- For every dirham spent, four dirhams could be gained on reduced absenteeism and increased productivity
Investment in corporate wellness programmes is one of the most effective ways to improve business performance, a research report conducted by MEED has revealed.
The results of the study suggested that companies could see as much as 300 per cent return on investment on money spent on corporate wellness initiatives.
“It is very important to recognise the cost-benefit relationship associated with wellness programmes,” says Maisaa Nasrallah, a senior health, safety and environment (HSE) Consultant and IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety & Health) UAE, Branch Chair. While upfront it appears as a cost, studies show that for every AED 1 spent on a wellness programme, AED 4 are saved in absenteeism, employee turnover and productivity.”
Nasrallah was joined by other experts in urging companies in the UAE to set up wellness programmes. “If you do not care about employee wellbeing issues today, you will lose your assets (employees), which could affect business profit, so each company should have a programme to implement wellness as part of the corporate culture, regardless of the numbers of employees or expenses of such initiatives”, says Dr. Fatih Mehmet Gul, Executive Director at CSR Middle East.
The report was conducted as part of the Daman Corporate Health Awards which aim to recognise the best employers in the UAE for their successful initiatives in health and wellness.
The report stressed that companies must appreciate the commitment required to deliver a successful health and wellness programme. “The smart, simple steps to a healthy lifestyle are a balanced diet and regular exercise, such as a 30-minute brisk walk each day. These are fairly easy practices to include into the workplace environment,” says Dr. Farhana Bin Lootah, specialist in internal medicine and lead of the structured education programme “Sukkari”, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.
Nasrallah, Gul and Bin Lootah are three of the leading voices encouraging the establishment of employee wellness programmes, and are esteemed judges of the Daman Corporate Health Awards, the Middle East’s first awards programme to recognise outstanding workplace health initiatives, organised by MEED.
“Effective management of health insurance schemes is becoming one of the key responsibilities of HR managers,” says Dr. Michael Bitzer, CEO of National Health Insurance Company – Daman. “Improving staff health leads to greater productivity, reduced absenteeism and ultimately, results in lower insurance premiums. Corporate wellness programmes allow HR managers go change the way employees think about health – through awareness – and putting in place initiatives to improve it.”
The biggest obstacle preventing the adoption of corporate wellness programmes in the UAE could be misguided perceptions. According to Nasrallah, “Employee wellness is still a relatively young topic in the UAE and is viewed as a privilege rather than a requirement. One of the key challenges is securing buy-in from management (cost-benefit analysis), and from the employees themselves to encourage them to participate.”
In addition, Dr. Bin Lootah says, “Challenges are many, at individual and organisational level. Keeping in mind that most people are a result of their environment, changing the environment would nudge them to change. Programmes need to be re-evaluated after roll-out and tweaked accordingly for sustainability. This is a fast-paced world we live in. Attention spans are short. It is imperative to engage, involve, attract, remind and encourage.”
The rationale for workplace wellness programmes stems in part from the fact that many employees spend the majority of their day at work, making it a logical course of action for companies to invest in their wellbeing. Some of the simple, cost-effective initiatives organisations could implement include, “encouraging use of the stairs instead of elevators, starting a lunchtime walking group, and eliminating in-office food and beverages which are high in sugar, fat or calories. Such initiatives require little time commitment or lifestyle change, making them approachable ways for employees to begin or continue a focus on wellness,” suggests Dr. Marc Harrison, Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Through the Daman Corporate Health Awards, organisers hope to make a difference in highlighting the importance and value of promoting workplace health and wellness.
“Corporate health programmes are either provisional or non-existent in many companies in the UAE; although for large corporations and many government departments, as well as multinational organisations, the concept is clear and wellness programmes are in place”, says Richard Thompson, Editorial Director of MEED, the leading business intelligence organisation in the Middle East, “Our aim is to make wellness a key aspect of corporate culture in the UAE which will hopefully benefit the more than 1.3 million workforce population of the emirates”.
Companies and individuals can participate in the inaugural Daman Corporate Health Awards by submitting their workplace health and wellness programmes and initiatives online at www.corporatehealthawards.com in any of the following categories: Daman Award for Corporate Health and Wellness (Organisation), Daman Award for Corporate Health and Wellness Initiative (Initiative), Daman Award for Improved Corporate Health and Wellness Performance, Communications Campaign of the Year, Corporate Wellness Leader of the Year, Corporate Wellness Team of the Year, Corporate Wellness Rising Star of the Year, Innovation in Work Culture, Workplace of the Year, Health & Safety Initiative of the Year, CSR Employee Engagement of the Year.