become ill again after a while. The Welcome Back program offers personal support to the returning employees, and to their people manager. The program is successful, and to begin with it guarantees that the return of an employee gets adequate attention.
- The Lunch&Learn sessions attract more than 100 participants per session, about time management, nutrition, self management, etc.
- In terms of Culture, AG Insurance tries to keep the focus on its 3 values, open-minded, reliable & solution-minded, and also, Ambassadorship is important, employees are motivated to be Ambassadors of the company and its core values, etc.
- A lot of attention goes to developing people managers: they need(ed) to move away from focusing on technical expertise, to motivating, inspiring and coaching their team. People managers needed to improve in communication (“Tell the story”), and they needed to switch from control to trust (“Trust the positive approach”).
- More focus on HR-based KPI‘s, for example, with regards to the question “Why are people leaving AG Insurance ?”. If 32% of leavers mention that the primary reason for leaving the company is related to “job content & challenge”, then the organisation can (and will) reflect on creating more interesting jobs, taking individual aspirations better into account, etc. The same goes for KPI’s on employee engagement, job satifaction, etc.
- A great, new Family Day event : employees truly appreciate this !
Next, Elke Van Hoof from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, provides us with an academic framework on stress & stress management. Elke Van Hoof is Clinical Psychologist with expertise on resilience, stress and burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome, recurrent absenteeism, and return to work.
Question that we were asked to reflect on: “What creates stress in your life ?” Good question, and at first I came up with the usual suspects, but then I also realized that this one plays a big role in my life: quite often, I want too much, and I want it here & now. Of course, that creates a lot of stress.
Four categories of stress are discussed: work-related (open space desks!), private-related, society/cultural, and physical. In each domain, we are confronted with things that give you a lot of energy, but also with things that consume energy (“energievreters”).
In terms of work, employees become more and more worried about job security: with regards to the question “What worries you most about your job ?”, the % of responses “keeping my job” has increased from 31% in 2008 to 44% in 2014 !
The fact that we are “always on“, always connected to the internet, makes it much more difficult for doing nothing. Which is a risk, because human beings really need downtime.
Fortunately, Kathelijne Verboomen had provided me with apples & bananas. Lucky me !
Back to “stress”. During the break, we discussed that stress also has positive effects: it’s a great stimulus to meet deadlines, to achieve results, etc. However, with “chronic stress” comes fear, panic, and even depression. Stress changes our view on the world. This is demonstrated by a great movieclip: “You see the world through how you feel“.
The solution to all of this ? “Surfing on the waves of stress”, by increasing your stress tolerance: through creating room for physical movement, by creating a safe context (“It’s OK to fail”), allowing playfulness & having fun, providing employees with room to exercise (so that they improve, get better at things, etc.), and by stimulating curiosity.
“De komst van een goede clown bevordert de gezondheid van een stad meer dan 20 ezels beladen met medicijnen” (T.Sydenham).
I had an interesting chat with Brecht about standing desks, and how to implement them in an organisation.
After lunch, Anouk Steyaert and Marian Verschoote elaborate on the JBC case. First we dive into prehistory, when it was useful for our ancestors to have a strong preference for fat, sweet and salty food.
Today, food companies still use (abuse ?) this preference, even though it is no longer useful for us, as Homo Digitalis. Then Anouk & Marian explain how they improved Food @ Work. According to different Health organisations, we need to eat at least 600 gr of vegetables per day. The point is made visually: that’s a lot.
However, with “green” smoothies, this is much easier to accomplish, they are tasty, and then it does not feel as an obligation. The green smoothies fight the “boring” reputation of eating 600 g of bland vegetables. At JBC’s headquarters (Houthalen), they now cater for this new “cuisine”.
Nudging means: changing eating behaviour by changing the context / the environment. Interesting example: “Nudging Students Toward Healthier Choices in the Lunchroom. Small rearrangements in the cafeteria had a positive impact on students’ eating behavior: sales of healthy foods increased by 18%, and the amount of unhealthy foods decreased by 28%. Making healthy foods more convenient constituted an effective way of getting students to choose more of the healthy foods and less of the unhealthy options.
Last but not least, the Leaseplan case by Partena Vitaliteitsmanagement was brought to us by Ann Vandegehuchte. Baseline: healthy and vital employees are seen as a competitve advantage. Not so much from a cost perspective (although stress “costs” 900 euro per employee per year in Belgium), but because healthy & vital employees are more creative, feel more engaged, and are more productive.
Partena Vitaliteitsmanagement offers fitness tests, BMI tests, “Beweegstudio” sessions, and during the process, progress is measured & monitored carefully. Benchmarking with other / similar companies is recommended ! Workshops are on offer with regards to healthy food, sports, yoga, massage, mindful@work, digital detox, etc.
End of an interesting seminar !