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Employee wellness boosts productivity, loyalty levels

10 September 2008 Ovations

Realisation by employers that their staff members are valuable assets, combined with proactive measures to reduce stress and promote physical and psychological wellness, has been proven to boost productivity and loyalty levels.

So says Johan Viljoen, a senior consultant at business performance improvement consultancy, Ovations, pointing to research that illustrates that employees are more likely to show up for work and perform at a high level when they are in optimal physical and psychological health.

Significantly, says Viljoen, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), have become crucial investments by organisations in the interests of their staff, resulting in better staff retention levels, lower absenteeism, the ability to attract high quality new staff, improved on-the-job time utilisation and decision-making, and enhanced employee morale.

“EAPs can vary from providing counselling on issues such as personal financial planning and debt management to initiatives aimed at improving eating habits and lifestyles,” he says.

“In some cases, companies are negotiating directly with medical aids and food retailers to proactively improve the fitness, nutrition and general lifestyles of their employees.”

While people, processes and technology are at the heart of business performance improvements, Viljoen says the “soft” people issues are too often overlooked or underemphasised when major changes are introduced.

In tough economic times, he believes it is especially important for employers “to think outside the box” about measures that can improve health and wellness.

“Effectively, organisations that go the extra mile in their interpretation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act usually reap tangible rewards through the performance of their staff,” adds Viljoen.

“Some employers go as far as regularly providing professional health and wellness assessments, eating plans, fruit schemes, subsidised healthy canteen menus, massage therapy and animated exercise demonstrations for deskbound employees via their internal intranets.”

Also vital, he says, is the need for employers to assist their staff with the management of work-related stress which has increased as South Africa’s working environment has become more competitive in response to increased local and international pressures.

Poor control of the factors causing work-related stress can lead to ill health and reduced performance and productivity.

Work-related stress can be caused by: work demands being too high or too low; employees having little or no say in how they organise their work; poor support from management/colleagues and conflicting demands such as high productivity and high quality.

According to Viljoen, the more senior a staff member becomes, the greater is the risk that work-related physical and psychological problems may occur.

To counter this, he says organisations must proactively focus on stress management, coaching, mentorship, fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle management programmes for these important employees.

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