Wellness intervention in business crucial

Retaining skills within an organisation is a very real challenge that many South African companies face in the prevailing skills shortage in the business sector according to Arien van der Merwe

October 14, 2011

“Finding the perfect balance between work and home life is at the heart of the issue and is essential when an organisation wants to have a staff member that is satisfied and performing at their peak in their position,” says Dr Arien van der Merwe, medical specialist in health and wellbeing at EOH Health and newly appointed editor of The Integrative Medicine Journal SA.

Wellness is a sound business strategy when combined with pro-active health promotion as its flagship, says Dr Van Der Merwe.  “Basic health services such as having a regular blood pressure test, cholesterol and HIV testing is a screening method that will indicate whether a staff member has larger underlying physiological problems that may need professional intervention.  The process educates the employee on the medium to high health risks that they face and how to go about lowering those risks,” she explains.

However, it is not simply about the physiological aspects.  “You have to look at the person in their entirety and consider their emotional, occupational, mental and spiritual state as well as the environment that they find themselves in,” says Dr Van Der Merwe.  “Finding a work and life balance is crucial in establishing a happy medium for both the employee and the employer.”

Many companies lose sight of how much an individual can realistically do in one day.  “If you keep overloading an employee, they will need to take their work home and finalise it there, which cuts into their family and personal time.  It severely affects the employee’s productivity, emotional state and general well-being, inevitably contributing to absenteeism at work,” says Dr Van Der Merwe.

“One of the most common problems we have picked up is high blood pressure in young people, averaging 28 years of age.  It is quite alarming and serves as a clear indicator of the sheer amount of strain that many people experience in the workplace.  It is often the result of an underlying issue and in most cases we find that the individuals don’t know how to manage a problem that is causing the strain, nor do they know how to relax and take their minds off work.  Technology is helping a great deal with the matter, providing means for us to demonstrate the benefits of a simple relaxing exercise.  Learning some practical stress management tools and techniques can really help people cope with modern day stress and strain,” explains Dr Van Der Merwe.

Companies will find a 6:1 return on investment in terms of decreased sick leave and absenteeism for every Rand spent in wellness interventions.  “Wellness is a conscious and continuous integrative process that leads to the enhancement of individual, organisational and community health and wellbeing, and is therefore something that companies can no longer ignore,” concludes Dr Van Der Merwe.

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