Well being: Nokia wakes up to the value of sleep

What’s the most common issue on the minds of international wellness experts right now? Sleep, and how we’re not getting enough of it.

That’s according to Tommy Hutchinson, the co-founder and co-director of the Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces. “We are increasingly realising how important sleep is,” says Mr Hutchinson, whose international organisation promotes health and well-being in the workplace and showcases best examples.

He was in Dubai last month at the Cigna Foundation’s Global Workplace Wellness Summit to give a talk on the challenges of delivering workplace wellness programmes. “People are not giving themselves enough time to recover and sleep is a very big factor,” he says. “‘Presenteeism’ is becoming as much of a problem as absenteeism’ – in other words, people are overworking.”

Some companies are now waking up to the problem. Nokia’s senior country officer for the UAE, Mohamed Bhatti, a Briton based in Dubai, explained at the summit how his company gave 12,000 of their senior executives health-monitoring wristbands to wear last year. The resulting data was sent straight to head office. Nokia was particularly interested in how sleep was affecting their employees – especially those whose jobs involved international travel.

“Within Nokia, we have a ridiculously high rate of people travelling,” explains Mr Bhatti. “We recognised this was causing a lot of stress and health problems. The data from the wristbands eventually went back to the employees’ line managers to say ‘these are the people we want you to keep an eye on, here is what we recommend that you have to change’.”

Mr Bhatti says among the changes implemented as a result of the experiment was a change in Nokia’s travel policy. “To save money, we had been putting people on flights that included stopovers for three hours in Cairo or Istanbul, for example. Now the staff all fly direct, and at 8am or 10am rather than 2am.”

“Nokia are taking the well-being of their staff incredibly seriously,” Mr Bhatti adds.

Q&A: Tommy Hutchinson of the Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces

Your organisation has an annual awards programme for companies with successful health programmes. Which companies have recently won?

Last year GlaxoSmithKline won in the multinationals category, this year it was Unilever.

What made those winning companies stand out?

Direction from the very top – from the chief executive and the board – was critical. The business has to be focused, otherwise the programmes simply won’t work.

What do you think affects workplace well-being more than anything else?

In surveys, we find that the thing employees value most is having a kind, grateful, considerate boss. A boss who says thank you is more important than free gym membership and bowls of fruit everywhere.

What issue currently concerns employers the most?

Our annual survey for Buck Consultants shows the No 1 concern is stress in the workplace. Workplaces are becoming more stressful because of information overload, and people working long hours.

What’s your advice to com­panies wanting to implement a new wellness drive?

Don’t just think about wellness as one new concept, like giving out free gym membership. Try to approach it in a holistic way. Think about things like mental health, physical health and diet as a package.


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