Corporate Wellness: Spreading Worldwide and Facing Cultural Challenges

Corporate Wellness

Corporate Wellness

 

While corporate wellness programs are gaining popularity throughout the world as multinational companies seek to offset rising health care costs, they’re facing cultural challenges, according to a new report [Workforce.com].

As wellness programs continue to spread worldwide, companies need to customize employee assistance programs to meet local laws and cultural traditions. Here are three examples of how cultural differences can impact wellness offerings.

  • In China, employees are accustomed to more comprehensive physical screenings compared to those offered in the United States. They also prefer phone counseling over face-to-face meetings due to poor transportation conditions.
  • In Brazil, local laws prevent counseling over the phone, so face-to-face meetings are required.
  • The word “assistance,” which is often used in the United States, isn’t used in the Russian language. So employers with wellness programs in Russia need to take this into consideration when naming and describing offerings.
  • Third-party nationals, employees from one country who work for a United States corporation but live in a country other than their home country, also need to be considered. For example, a German employee working for a U.S. company and living in Japan. So the cultural differences of the person’s home country and where they’re living and working need to be considered.

Companies must also be mindful of the expectation on return. In some parts of the world, the cost of wellness programs outweighs labor costs, making value and ROI a difficult case to make, but the cost of not implementing any wellness services could be even greater. According to statistics from the World Economic Forum, corporations will face a human capital shortage by 2020 due to the rise in chronic disease, aging populations, and poor educational opportunities in many developing countries, and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and depression are estimated to cost nearly $47 trillion over the next two decades.

“The way people eat and move in all parts of the world plays a direct role in the health and vitality of the individual. Employees living with pre-disease or disease symptoms put financial strain on individuals, companies, and families. It also dilutes their ability to get the most out of life,” says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of nutrition and research at Core Performance. “Employees worldwide need education and support, with considerations being made for cultural differences, to make changes to improve their overall health and vitality.”

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