Workplace wellness 2
Workplace wellness cannot be an afterthought any longer. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The traditional role of health, safety and environment (HSE) management is to plan, implement, monitor, optimize, and manage performance in occupational areas. But it is time for HSE organizations to shift from a fixation on safety and bring in a shift towards elevating health protection to include overall mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

Without undermining the safety aspect, health protection in HSE needs a new narrative. Most HSE manuals and structures have only minimal consideration with regards to holistic health.

Employee wellbeing at a holistic level is an emerging factor in today’s workplace transformation. Its essentials need to be factored through a comprehensive review of organizational HSE preparedness, which should also complement its sustainability goals like energy and water use, labour conditions, and supply chain.

These also need to integrate with HSE principles to further its impact. From office design to facilities upkeep, HSE intervention is critical, and not just for occupational and building safety.

Adapt the workplace

Fast changes in workplace culture and evolving employees’ happiness objectives are pressuring companies to transcend the merely cosmetic inputs. Companies have to revisit their strategies and review HSE preparedness and frameworks to meet a new set of demands. Some of its levers - like CSR sensitivity, human resources and workplace structures - need to be aligned with the needs of the transformed workplace and workforce.

It is no longer enough to have comprehensive health insurance cover only. One must pay attention to the leave policies and flexibility for those with medical conditions, as these too are essential prerequisites. Flexible work hours, balanced diet considerations for organizations providing food to their employees, and cohesive HR policies should be reviewed and aligned.

Mind, body in sync

There are other factors such as workplace design and location that are emerging as influencers of a new work culture based on the mind, body and soul concept. For instance, elements of facilities upkeep are generally not emphasized from an HSE perspective. It is not just about the safety aspects of facilities upkeep but also its impact on health.

Poor maintenance of facilities’ upkeep matter from a health perspective. For example, poor air quality, bad odour, or inadequate waste disposal can have an impact on physical and mental wellbeing. HSE needs due intervention in all such reviews.

In modern workplace design, space allocation, colours, and the choice of furniture really matter. These are now considered essentials for employee motivation and directly related to their mental health. Organizations must get better at ringfencing against such threats.

But this still requires more advanced measures such as counselling and mental health treatments and providing these as inclusions in company insurance plans. It calls for overall HR sensitivity to address this in the organizational mainstream.

Corporate leaderships need to be mindful that their business policies cannot cross a path that brings down employee morale. Some companies in the recent past have received a lot of criticism for their disregard on human rights or climate crisis denials. It is therefore crucial organizational leaders base their actions around a universal code of ethics.

HSE must be accorded the highest priority so that relevant inputs and possible reviews are given a rightful inclusion across the mainstream organizational processes.

- Tariq Chauhan is Group CEO at EFS Facilities Services Group.