HR Indaba reveals that your employees’ health is good for business

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Discovery’s Guy Chennells explains why there is a serious business case for employee wellness.

How seriously are you taking your employees’ health? Are your employee wellness programmes discretionary line items on the budget? These are not questions that should be directed just at HR practitioners, but at all leaders across an organisation, said Guy Chennells, product head at Discovery Employee Benefits during a session at the HR Indaba Live.

According to Guy, research shows that there is a direct correlation between health and productivity.
Factors like staff turnover, absenteeism, pay and retirement planning are directly affected by health, he says.

“Discovery is a company known for trying to change people’s habits and making them healthier, but this is not something that we only advocate for our clients, we also promote it among our employees.”

Guy says that through various data – internal and external – Discovery has learnt the fundamental importance of employee wellness to the operations and strategy of its business. One of the sources of data is a predictive model built internally that measures employee retention. Guy says the model is 90 percent accurate and has managed to reduce staff turnover by two percent.

He explains that through the data, Discovery learnt that vitality factors like physical and mental health and lifestyle played major roles in people’s decision to leave or stay at the company. “We need to start looking at the health of employees holistically because it is becoming an important factor in measuring people’s satisfaction at work,” he says.
Data from UK Britain’s Healthiest Workforce shows that changes in people’s weight – from obese to overweight – can help improve productivity by 25 percent. Introducing 150 minutes of exercise a week improved health by 14 percent. “Healthy people equals healthy numbers,” he says.

Longitudinal studies, says Guy, have shown that people who lead healthier lifestyles are likely to earn 3.3 percent above inflation. “The research is not telling us anything we don’t know, we know that exercise is good for your mental and physical health because it revitalises you and helps you deal with stress better.”

Perhaps the one factor that would confound many is the link between good health and retirement planning. It’s simple, says Guy: the healthier an employee is during their working life, the less likely they are to develop lifestyle and age-related disease and the cheaper retirement will be. “Health is a versatile asset, as important for a successful retirement as savings,” he says.

So, when planning your employee wellness programmes, look at them as a long-term investment and operational strategy of the business because in the long run it is the business that benefits from healthy employees.

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