Wellness has become a business imperative
The top four wellness articles published in 2020.
Businesses are waking up to the importance of both physical and mental wellbeing as cornerstones of effective teams. Here are the editor’s picks of the top four wellness articles published in 2020.
1 A holistic approach
Nonkululeko Pitje, head of Healthy Company at Discovery noted that “The pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, the likes of which we have never seen. Ways of doing business are evolving and the market is becoming more competitive in a post-Covid-19 world – making the acquisition and retention of key staff especially critical.”
She adds that “Many workers have been thrust into new and often stressful ways of working – and it’s up to employers to find solutions that best support their staff.”
“Our scenario planning capabilities show how important it is to actively plan around employee retention and hiring,” says Nonkululeko. “It’s especially important for companies to realise that standalone solutions – like encouraging remote working, distributing health information, or providing PPE equipment – have very limited impact when offered in isolation.”
The virus and the resulting economic fallout have affected people and their families in many interconnected ways, she explains.
“Employees need to be equipped to navigate the additional stressors and complexities of working effectively during a pandemic, before issues like financial insecurity, physical and psychological health, poor time management or a lack of accountability, family demands, or harmful lifestyle behaviours derail their wellbeing and productivity.”
2 Three tips for instantly improving employee wellness
“Even before Covid-19, South African employees were under stress, but now it's even worse,” said Alexander Forbes Health head of health management solutions Myrna Sachs in a CHRO South Africa webinar.
The three areas of wellness that Myrna highlighted include:
1. Help employees to set and maintain boundaries
“A lot of clients have reported that productivity has increased significantly, and part of the reason is that there are no boundaries. We are no longer working at home but sleeping at work,” said Myrna. “Our employees need to set that boundary and HR needs to assist in ensuring that boundary is upheld. We shouldn't be phoning our colleagues after hours or setting up meetings for 7am or 5pm.”
2. Be creative about physical wellness
There are also physical wellness challenges, not least of which are those resulting from people spending the whole day hunched over, staring at their screens. Myrna said that because not many people can set up an ergonomically comfortable workstation at home, employees are working from their beds, while others are sitting at their kitchen tables.
“That is leading to a lot more people developing musculoskeletal conditions that they previously didn't have,” said Myrna, adding that companies need to find creative solutions for addressing this.
“The solution doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Myrna.
3. Make sure your EAP is properly briefed
Myrna said financial strain is also a big contributor to stress and mental strain because a lot of people are either not getting full salaries or have a partner who has been retrenched, which means the household has become a one-income household. The stress that can put on a relationship is immense.
3 Contemplating the cost to company caused by Covid-19
Momentum Corporate’s Elna van Wyk explores the impact Covid-19 will have on employees’ mental health and disability claims.
She says that Covid-19 has brought unprecedented disruption to our lives and economy. It is clear that the stresses are significant and an increase in mental health-related disability claims from employees at all levels, including management, seems inevitable.
While some people have become over-productive while working from home, many are struggling with motivation. It is possible a productivity slump could follow, threatening economic growth if mental health is not well managed in organisations.
According to Elna, the risk of employees not taking leave and becoming burnt out also increases the risk of mental health-related disability claims. Already at Momentum Corporate, nine percent of all disability claims are related to mental health. This percentage increases for younger employees, with 26 percent of all disability claims in 2020 for those under 35 years related to mental health.
Managers must support employees and be mindful of the challenges they face, such as isolation, distractions at home, concerns about family and friends, anxiety over workload and working remotely, or the death of a loved one. Managers must do this while dealing with the same issues in their own lives.
4 Barloworld's Tantaswa Fubu talks about her journey with depression
Tantaswa's experiences led to her becoming the poster girl for mental wellness within the organisation.
She had battled with depression before, then in 2019 it reared its head again. By then Tantaswa had been in her current role for close on two years and, looking back on it now, she says she should have seen it coming because she knew the signs from her previous bouts.
“But I kept postponing getting help. There was no time for me to be getting sick. It was a big year for me because, on top of the HC projects I was leading, I was delivering a R3.5 billion BEE transaction for the group,” she says.
“But when you do not make time to address this sickness, there will always come a point where your body gives in.”
Tantswa says she was giving from a point of nothingness when one day she went into a meeting with the group CEO “and all he did was ask me how I am and seconds later I was breaking down in tears.”
Up to that point, Tantaswa had already begun working on a business case around a group wellness strategy with a specific focus on mental health issues. She was quite clear of the need to create an environment conducive to people feeling safe about being sick. It was a scenario in which employees would be able to self-diagnose and seek treatment for mental health problems because they have been empowered with the relevant knowledge, are in a safe space to express through whatever workplace channels that they need help, and for the workplace to be able to facilitate that assistance in a humane manner. She wanted to create an environment where people would always be treated with dignity and respect.
Tantaswa's experience gave Barloworld (and her, as the executive responsible for wellness) a case study on how to handle mental health and allowed the company to put a face on the issue of depression.
“I also made the conscious decision to actively champion mental health in the business because I was really caught unawares by the whole experience of dealing with it in a work environment,” says Tantaswa, adding that her team started engaging with clinical psychologists and specialists to help them understand what the organisation was really dealing with and, “for me, it was a very personal journey.”