Pretoria – The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has urged businesses across the country to look after their employees and to promote healthy living among their workforce.
The call comes ahead of Corporate Wellness Week, which is observed from 1 – 5 July.
“We want to urge businesses to set up comprehensive employee wellness programmes that sustain healthy habits and experiences among employees, such as taking stairs instead of lifts, eating healthy food and providing an accommodating working environment.
“These facilities should be available to all employees, including those with communicable or chronic health conditions, while discouraging damaging habits such as negative employment relationships as well as smoking and alcohol use,” said Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, chairperson of SAMA.
Dr Grootboom said ongoing economic challenges, socio-demographic transformation and changes in the corporate sector have the potential to greatly influence the wellness of working people. The responsibility to nurture wellness in workers, he said, rests upon employers, both in the public and private sectors.
“For corporates, taking charge of employees’ wellness is beneficial in numerous ways. They are less stressed, there are increases in staff morale, and there is less absenteeism and better productivity. Improved employee wellness can also lead to fewer workplace accidents, fewer healthcare costs, and lower staff turnover,” he said.
Many companies do not have corporate wellness programmes in place, despite reports that confirm that South Africa loses between R16 billion and R19 billion annually due to work absenteeism.
Dr Grootboom said the benefits of wellness, which should be seen in line with the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as “the state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing” is sometimes not appreciated.
“Working inordinately long hours without breaks is unfortunately the fate of some professions and industries. In addition to that, workplace conflict, bureaucratic constraints, family stress brought to the work place and other factors are notable determinants of poor employee mental health,” he said.
According to SAMA, corporate wellness programmes could be preventive or curative in nature. It has urged businesses to set up programmes that will improve employee wellness, both physically and psychologically.