In Zimbabwe employee health has become big business. Corporate wellness programmes are proving to be one of the most effective ways to lower employee health spend.
The math behind the savings is simple: The healthier a company’s employees, the less the company needs to spend on medical bills.
Corporate awareness is being embraced as it also reduces leave days, disability claims and increases overall employee productivity.
The changing nature of work has led more and many employees to become sedentary and desk-bound.
Health experts say, chronic diseases account for 75 percent of total healthcare costs and such illnesses include heart disease, stroke, cancer and obesity.
It is for that reason most companies are trying to figure out the right solution to combat rising health issues and healthcare costs and that’s where corporate wellness programmes come in.
With healthcare costs rising year after year, corporate wellness programmes are on the increase to combat the root causes of poor employee health such as stress, extended work hours and constant multi-tasking. Notable companies in Zimbabwe on the forefront of employee wellness include Nyaradzo Group, Old Mutual, ZB Bank and Delta Corporation.
Evonne Mudzingwa, a 44-year-old fitness trainer revealed why effective wellness programmes are typically important and why training programs have been taken seriously in companies.
Mudzingwa revealed how companies like ZB Bank, Bon Marché (OK Zimbabwe), Zimbabwe Online, Bonaqua (Schweppes Zimbabwe), First Mutual, Psmas, Savanna Tobacco and Ecobank have partnered with her fitness studio and popular “fitness battles”.
“Stress is more than mere worry. While stress impacts the micro decisions people make, like whether to choose a healthy dinner or indulge in fast food, it also contributes to long-term health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Lately, we have had corporates coming and registering with Eve’s studio and a rise in fitness participation
“The good news is that companies are making arrangements in which they organise wellness programs and I have been part of including improving activity, nutrition and how to combat employee stress. “At the gym we offer employees packages a programme that has been adopted by many companies. We have activity trackers to count steps, compete in team challenges, and receive personalised encouragement, “she said.
“Occasionally, I have been hired for health talk session by companies like Zimnat and Ecobank. I also participate in wellness activities with companies like BonMarché.
“Medical literature revealed that even a 30 minute session reduces the effects of work-related stress that’s why corporates are engaging fitness trainers and gyms to address these issues. Preventable wellness is a complete lifestyle and behaviour change and change takes time and commitment.”
Mudzingwa said besides training, joining a gym will keep you healthy and grow your social circle through participation.
“This fitness centre operates from the ZB Bank Sports Club in Vainona. The gym offers three regular classes on a daily basis, and their monthly schedules are rotational in nature as various disciplines are meshed to give members total fitness.
‘’Members also have access to the Sports Club Field. The Eve’s Fitness Battles that attracts people from all; walks of life including corporates. The participants engage in various fitness activities including an obstacle challenges, long distance running and many fitness disciplines,” she said.
Old Mutual group CEO Jonas Mushosho said health is still one of the key challenges Zimbabwe faces in its thrust to improve its overall competitiveness in the global marketplace.
“According to the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index, a healthy workforce is vital to a country’s competitiveness and productivity. Workers who are ill will be less productive,” said Mushosho.
“As for Old Mutual, we have adopted a holistic Total Workplace Safety and Health approach by incorporating Wellness initiatives in our business strategy. “We have put in place wellness initiatives to strengthen our workplace health culture where individual employees go beyond looking out for their own well-being, but also that of their immediate families and co-workers.”
Mushosho said Old Mutual has gone beyond the employees’ immediate family to involve the whole nation and beyond.
Old Mutual bankrolls the Vumba half-marathon, the Chitungwiza 10km fun run, and the Westgate half-marathon.
“The group has not confined the employee well-being programme to its employees but it has gone beyond to cater for the employees immediate family. Old Mutual also caters for the well-being of retirees in the form of post-retirement medical subsidy.
“Nationally, employee wellness programmes contribute to the reduction of burden of diseases (BoD) on a country. In this regard, wellness programmes assist in preventing and controlling chronic diseases. In fact employer health initiatives are considered part of the nation’s broader health strategy.
“A healthy lifestyle is one that includes all the eight dimensions of wellness which are emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual,” he said.