South Africa in danger of losing its competitive edge

19 March 2014 Dr Jacques Snyman, Agility

Cutting edge wellness programmes primed to take corporate SA out of its 'sickening slump'.

Latest statistics from Statistics South Africa released in Pretoria yesterday reveal that lifestyle-related diseases otherwise known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are reaching almost epidemic proportions. "What with this rise of NCDs, labour unrest and the disconcerting trends in absenteeism on the up-and-up, South Africa is in danger of losing its competitive edge," cautions Dr Jacques Snyman, Managing Director of Integrated Care Solutions at Agility, owners of the Zurreal4employers programme, an integrated and holistic human capital and risk management solution.

"South Africa is fast slipping down global competiveness rankings with a 500% increase in sick leave since 2001," says Dr. Snyman. A mammoth R19 billion is lost every year due to absenteeism in South Africa. It may seem like an obvious thing to do but investing in the health of your workforce is a business imperative that can result in higher levels of productivity, decreased rates of absenteeism and ultimately more zeros on that highly coveted bottom line.

He asserts that with appropriate planning and management corporate South Africa is ideally positioned to reverse these worrying trends. "Because businesses can reach large segments of the population they can not only improve the health and wellbeing and ultimately productivity of their own workforce but can also play an integral role in improving the overall healthcare outcomes of South Africans across the board."

"Most companies completely underestimate the true impact of employee ill-health on the sustainability and productivity of a business. These companies also appear to be unaware of the tremendous savings that can be derived by implementing a flexible policy that will limit risk and manage human capital effectively," he adds.

"Forward thinking employers need to understand that while a healthy workforce can be their most valuable asset, it can also potentially become their biggest liability if inappropriately managed," notes Dr. Snyman. It is becoming increasingly important for businesses in today's volatile labour and economic climate to adopt comprehensive employee wellness programmes to manage the risks associated with human capital.

According to Dr. Snyman the perfect employee wellness programme should be modular while offering a customised human capital risk solution to individual businesses, regardless of their size and the industry in which they operate. If correctly implemented this can substantially reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, enhance loyalty to the company, create a healthier, fitter and happier workforce while better managing potential liabilities and human capital expenses.

"One of the greatest challenges facing South African employers nowadays is to achieve a balance between keeping operational costs manageable while maintaining high productivity levels within a harmonious workplace. Without doubt, attractive staff benefits coupled with a pleasant, safe working environment can go a long way towards ensuring a productive, healthy and stable workforce," says Dr. Snyman. Any workplace wellness programme worth its salt should assist employers in the implementation of solutions that proactively address these challenges while taking full cognizance of South Africa's distinctive health profile into account.

South Africa, unlike many other countries, suffers from a quadruple burden of disease, namely infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) otherwise known as chronic diseases of lifestyle, and high rates of interpersonal violence and injuries. These can all result in a loss of valued skill and expertise, a decrease in productivity and profits, psychological problems and stress with a dependence on alcohol and drugs often compounding the issue.

The report revealed that while tuberculosis remains South Africa's biggest killer, diseases related to lifestyle, which include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer, among many others, are accounting for more and more deaths. "These diseases have a particularly devastating effect on businesses and productivity levels," asserts Dr Snyman. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that NCDs will be the most common cause of death by 2030, far outstripping deaths from infectious diseases, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases combined.

Zurreal4employers not only provides corporate South Africa with a corporate wellness programme that helps address employee ill-health but also goes a step further by offering a seamlessly integrated solution that addresses the full spectrum of organisational health, wellbeing and financial services needs.

The Zurreal4employers programme offers a range of innovative solutions to employers who wish to harness the benefits that a well-managed and healthy workforce can provide. Corporate wellness programmes can help employers implement customised solutions that target each and every aspect of South Africa's complex industrial relations and healthcare profile. "With over 14 million employed South Africans it makes perfect sense to invest in the health and wellbeing of employees," concludes Dr. Snyman.

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