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Employee Wellness: Healthy balance between body and mind

For many, wellness in the workplace has moved from a nice to have to a must have.

“The increasing demands of today’s fast-paced business environment mean employees need more personal health, wellness and lifestyle support than ever before. It’s well documented that happy, healthy employees are more efficient and more productive,” says Dr Leanne Mandim, Head of Employee Health and Wellness Solutions for Life Employee Health Solutions.

While the physical health of employees is always a key focus of wellness programmes, Mandim believes that an integrated programme, which also highlights mental health, is key.

“The mental health and well-being of employees in the organisation is critical for maintaining sustainable levels of employee engagement, resilience in the face of organisational change, motivation and innovation. Through an integrated employee wellness approach, employers can benefit through the positive impact on productivity and business performance,” she says.

A recent World Health Organisation study has shown that depression and anxiety account for the most frequent occurrences of occupational disability. According to the study, depression and/or anxiety is expected to account for 15% of the global disease burden by 20201. It is estimated that between 3% and 10% of GDP is lost annually as a result of stress-related sick leave2.

“A well-managed, comprehensive and holistic wellness programme can have definite benefits in positively managing risks surrounding depression and anxiety,” says Mandim.

A growing body of evidence suggests that employers can reduce costs by investing in the health and well-being of their employees. This includes both the direct costs of providing healthcare and the indirect costs, such as absenteeism and reduced productivity.

Many employers have recognised the wider potential benefits of investing in wellness and have used it to promote the achievement of other important company objectives. Investing in wellness can lead to:

  • Improving employee engagement and building individual resilience
  • Strengthening the employer value proposition, to attract and retain the best talent
  • Reducing safety risk through behavioural change solutions
  • Enhancing the value and sustainability of the organisation’s most critical resource – people – and demonstrating this to stakeholders
  • Achieving the organisation’s wider purpose and improving the lives of people
  • Building the organisation’s reputation and brand

As productivity remains a core concern for most organisations, the demand for sustainable employee wellness initiatives has shifted from a purely HR-driven strategy to a business imperative. With South Africa’s increasing disease burden, companies are starting to feel the pressure to play a more active role in employee wellness.

In addition to Life Employee Health Solutions’ employee assistance and wellness programmes, Life Mental Health is a provider of private psychiatric services in eight dedicated facilities in four provinces, offering treatment for various mental health conditions.

1. ‘Mental health: A call for action by world health ministers’ at 2001 World Health Organisation 54th World Health Assembly (Geneva). (; pages 6 & 16)
2. International Journal of Occupational Health, 2010