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The Responsible Rebound

Sustainable Health: an important new area of corporate social responsibility

By Joanna Bensz, founder and CEO of Longevity Center
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The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the need to invest in resilient countries, companies and people. There is a need to talk about ‘sustainable health’, healthier life at any age and responsibility for health both collectively on the side of governments, institutions and companies, as well as individually.

“The good health of society is a key factor in the development of the modern economy. Healthy citizens are active, work more efficiently, generate higher incomes to support themselves and their loved ones, benefit employers and the economy as a whole. Healthy workers are also healthier future seniors who are longer active and socially independent.” (Quote from the report by the Polish Chamber of Insurance –  Finansowanie Opieki Zdrowotnej Pracowników - Jak zadbać o zdrowie  kluczowej dla rozwoju grupy społecznej”

Ever since March 2020, the physical and mental well-being of employees has become an important issue for many companies and the number of those introducing new initiatives related to the health of their employees, supporting them in the face of difficult changes, has been increasing every day. But even before the Covid-19 pandemic, employee health was important for many smart organisations. Part of the reasons are, of course, economics. Research shows that by implementing effective health programmes, absenteeism costs, which are a heavy financial burden for many corporations, may be significantly reduced.

In Poland, the number of employee absenteeism is increasing every year, and with it the costs incurred by the state budget and businesses. According to ZUS statistics, Poles in 2018 took nearly a quarter of a billion days of sick leave, or a total of 667,650 years! ZUS has calculated that the costs amount to 18.5 billion zlotys, of which employers paid more than a third, 6.9 billion zlotys. That's 570 million more than the year before!

On the other hand, sustainable health is becoming an increasingly important aspect of corporate social responsibility (CSR). More recently, further strengthened by the pandemic, involvement in health-related CSR activities has increased and many organisations which also seeing social or environmental benefits of improving the health of their own employees and entire communities (current and future customers, suppliers and partners).

Health initiatives are targeted both inside and outside the organisation and often complement the business activities of the company. Internal strategies are aimed at improving the working environment, reducing negative externalities or providing access to corporate wellness programmes. External CSR health initiatives are conducted to extend these benefits to the wider environment and communities. These include, for example, social campaigns or involvement in health promotion addressed to the local community.

Key role of leadership

These are important activities, but many companies still find it difficult to create an integrated approach to health and well-being programmes. Too often, one department focuses on the health benefits of employees, another on safety, and another on the impact on local communities. There is also a lack of good methodologies and data assessing and demonstrating the impact of health programmes, which makes it difficult to build economic justification, and win the support of senior management.

And the support of a leader who sees the importance of the subject and is an example is, as it turns out, crucial. The conclusions of the HERO Health and Well-being  report by Mercer show that health and well-being initiatives are more effective when leaders are clearly supportive and personally engaged. Whether appreciating employees who have ‘health successes’ or themselves actively participating in health and well-being initiatives.  Even in organisations that offer very comprehensive health initiatives – including specialised preventive examinations or behavioural change workshops – employees' perceived lack of leadership support can be a barrier to their participation, the report's authors say.

The leader should model healthy behaviours. So that team members feel they can prioritise taking care of themselves, set healthy boundaries at work, maintain mental balance and physical health. It is also the social responsibility of business.

The road to optimal health

The combination of available knowledge, tools and leadership inspiration makes it easier for people to change their lifestyle: it increases awareness, strengthens motivation and builds skills. Promoting a healthy lifestyle is so important because it can help you discover your own path to optimal health and achieve the necessary balance between physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual health.

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Corporate social responsibility – HR policy is the key

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