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Being an employer of choice is about more than money

01 March 2011 Pro Sano Medical Scheme
Dr James Arens, the Clinical Operations Executive of Pro Sano medical Scheme

Dr James Arens, the Clinical Operations Executive of Pro Sano medical Scheme

The difference between a good and a great organisation boils down to the human factor. Many studies have shown that an organisation’s success depends on the physical, mental and emotional well being of its employees. Today’s high-paced world, with all its pressures and demands, is taking its toll on our health. Modern-day lifestyle diseases are on the rise. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and depression, which cost individuals, employers and medical schemes dearly both in terms of productivity and direct medical costs.

“Research has found there is a need, more than ever, for wellness interventions in the workplace,” says Pro Sano Medical Scheme’s Clinical Operations Executive Dr James Arens. “Employers should be actively and urgently seeking new ways to decrease absenteeism, reduce medical claims costs, and improve employee productivity, recruitment, and retention.”

Many employers credit the implementation of corporate fitness programmes with productivity gains in areas such as reduced errors, improved efficiency and improved decision making. For maximum impact on employee health, a comprehensive wellness programme should focus on:

· increasing awareness of wellness issues (by providing employees with information)

· supporting health management (personal behaviour changes such as health eating and getting enough exercise)

· promoting a healthy work climate (promoting a healthy lifestyle by offering healthy options in the canteen, for example, exercise or meditation classes, and an emphasis on work/life balance).

Programmes don’t necessarily need to be extensive or expensive as those of the large corporations, says Dr Arens, in order to have an impact on employee health and health care costs. Smaller organisations can make inexpensive changes in the work environment by considering the following:

· Appoint an employee-wellness champion from within the organisation and encourage the staff to come up with ideas to make it work. It helps to get everyone involved, from the executive management downwards.

· Invite organisations or speakers to conduct interesting talks and workshops at your facility. Make it fun and let employees know that they are expected to attend.

· Offer flexi-time for employees who would like to exercise at lunch time, or perhaps play 9 holes of golf one day a week.

· Provide showers and a locker room on the premises.

· Give employees information by distributing free brochures.

· Add bike racks to the parking area for employees who would like to cycle to work or during lunch time.

· Encourage employees to register for free electronic health newsletters – again, get your employee wellness champion to drive this process. The newsletter could contain fun company news such as the CEO participating in a fun walk or cycle tour, snapshots of the management team choosing a healthy food option in the canteen, or the marketing department engaging in a yoga or meditation class to increase their creativity and decrease their stress levels.

· Fun promotions such as giving each employee a pedometer and challenging them to 10000 steps a day. There could be a monthly prize for the individual, department or team who takes the “most steps” to good health. Or issue a weight-loss challenge between departments. Organisations such as Weigh-Less will gladly send a representative to run a weekly class at your company.

· Liaise with your medical aid provider to arrange screening for diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc on-site, making it convenient for your employees to get tested and seek the necessary treatment and advice if a problem is picked up.

Finally, and perhaps the most important advice of all, says Dr Arens, is to keep it going! Employees easily become bored with the latest company initiative. Make sure your wellbeing programme doesn’t become a T-shirt and memory stick exercise – here today, gone tomorrow. Make it “the way we do things around here”.

Becoming proactive in your employees’ health makes very good business sense, says Arens. And promoting wellness programmes can have a substantial impact on profitability by reducing health care costs, increasing productivity, decreasing absenteeism and providing a positive, healthy work environment. Wellness programmes may be one of the few employee benefits that pay money back to the organisation and significantly improve bottom-line perfomance. With a few simple changes, just watch the vitality and energy of your employees start to soar.

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