The Need for Employee Wellness Managers
In recent months, there has been a spate of articles in leading management journals as well as in the mainstream media about why organizations must also have wellness managers in addition to HR (Human Resource) managers. Indeed, the need for wellness managers or officers stems from the fact that contemporary times are very stressful for employees which can affect their productivity. Therefore, organizations have a stake in ensuring their wellness.
Further, given the fact that research has shown that employee wellbeing directly contributes to a corporates’ profitability and success, there is yet another reason why organizations must concerned about the wellness of employees.
Moreover, research has also shown that burnout, sickness, stress, unhealthy workplace practices, and toxic organizational cultures all contribute to a general sense of atrophy and inertia at the workplace and this impacts the bottom lines of corporates.
Indeed, if employee frequently falls ill and takes time off, it not only impacts them but also the employers in terms of lost person days of work, lesser output, and greatly reduced productivity that all impact the organization’s competitiveness.
This is the reason why most management experts these days are recommending that apart from HR Managers, corporates must also appoint wellness managers.
What Does a Wellness Manager Do?
So, what exactly does a wellness manager do and how important it is for organizations to appoint such people? To start with, a wellness manager can have regular one on ones with the employees and find out more about what is stressing them out and what is incentivizing them to perform better so that the former can be reduced and the latter increased.
In other words, in the same manner in which a trained Psychotherapist or Counselor advices his or her patients on maintaining good health and mental wellbeing, a qualified wellness manager can do the same within the organizations.
Strictly speaking, this is not a new concept since corporates world over have been engaging the services of psychologists and psychotherapists from external agencies and offering their employees the chance to avail of their services.
However, what is different when such specialists are external and when they are internal is that in case of the latter, the wellness manager has a direct stake in the wellbeing of his or her fellow employees and consequently, is expected to recommend and suggest solutions that are in tune with the broader organizational imperatives.
The Pros and Cons of an Internal Wellness Manager
Having said that, it is also the case that when wellness managers are internal to the organization ns, employees might not necessarily open up their feelings and talk freely about what is stressing them out and what makes them feel better.
Indeed, imagine how an employee would be reluctant to reveal whether his or her boss is stressing them out or whether a fellow colleague is harassing them.
For women employees, when they are stressed about sexual and other gender based harassment and discrimination, it makes sense to report such aspects to senior management rather than confiding in the wellness managers.
This is the reason why wellness managers must be empowered by the senior management and the HR Function to treat their sessions with employees in a confidential manner and intervene only in case whatever the employee says or confides in them is breaching the organizational employee code of conduct.
In other words, the wellness manager must be a professional who knows what to retain in the records and what is off the record and whether anything must be reported back to the management for further follow up.
Indeed, this is what most HR and People Managers do in corporates and anyway they are also trained to some extent in dealing with employee wellbeing.
How Different they are from HR Managers
However, the key difference between a HR or a People Manager and a Wellness Manager is that the latter more often than not, is a specialist or a doctor with an advanced degree on employee welfare and wellbeing and hence, can approach employees wellness and wellbeing with a trained eye.
In other words, a wellness manager brings the medical and therapeutic touch to the process whereas a HR Manager or a People Manager can only go to the extent of approaching the problem from a HR perspective.
Further, a wellness manager also needs to have real time and up to date information and knowledge on the ever changing landscape of employee wellbeing. For instance, what was stressing out employees a few years ago or even a few months ago is now replaced with an entirely different stressor.
In times of accelerated change where the dizzying pace of change makes it difficult for all of us to have a handle on our wellbeing, a trained wellness consultant can make a world of difference to us in helping us maintain our sanity and sense of self.