Employee health a key concern for businesses - CNBC Africa

Employee health a key concern for businesses

Southern Africa

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Employee health a key concern for businesses PHOTOS: Getty Images/Skyscrapercity.com

“We have moved beyond the point of defining return-on-investment and impact on absenteeism and prioritising the health of our workforce is good for business and critical for society,” said Dr Craig Nossel, head of Discovery Vitality Wellness.

(READ MORE: Discovery posts excellent results)

“A trend that emerged from the 2014 date is that we’re seeing a significant shift in how employee health is viewed by companies globally – there is increasing focus on improving and managing health and wellbeing, and how this is affecting their bottom line.”

He explained that the general state of health around the world is worsening at an alarming rate particularly due to chronic diseases associated with lifestyle choices such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory conditions, and certain cancers.

These diseases of lifestyle play a major role in employee illness and absenteeism, reducing levels of workplace morale, engagement and productivity.

Nossel said that research shows that these diseases can largely be mitigated through tailored interventions that promote healthier diet, better levels of physical activity and regular health checks.

“Since people spend a great deal of their lives at work, and work significantly impacts stress and lifestyle, employers have a unique opportunity to positively influence their employees’ ability to make healthy choices and help them to manage stress and reduce illness.”

The Healthy Company Index was therefore created through a partnership with [DATA DSY:Discovery LTD.], the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe.

Christian van Stolk, director of employment and social policy at RAND Europe added that the index has highlighted the importance of employee wellbeing among companies.

"The Healthy Company Index provides employers with critical information on the health and well-being of employees. Successful wellness initiatives are those that encourage a culture of health in the workplace and motivate individuals to take control of their own health. As a consequence, there is a strong business case for companies to look at health and well-being more closely and invest in improving employee health,” he said.

(READ MORE: Companies should improve employee engagement)

According to the 2014 Discovery Healthy Company Index, South Africans suffer an 11.4 per cent loss in working days due to suboptimal health, which equates to 25 working days per employee.

“When compared to the UK, SA employers have a 2.3 per cent higher productivity loss rate due to employees being unhealthier and taking more sick days,” added van Stolk.

Based on the index results for this year, Discovery recommended that companies should implement canteens that offer healthy, affordable food and drinks that are subsidised where possible.

Also, businesses should incorporate flexible working hours to allow employees to be active before or after work, and recruiting health ambassadors will assist in reaching corporate wellness goals.

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