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Looking at the importance of employee wellness

Ultimately the employer gets the dividend – Chris Luyt – executive head of marketing, Bestmed.

SIKI MGABADELI:  We are focusing now on the importance of employee wellness to productivity and the bottom line of your business, and how organisations can promote employee wellness from within.

Chris Luyt is executive head of marketing at Bestmed and joins us now. Chris, thanks so much for your time today. Let’s maybe just define in broad terms what we mean by employee wellness.

CHRIS LUYT:  Thank you for the opportunity. Employee wellness is a broad topic. What is important about employee wellness is that for any function in life to do it 100% you need to be well and fit in every aspect of your life.

So I think the energy that is generated around employee wellness at the moment is the link between wellness and engagement, and then engagement and profitability. So where a couple of years ago we said you have to be well and fit to do your job – it goes without saying. Today there is so much mental fitness and emotional fatigue that impacts the workplace.

What we are trying to say is that, through a thorough wellness programme, employee engagement can be reached. There is so much evidence today that engaged staff members are more productive, and more productive staff members are good for the bottom line. So in an economy that is challenging at best, to have productive employees is really what the economy requires and what companies require to be profitable.

SIKI MGABADELI:  Certainly. I suppose then it means that businesses really have to get pretty close to their employees and understand them. So how can organisations then support and promote employee wellness?

CHRIS LUYT:  I think the important thing is that there are a couple of dimensions. We’ve looked, from the Bestmed side, at actuarial rules of thumb. We are all probably on average going to spend 80% of our lifetime healthcare expense in the last ten years of our lives. So when are you the most productive? I think there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into that in the last couple of years.

But something that’s different from wellness, let’s say, ten or 15 years ago, is today there is a lot of thought around the power of being happy at the workplace, and how that is busy accumulating towards a better environment.

Now, Bestmed [has looked and] about 66% of people at the end of their lives take some form of chronic medication or have some chronic disease, and those diseases typically could have been avoided through lifestyle choices. What we’ve done is we’ve looked at the five specific pillars.

Be safe – I think there is a lot to say about that. Be active – don’t indulge in excessive drinking, smoking or a lack of exercise. Be nutri-wise. I think there is a lot say about the benefit of a food nutrition programme.

Be fin-fit. We are not a financial advisory institution to tell you where you need to invest your money, but again, there is a very strong correlation between financial uncertainty and stress, and stress obviously we all understand is a major driver of illness. So just by having good financial habits, keeping a household budget, and ensuring that you are diligent in terms of finances really generates a lot of comfort and reduces stress.

And then the ultimate enigma is happiness. We just see so much that people who are generally happy in an environment are so much more productive. That’s what we try and encourage in terms of a wellness programme. Yes, it seems like BMI, understanding your status, knowing what your cholesterol is, etc, are all important. But there is so much more, being the best you can be, than just X amount of push-ups or X amount of miles that you run. It’s really being holistic, even to the extent that healthy relationships in the workplace go very, very far in terms of productivity and the like. So it’s really a list of components.

Bestmed works very hard in terms of encouraging that. And what has been very rewarding in the last two, three years is that we are getting business places that illustrate that it is actually working and it’s actually contributing to the bottom line of the business. I think that ultimately the employer gets the dividend of the wellness exercise.

SIKI MGABADELI:  We’ll leave it there. Thanks for your time today, Chris Luyt, executive head of marketing at Bestmed..

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What is it with these medical aid groupies – they get their hooks into an expression “wellness” this or that and spend their lives trying to tell people how to live. I didn’t have a days sick leave for 25 years prior to retiring and for most of this period I enjoyed my drinking and smoking and hard work life fully. Seems that these medschemes are trying to find every which way to control your lives and avoid paying for medications. Med schemes are blood suckers dressed up as caring entities

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