The Importance of Health & Wellbeing In The Workplace

Now more than ever, the corporate world is a highly stressful and pressurised environment with the need to deliver, fuelled by our technology driven culture. Oftentimes health is not a priority for individuals striving to succeed, whilst juggling family commitments.

Until recently, I was part of this hectic environment and know first-hand how much stress can take a toll on physical and mental health. Having re-trained as a holistic health coach, I now run workshops on health and wellness, sharing my experience and equipping busy professionals with practical tools and tips to improve their health outcomes.

An increasing number of companies in the UK now run ‘Wellness Days’ which include health checks, workshops and exercise programs for their employees.

I recently met Gautam Sashittal, the CEO of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) at a conference in London. We discussed his views on health and wellbeing as a busy Board Executive, which was so interesting that he graciously agreed to this interview. I am thrilled to share his thoughts with a wider audience.

Gautam was born in India and has lived outside India for over 35 years. He is a husband, and father of two grown-up children, and has a belief that a stable family life is very important as ‘you carry your family into your work’.

GH: What’s a typical working day for you?

Gautam: It’s varied – every day and hour is different as we deal with a variety of industries and business verticals,  which makes life more exciting.

GH: When does your day begin and end?

Gautam: I start work at 9am but work  really starts at 6am when I wake up, check and respond to overnight messages and emails before getting into the office for 9am.

GH: Do you have time to exercise or any form of relaxation?

Gautam: Yes, I like to go to the gym in the morning during the week when I’m home in Dubai. I find it very important to allocate the time to exercise.

GH: Why is exercise so important to you?

Gautam: I always say a healthy body and mind are very important, which I also tell my children. By changing our minds, we can change our lives. If I don’t exercise, I would get tired a lot faster whereas if I exercise and my body is in a reasonably good condition then I can go on and on, with much more energy to function.

GH: How does exercise affect your work/life balance? Are you more productive?

Gautam: A couple of things happen – I have very busy days, and the exercise in the morning increases the serotonin levels in my body throughout the day which gives me positive energy therefore I am able to radiate on whoever I work with or whatever I work on.

GH: Last year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum endorsed the corporate health and happiness initiative. What is your view of this initiative?

Gautam: I think happiness is very important. I always say you spend most of your waking hours with people you work with. Having a happy environment at work makes you more productive and ultimately creates a happier workplace for everyone. I think it’s a great initiative – happiness. We don’t think about ‘happiness’ often enough and as human beings, we have a natural tendency to think about what’s not happening rather than what is really happening in the positive sense. Therefore, we take happiness for granted and don’t give it enough attention.

GH: Do you think it’s important to include the health and wellness aspect for the corporate community?

Gautam: Indeed. At DMCC, we have a fantastic HR department who put on health and wellbeing programs for our employees throughout the year. Our company has also recently introduced fruits in the workplace, leaving these around the office for people to enjoy, in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. Once a week, a number of staff climb the stairs in the office tower which is 300 metres high. There’s also a gym at work which our employees are encouraged to use. As a company, we are directly and indirectly encouraging a healthier working environment.

GH: C-level Executives like yourself are constantly travelling with an already highly challenging role. How important is it for executives to take time out for themselves?

Gautam: I think not having time is an excuse. There are enough hours in the day, so it’s about the motivation to do it. As they say – ‘motivation gets you started, and if you don’t have motivation, you never get started’.

Going to the gym is not a natural thing for us humans, however once you get the motivation to go, it’s about the determination to keep going. You may wake up on the odd day and think you haven’t had enough sleep, maybe you’ll skip the gym. Once you get into the habit of exercising then you will make time.

We’re also blessed here in Dubai with good weather, in the sense that we see the sun every day, our commute times are much shorter so waking up that extra hour in the morning is not difficult.

GH: Is that why you prefer morning exercise?

Gautam: For me it is – different bodies, different individuals, different preferences. Some prefer to work out in the evenings, some during the day, and others in the morning.

The morning works for me because my day can stretch into 7pm and when I get home, I go through emails, make calls and regularly attend social engagements. If I haven’t exercised in the morning, there’s a high chance I will not in the evening.

GH: The last time we spoke, you mentioned meditating and yoga. How often do you take part in these activities?

Gautam: Yoga is not just a physical exercise for me but also a breathing routine, so I do that when I haven’t gone to the gym on a particular morning. Meditation is something I try to do about fifteen minutes before I get to bed – that’s my switch off mechanism to calm my mind before I go to sleep.

GH: That’s a great way to switch off. How long have you been practicing meditation and would you recommend it as a handy tip, for those struggling to switch off?

Gautam: I’m not a proficient meditator and  I wish I could still my mind. I use meditation in a different way – I call it just sitting in my comfortable spot fifteen minutes before I sleep because that allows me to a great extent to clear all the thoughts that come into my mind before going to sleep. I always recommend it to people, especially if they need to actually slow down their minds to allow them to get into sleep mode.

GH: What would your advice be to other executives who are busy and travel extensively on ways to take that much-needed downtime?

Gautam: When you travel a lot, that’s when your habits go out the window, so how do you ensure you maintain the same habits as if you’re at home? A few tips I follow are:

  • Once I get off the plane, I make sure that I’m walking rapidly towards the exit, getting my blood flowing again.
  • I try to go to the gym if there’s a decent facility at the hotel I’m staying at. It helps me adjust to the time zone that I am in.
  • If I can’t get to the gym, I can certainly steal fifteen minutes for yoga or stretching exercises in the morning or evening in my hotel room, to help me switch on and switch off.

It’s about trying to stay healthy when you’re travelling because that’s when you are more likely to get out of your daily routines.

GH: When it comes to the workplace, how would you encourage your employees towards pursuing healthy lifestyles?

Gautam: It’s about encouraging employees through awareness sessions, which is where I think senior executives’ role is crucial and would be useful because if they too attend these awareness sessions and show commitment, then you’ll find employees taking an active interest. If I’m ever available when these sessions are run in my organisation, I like to attend.

GH: What would your advice be to organisations that have not embraced the health and happiness initiative, and don’t provide programs for their employees?

Gautam: As I said earlier, healthy bodies and healthy minds lead to more productivity. When you’re looking at employee compensation, don’t just look at the pay and privileges but also look at softer incentives if I can call it that, such as how individuals can improve their health. Sometimes I ask the question – ‘is it a bad lifestyle that leads to bad performance at work or is it the stress at work that leads to a bad lifestyle’? I think it’s the former.

From that perspective, I think it’s important that organisations consider the health and wellbeing of their employees because it does lead to a happier, more productive workforce and a more fulfilling work environment.

 Having visited Dubai several times over the past few months, I’m encouraged to see this progressive city embrace health, wellness and happiness, which support global workplace trends including the UK and USA.

As a health coach I see the need for health and wellness programs as a necessity not only for increasing productivity but more pertinent to the holistic wellbeing of every employee within an organisation regardless of their hierarchy.

My gratitude to Mr Gautam Sashittal for taking time from his busy schedule for our health & wellness interview.

Peace and fabulous health!

Gloria

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