Rajgopal Thirumalai - VP, Global Medical & Occupational Health, India
It was a proud moment in my career when Unilever was named the winner of the Global Healthy Workplace Award 2016. The award reflects the amount of effort we have put into our workplace health and wellbeing initiatives, and the fact that we view our employees’ physical, mental and emotional fitness as a genuine business priority. It also cements Unilever’s position as a thought leader and pioneer in the area of physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace.
As the company’s Vice President, Global Medical & Occupational Health, I feel delighted to have contributed to this success, having co-created our global strategy and led a team of dedicated medical and occupational health professionals across the business.
The strategy behind healthy workplaces
At Unilever, we see a healthy workplace not simply as a nice-to-have but rather as a core part of our business strategy.
The issue of employee well-being is closely linked to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan; our blueprint for achieving our vision to grow the business, whilst decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.
In the words of Paul Polman, our CEO:
“Under the USLP we want to improve the health and well-being of a billion people around the world. A key part of that is the wellbeing of our own people, not only their physical health, but just as importantly their mental health, particularly at times of change and uncertainty.”
The fact that our global medical and occupational health strategy is truly embedded into the business enables us to take a fully integrated approach, with medical and occupational health practitioners working alongside HR and the supply chain to deliver wellbeing programs.
It also gives our work much greater impact. Our “Lamplighter” health promotion program, for example, reaches 168,000 employees out of a global workforce of 169,000.
Health protection vs. health promotion
Our strategy for creating a healthy workplace can be split broadly into two areas: one is health protection; the other is health promotion.
Health protection is about assessing risk factors in the workplace and taking steps to prevent work-related illness. Our work in this space includes a number of ergonomic programs, which we run in conjunction with our supply chain.
Health promotion, on the other hand, is about enabling employees to gain a clearer picture of their own health and wellbeing, and empowering them to take charge of their personal health.
One way we do this is through the Lamplighter program mentioned above, which gives employees opportunities to take health risk assessments as well as providing them with interactive modules on exercise, nutrition and mental well-being. We also have a number of programs aimed specifically at mental well-being, which have been lauded by agencies such as the World Economic Forum.
Treat employees as partners
Employee participation is key to the success of health promotion and protection programs. To engage your employees, make them partners in the journey and help them understand why improved health and well-being matters.
Take an integrated approach
We monitor the success of our health and well-being strategy using various KPIs. These measure not only the reach of our wellness programs but also the ongoing effect they are having on areas such as days lost through work-related illnesses or the prevalence of health risk factors among employees.
I feel very honored to be working for an organization that is doing so much to improve health and well-being. Thanks to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, I have not only helped create a global healthy workplace but am also part of making a positive impact on the health and well-being of millions of people around the world.