By Katharine Child
It pays bosses to spend money on keeping their employees healthy, say experts.
Auditors at the Nkonki Audit Committee conference yesterday were urged by Derek Yach, head of the New York Vitality Institute, a research organisation, to start recording employee health statistics in financial reports.
Vitality and medical aid scheme administrator Discovery are working with health experts to develop ways for auditors to measure and record the overall health of a company’s employees – a much more difficult proposition than quantifying financial results.
Reporting on employee health and risks of disease, while respecting individuals’ privacy, will become more common over the next 18 months, Yach predicted.
“The healthier employees are, the more productive they are – and that benefits all stakeholders.”
Measuring employees’ health risks enables bosses to ensure that they don’t suffer burnout.
“What you don’t know about, you are not going to act on.
“Many companies know more about the machinery they use and when it will wear out than about the health of the employees, [but] health is what drives productivity, retention and morale,” said Yach.
Measuring the health of employees is not only good for them but also for investors, who want to put money into sustainable companies and who think long term.
“A company with ageing employees, high numbers of people with chronic diseases and people with poor mental health is one you might not want to invest in,” he warned.
Brian Brink, former chief medical officer at Anglo American, told the conference that it was important that companies establish what health risks their employees faced.
One of the biggest risks in South Africa was substance abuse by employees, said Brink.
Yach said the success of companies in contributing to employee health could be measured by:
- The extent to which the CEO encouraged employees to be healthy; the establishing of a budget for health management;
- The compatibility of the work environment with healthy lifestyles; including the provision of an exercise area, adequate lighting, healthy food and perhaps standing desks;
- Measuring employees’ body-mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, and level of anxiety and stress, which should improve as health interventions were put into place.
North West University industrial psychologist Jaco Pienaar said bosses should look at the cost of not having a health programme because illness would lead to high absenteeism, excessive sick leave and a lack of productivity.
The everyday stresses of work were more “pernicious” than physical labour or occasional exposure to high-risk environments.
A snap poll by The Times revealed that flexible working hours and sponsored gym memberships were top of employees’ health wish lists.
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Thumbnail image caption & credit: Reporting on employee health and risks of disease, while respecting individuals’ privacy, will become more common over the next 18 months, Yach predicted. File photo by Thinkstock (via BDLive)