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Investing in employee health is not only a benefit for the workforce, but is also just a "smart business decision".
So said the South African Medical Association's (Sama) chairperson, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, speaking on the need of all corporate companies to invest in wellness programmes.
This as the world observes Corporate Wellness Week this week.
“An estimated 200 cardiovascular-related deaths occur daily in South Africa; 80 percent of these are attributable to lifestyle and behaviour. Businesses who want a healthy balance must invest in the health of their workers as a priority for their companies’ wellbeing,” says Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, chairperson of SAMA.

Workplace wellness activities fall under three categories: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

Primary Corporate Wellness programmes prompt employees to change their habits into healthier lifestyle behaviours. Secondary programmes target a reduction in risky health behaviours such as smoking and screening for disease-related risk factors, and Tertiary programmes address existing health problems, aiming to control or reduce symptoms and progression of the conditions.

Most organisations offer programs such as smoking cessation, weight management, behavioural or lifestyle coaching. Some companies will even provide financial incentives for employees who participate in different health and fitness programs.  

Recent years have also shown workplace wellness expanding from single health promotion interventions to creating a more overall healthy environment including building and interior design that promote physical activity.  

“Some recent wellness activities SAMA has implemented for employees include arranging for employees to get their flu vaccinations, arranging for blood pressure and blood sugar level testing, having regularly scheduled LIVUPP sessions which build employee morale, relieves stress and provide employees with valuable lessons contributing to a more productive and enjoyable workspace,” notes Dr Grootboom.

Regardless of the work environment, corporate wellness programs are designed to nurture wellness in employees. Some benefits of starting a corporate wellness programmes include:

·  Reduced healthcare costs

·  Reduced absenteeism

·  Reduced stress

·  Increased productivity

·  Improved morale

·  Savings on healthcare expenses

·  Healthier employees who will work more diligently and miss fewer days of work due to illness

Some recommendations for including wellness in your organisation include:

·  Programmes should be practical and accessible. Invest in programs which foster sustained engagement, and be open to suggestions and feedback from employees.

·  Be health conscious in all business aspects. Replace vending machines with healthier options.

·  Be Proactive. Offer biometric screening programs, and provide your employees with the tools and information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices and changes.  

·  Review catering menus and make recommendations for healthy options.

· Promote daily physical activity. Encourage stairwell use, negotiate corporate discounts for health club memberships.

·  Start a Smoke-Free policy and provide cessation resources

( Adapted from a press release)