Is there a healthier approach to health?

A healthier approach to health

Most of the world’s population spend one third of their adult life at work. A third! That’s a lot of time dedicated to bringing home the bacon.

Thankfully, many people have deeper incentives to go to work than merely providing for themselves/their families. But regardless of whether career progression, personal growth or other factors help motivate you to go to work, the amount of time spent at the workplace, shows the opportunity that companies have to contribute to the health and well-being of a huge proportion of the world’s population.

Companies can’t deny that focussing on employees health can help increase productivity, and health and safety in the workplace is a basic human right. However, Spotify’s relationship to health and wellbeing goes beyond the basics and is much more holistic. It’s unimaginable to us to have it any other way. We must be a role model company and proactively support employees in improving their quality of life. Not forgetting that the approach should also be packaged up in a playful, sincere and scientifically backed-up way.

Our Swedish roots

Once again, we’re inspired by our Swedish roots in this area (disclaimer: we recognise there are many other countries who also have health high up on the agenda from both an governmental policy and a corporate responsibility perspective). Let me explain more for those of you reading from abroad: in Sweden, most companies offer their employees an annual payment or allowance (Friskvårdsbidrag), to spend on sports activities i.e. a gym membership. It’s great to see a nation where physical activity is ingrained in everyday life for so many people and it’s laudable that a government gives a tax benefit to encourage companies to recognise their responsibility when it comes to health.

However, there are some major flaws with the approach. Whilst giving a free gym membership is a delightful perk, we have debated what a bonus scheme like this does to drive change in behaviour for those who don’t already have physical fitness high on their priority list? The friskvårdsbidrag is so sacred here in Sweden that by simply uttering this sentence I’m putting myself in the line of fire for some hard criticism and outrage, even from clusters of traditionalists within Spotify! But hear me out…

First off, as a global company we want to be able to offer the same level of perks like this to all our employees, regardless of where they are in the world. And as we all know – some countries are better setup for this kind of approach, but not all. It really wouldn’t be fair if we were to have one approach for Sweden and another for Brazil, for example. Every employee should feel like they are working for one Spotify – the same company.

Secondly, being healthy is so much more than physical activity. The World Health Organisation considers good health to come from a balance between a state of complete physical, social and mental well-being. Gym memberships don’t do anything towards encouraging social health. And whilst physical activity definitely has positive benefits on mental health, relying on sports alone to keep the mind healthy it is not enough. And, a fit mind will most likely lead to more openness to physical activity, so why pretend or preach that it’s always the other way around? A fit body will give you mental health, when a good state of mind most likely will increase physical activity.

Corporate health that has an impact

We want to have a real impact on people’s lives. We want our people to be healthy in all ways – this means they’ll be happier and even more awesome at what they do. To achieve this in a company like ours, where culture is queen, we must think about ways our health program is integrated into, and supportive of, our environment at Spotify.

Corporate health and well-being programmes should be about enabling people to have a great quality of life. Not work-life balance (can you even separate the two these days?), and not just discounts to help with the obvious fix (friskvårdsbidrag). And it needs to be inclusive – a program that offers everyone some kind of inspiration, and the chance to take just a small step and join in.

Health @Spotify

One of our beliefs within the Social team at Spotify (read the blog post here to hear all about Social and what we do), is that by giving people the tools to improve their health we will increase the happiness/contentedness of employees, and in turn, the productivity of the company.

We’ve worked with health perks and benefits at Spotify HR, and specifically within Social, since the team’s existence, but over the last 18 months we’ve put in place a thought-through, strategic health plan. It’s objective is to pave the way so that everyone at Spotify can take one small step towards a healthier lifestyle (at the very least). The focus is on education, lowering the threshold to make changes, activities that attract the broader workforce and simply highlighting healthier options. We zoomed in on serious issues that typically affect a workforce like ours, like decreasing muscular related disorders, handling stress, time management, addressing repeated unhealthy food and drink consumption and lack of sleep.

Today, we offer a wide range of weekly sports classes, entry into team leagues and sports, booking of sports facilities to train with colleagues (eg sports halls, tennis courts), hobbies groups and clubs, lectures and inspiration sessions from experts within different areas of health, mindfulness classes, discounted massages, health checks with medical professionals, the use of fitness balls, standing desks and treadmills for walking when working, apps encouraging daily exercise, healthy food classes, clear labelling of healthy snacks available at some of our offices, and, where possible, discounts at local gyms.

Healthy, happy people

When we take this approach, instead of a more simple ‘one size fits all’ solution (like Friskvårdsbidrag) we can offer a much wider variety of activities, ensuring even more Spotifiers get to take advantage of the investment in health. We can balance our investment in other areas of health (not just physical). We can encourage employees who are comfortable with it, to take part in sports together (being social and bringing people together are key elements of our culture). And we can pave the way for everyone to make a change that will increase their quality of life, having some level of impact on everyone.

This is a much bigger investment than paying for a gym membership, but we wholeheartedly believe it’s the right thing to do, it fits with our culture and we can really make a difference across the board.