Corporate wellness programs have become extremely popular among employers looking to reduce their health care costs among their workforce. In the US, corporate wellness has become a $6 billion dollar industry, and over 90% of businesses with 200 or more employees have some kind of wellness initiative in place. In the UAE, awareness of the benefits of increased fitness is growing among residents as well as companies who are appreciating that investing in the health and wellness of their employees can boost their bottom line by saving them money in health care costs. In addition, corporate wellness programs can improve the productivity of employees by reducing sick days and helping them become more mentally alert and engaged in their work.
While the corporate wellness industry is still in its infancy in the UAE, it benefits greatly from the growing awareness among residents of the benefits of maintaining a healthy body. For example, 55% of respondents from the UAE to the Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey said they thought they were overweight, while 63% said they were actively working to lose excess weight and 83% said they were willing to pay more for healthy food.
A study conducted by Drs. Carl Lavie and Richard Milani shed some light on the benefits of a well-designed corporate wellness program. The physicians looked at a random sampling of 183 employees at a particular workplace along with their spouses. Of those workers who were classified as ‘high-risk’ for developing chronic health problems at the start of the study (using measures like blood pressure and body fat), 57% of them were converted to ‘low-risk’ status by participating in a six-month heart rehabilitation and exercise program. This resulted in savings of $1,421 in medical claim costs per participating employee.
The health care company Johnson & Johnson reported similar success when they started their corporate wellness program in 1995. As a result of company wellness initiatives, the number of J&J employees who have hypertension or are physically sedentary has fallen by more than half. Corporate leaders have estimated that their various wellness programs have saved them a total of $250 million in health care costs over the past decade.
What are some of the factors that contribute to a successful corporate wellness program?
- Leadership. Company leaders have to take the initiative to create a corporate health culture in order to engage their employees and encourage them to participate in wellness initiatives. For example, the CEO could take the lead by making time for fitness breaks so that employees won’t feel conscious if they do the same. The corporation could also appoint a wellness manager who creates a health program based on the company culture.
Culture. The idea of promoting health should be integrated into the company’s culture. For example, Instead of making the idea of promoting health intrusive to employees, i.e. by forcing or shaming employees to have health screenings, the company can instead hold Wellness Days where employees are taught how to live a healthier lifestyle as well as including updates on the company’s wellness initiatives during staff meetings.
With corporate wellness programs in the UAE workplace becoming a major craze at the moment, with employers of all sizes being affected let’s look at what your company could do to benefit from the amazing changes a well devised corporate wellness program in Dubai.
1.So much to do, fitting it all in.
With the daily stresses and strains of life, with kids to feed, the cooking to do and the daily chores at home to finish making time for exercise or lifestyle improvement can be tough for the normal team member. That is why companies in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the whole of the UAE can make a big impact if they create a workplace that has easy access to learning opportunities related to lifestyle improvement, this can be made possible through onsite workshops with wellness consultants within work time. Also if it’s possible to provide onsite exercise areas which could be as simple as a large office space with some basic equipment, it’s not necessary for your CSR budget on lots of treadmills you can equip a great gym for five to ten thousand aed with the right consultant on board to guide you. If on-site exercise space is not available then incentives such as longer lunch breaks or flexible working hours for employees who exercise regularly can be a great way to encourage your team to integrate exercise and healthy lifestyle practices into their daily lives.
2.Innovate your office
You don’t have to give your team the equivalent of 10 days off a year to go to the gym, although we recommend you do as the capital investment is paid for many times over. It’s relatively easy to redesign your office space to accommodate movement and exercise while they work. Why don’t you try getting your staff to use the correct size exercise ball will mean their nervous system is constantly activated and their muscles don’t shut down after 8 minutes like they do in a chair, they will burn a lot more calories & their incidence of lower back pain will be greatly reduced which will mean your insurance premiums will be lower. Or how about investing in one of the newest inventions designed to get your employees active and productive at the same time; treadmill desks so they can walk and type or desks that elevate so they can stand while they work.
3.Focus on the 6 foundational health principles
These are the building blocks to health and the basics that need to be checked and improved if there is any major in-balance.
In my 18 years I haven’t seen any condition that can’t be significantly improved by fixing in-balances in the 6 foundational health systems. If you are not healthy enough for whatever reason the key thing to do is to figure out where your stressors are and reduce them.
The six building blocks are: your thinking, sleep & rest, dietary factors, healthy, abdominal breathing, movement and digestion.
These might sound simple but believe me the science behind these areas is fascinating.
Making simple improvements such as these; getting to bed by 22:30 or 23:00 at the latest, sleeping well, abdominal breathing most of the time, handling daily stress well, getting great quality rest and enough of it to balance your stressors and doing the right type of movement for you will make such a huge impact if they are out of balance in the first place that your performance at work and in life will skyrocket.
4.Use technology to leverage your wellness program in the UAE.
Some easy and appealing things you can do is to provide a fit bit to all employees with a prize offered to the person who takes the most steps each month and for example the new people who start each month.
Only provide the fit-bit device to each team member on the condition that they join the companies fit bit social network, they can see how they are doing compared to the group and foster some more team spirit.
It is a sad fact that most corporate wellness programs fail to meet their goals for a variety of reasons. However, many others do succeed and they have lessons to offer that can greatly help improve your corporate wellness program’s chances of success.
Don’t attach monetary rewards or penalties to fitness goals. One of the biggest reasons why corporate wellness programs fail is their insistence on taking a “carrot or stick” approach, in which employees who achieve health goals are given financial rewards, while those who don’t are penalized. The main problem with this approach is that it destroys team spirit and breeds resentment and lower morale. It may also promote competiveness among employees, which could affect workplace productivity.
A much better approach is simply to build a culture of wellness in the workplace that makes it easier for employees to make healthy choices without feeling coerced. One way this can be done is if the CEO and other top company officers demonstrate their own commitment to wellness by, for instance, doing their own exercise program in the office, and encouraging employees to join in.
Focus on overall wellness rather than meeting health goals. While it is important for employees to meet goals such as losing weight and stopping smoking, it is more essential that you build up their self-esteem, since having a positive outlook directly contributes to making it easier for them to adopt healthy lifestyle choices. Keep in mind that an employee who is overweight but maintains a healthier lifestyle can contribute more to the workplace than one who is thinner but smokes and stays up late at night.
Solicit employee feedback. When creating a workplace wellness program, it is important that you listen to what your workers want, rather than forcing health goals on them. For example, if you want to promote increased exercise, you can ask your workers what program they would want to adopt, i.e. a walking club in which employees take time out for walks with employees who successfully complete a goal being honored, or reimbursing members if they join a gym.
Encourage employees to set their own personal health goals. Holding informal get-togethers to encourage employees to set their own wellness goals can greatly contribute to employee morale as well as improving their well-being. Examples of personal goals include, “I want to play basketball three times a week and ”I want to lose ten pounds before I attend my high school reunion”.
Let’s start with a Harvard Business Review that was conducted in 2008 by the esteemed professor Leonard L Barry.Let’s start with the big hitting facts and move on to see if these translated into real cost savings for real companies.
Johnson and Johnson by initiating its corporate wellness program reduced the amount of staff that smoke by two thirds, yes you read that correctly, two thirds! They have estimated that the savings have added up to 250 million dollars, in total the program cost them 97 million dollars, that’s a net return on their investment of 2.71 times.
The common misconception of corporate wellness program receive in the press is often due to the fact that the returns are hard to measure.
Elements like employee happiness, productivity and increased work/life balance that impacts a company’s bottom line is hard to quantify apart from results from questionnaires, the problem arises when you try to translate these paper results into dollar returns.
Out of a poll conducted on 200 companies with over 150 employees that ran a corporate wellness program the top benefits that they received in ascending order were:
- Less sick days per 100 employees.
- Reduced medical insurance costs by 20% or more after one years implementation.
- The average number of risk factors per 100 employees reduced by 0.5 within 1 years successful corporate wellness and corporate fitness programs integration.
- Smoking among employees reduced significantly.
- Alcohol use among employees reduced significantly.
- Enjoyment and satisfaction at work increased by 35%, especially among the companies that ran their wellness programs with small groups of competing employees.
The thing that blurs the line of being able to judge if a wellness initiative is worth the per dollar investment is the fact that a lot of SME’s don’t benchmark their fitness, rest & repair and wellness programs. They go into the program headstrong but don’t clarify where they started with something like a company health appraisal questionnaire and resulting score or checking for team members health risk factors like high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol etc then they obviously can’t track the participants progress throughout.
If they set the program up correctly initially they would surely see massive improvement to hard facts like reduced medical insurance costs and increased employee productiveness.
So in conclusion the figures clearly show that properly set up company wellness programs provide the team with a huge return on allocated capital.
If you need to know how to set up a corporate wellness program that works get in touch today.
Corporate Wellness Co founder.
052 699 3955