- Employees should not choose between “productivity” for their occupational health.
- For welfare, it is important to provide professional support to employees, as well as to promote lifestyle changes.
- Instead of marketing tricks, offer resources that are proven to change.
Amazon corporate giant warmly welcomes reports from WorkingWell Initiative, a physical and mental health program designed to improve the health of employees at retail giant performance centers.
The published pamphlet, which, according to Amazon, was created by mistake, is not circulated, encourages employees to invest in their own fitness, to become “industrial athletes”. One of the highlights is the AmaZen Booths program. Called Mindful Practice Rooms, these kiosks are designed for employees to take breaks from work, relax, and explore mental health resources. Amazon deleted a social media post about kiosks after it was mocked on Twitter.
The details paint a bleak picture of the company against the backdrop of an unprecedented rise in earnings, profits and stock prices during the epidemic. Critics of Amazon say that the company’s unprecedented financial success is behind 1.3 million employees who are subject to indefinite employment contracts.
Commentators also say that these workers have above-average injuries at work and are treated like “kitchen slaves”. In such circumstances, the welfare initiative is said to be meaningless.
These programs are gaining great popularity. COVID-19 has raised “health” on corporate agendas like never before և not always with a good egg:. Many companies have introduced exercise training, fruit and other plaster solutions, rather than risk assessment, focus on prevention, and prefer “decent work” as a driving force for well-being and productivity.
Being a judge on the Global Healthy Workplace Awards since 2014, I have been critical of many corporate health programs. Like other large companies, Amazon faces a difficult balance of employee well-being without being blamed for its motto.
Companies often miss the mark when trying to improve employee health. Here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Health and productivity can և must coexist
It is easy and misleading to suggest that there should be a dual choice between health և productivity:. One of the most shocking things I heard from a senior executive at a major UK organization during the epidemic was:
Frankly, I think job stress is a more productive driver of productivity for us than well-being programs.
This mindset, far from being a hollow or outdated opinion, represents the vast majority of business leaders around the world. As it turns out, this large organization is also very willing to tell anyone who hears that “employee health, safety and well-being is their highest priority”, even though when I checked their last report to shareholders, prospective investors, the words “income”. and “profit” exceeded references to “security” by a ratio of 25 to 1.
2. Evangelism does not replace decent work
Dr. Paul Litchfield, the former chief physician of the UK telecommunications giant BT, has ridiculed what he called a “fruit-Pilates” approach to workplace well-being. He argued that no healthy snack, “challenges” or company entertainment in the cafeteria could compensate for the stress of reporting impossible jobs or targets or reporting bullying to the manager.
Frederick Herzberg, one of the founding fathers of the Motivation Motivation Theory, once said: Wellness programs that ignore this simple idea are unlikely to have much of an impact.
3. Context is everything
AmaZen booths are nothing more than many successful community-based mental health programs in the workplace, such as the Men’s Garbage Movement, which originated among men working in Australia in the 1990s. It was aimed at older men, who can often find it very difficult to be open about mental health by providing resources և support that encouraged thinking և ‘seeking help’.
Such kiosks have been used successfully by some employers in the UK. Electricity supplier E.ON created Hat, which encourages employees to learn more about mental well-being, for example.
The real test of the Amazon version is whether it is really part of a coherent program of initiatives that assess, reduce risk, and reassure employees that the company has a long-term priority. Having a well-branded welfare initiative in itself is never enough, especially if the day-to-day work experience of many employees is intense, intense, and toxic.
4. Employers. Guess the “gold of the fool”
Employers should be more critical of the “miracle cures” offered by commercial suppliers. I have seen too many employers divert resources from non-glamorous but evidence-based interventions (such as access to good occupational health care) to goals designed to “demonstrate” their commitment to health and well-being.
Themselves spruce trainers and head massages that are used on their own are in fact nothing more than bonuses, with little or no direct impact on health or productivity. Even very common initiatives, such as mental health first aid, have very little evidence of long-term benefits.
Unfortunately, with the pursuit of greater productivity, employee health and well-being may be among the first casualties. Reports on Amazon’s WorkingWell program have so far not been flattering. His challenge, like that of many other corporations, is to push cynicism aside and show that his efforts will have tangible benefits for all his employees, not just a PR spin.
Stephen B.Jan, Head of HR Research Development, Lancaster University Institute for Employment Studies