Proctor and Gamble's Manila offfice promotes wellbeing at the workplace

Wellbeing at the workplace
By Walter Ang
August 17, 2009
Manila Bulletin

No matter what kind of work one does, whether it's deskbound or field work, there is sure to be some level of stress involved. "More and more people are getting stressed and burned out these days," says Christopher Breuleux, CEO of Medical Wellness Association, an international organization that promotes medical wellness education and programs. "Sometimes, work and other obligations in life make us feel like a rubber band stretched to its limits until it breaks," he adds.

Breuleux, who has a doctorate in corporate fitness and health enhancement from Ohio State University, was recently in Manila to give a talk to the employees of Procter and Gamble Philippines on wellness in the workplace. "It makes good business and people sense for companies to invest in wellness. There is a positive rate of return. When employees are healthy and happy, they perform better," he says.

He emphasizes that creating a work environment that is healthy and balanced is highly hinged on workplace leaders. "CEOs or managers need to be the first person in an organization to lead this kind of effort. Without the support of the leader, there will be no follow through," he says. "It really is in the best interest of a company or organization to keep its employees as healthy as possible, People are most productive when they are relaxed."

Breuleux has been working with P&G for several years now. He has helped designed wellness programs for its employees in different offices around the world. He has also helped design fitness centers in their offices and factories.

"You can't get rid of stress," he notes. "You just have to learn how to become more resilient to it, to choose how you respond to stress. Stress management is out, stress resiliency is in." He advocates a holistic approach which includes maintaining health and seeking balance between work and life.

In the Philippines, P&G offices have wellness programs and perks in place. "We have chair massages and foot spas on certain days of the week where any employee can get a quick treatment while in the office," says Brand PR Manager Anama Dimapilis. "Our offices follow an open lay-out and there are no closed offices, even for upper management, so sometimes, it can get a bit loud. We have quiet rooms where people can do their work in a more focused setting."

Its Makati office even has a sleep pod. "It's the first and only sleep pod in the country as far as we know. It even has noise-cancellation speakers. Anyone can use the pod to take a quick power nap if they feel the need to," she adds.

Breuleux understands and knows that not all companies can provide these kinds of perks. He suggests that business leaders do what they can with the resources that they have. "Even a small office can designate a small area for the purpose of `quiet time' for its employees," he says.

He encourages Filipinos to at least take advantage of any healthcare benefits usually provided in Philippine companies such as annual physical check-ups and dental check-ups. He points out, however, that wellness is "not just about getting massages and eating vegetables."

"Balance is an important part of being stress resilient. Resting well and being involved in personal interests like art or music, and maintaining social bonds and support groups are also important," he says.

To this end, P&G Philippines has "Wellness Circles" that are open to all its employees. The circles are interest-based groups for its employees that include athletics, with circles for runners and surfers, and art, with circles for photography and music. There is even one circle where members are able to attend parenting seminars.

The different circles have activities outside of the company premises. "Out of 405 runners in a recent marathon, 102 were P&G employees," said Dimapilis. Employees are also involved in the company's social responsibility efforts such as its "Protect 5" program that promotes handwashing with soap for children nationwide as a way to prevent five health threats: coughs, colds, pneumonia, diarrhea, and flu. The program was done in cooperation with the Philippine National Red Cross, the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists and Medical Wellness Association. It has been able to target 12,000 students has since expanded to work with NGOs.

Breuleux sees wellness at the workplace as something that will become more and more important as more business leaders become aware of its benefits, not just for the employees, but also for a company's bottom line. "After all, how can anyone be against wellness?" he concludes.

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