Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Well being: Workplace health initiatives can cut costs

Two-thirds of companies in the UAE now have a well-being initiative in place, up from 45 per cent in 2014.
More UAE companies are now initiating overall wellness programmes for employees. Sarah Dea / The National
More UAE companies are now initiating overall wellness programmes for employees. Sarah Dea / The National

More companies are launching corporate well-being programmes in the UAE as awareness of their benefits spreads.

A survey by Meed of 136 companies showed 66 per cent of respondents have a well-being initiative, up from 45 per cent in 2014. The increase has been driven by two factors, says Becky Crayman, the programme director of Meed.

“One is the [increasing] awareness of positive outcomes for organisations when they launch wellness initiatives in the UAE business sector. When we launched the Daman Corporate Health Awards ​ it was very much a new concept for the UAE and the Middle East region as a whole,” she says. “And I think the second point, especially over the last year or two, organisations are very much putting an emphasis on employee retention. And really doing everything they can to keep the staff they want to keep.”

Mashreq, which last year won the Daman Award for Corporate Health and Wellness (Organisation) Award at the Daman awards, organised by Meed, started looking more formally at well-being in 2014, but when it surveyed the market to find out what companies were doing, they did not find much.

“There were more one-off kind of events, such as a sports day or a wellness day, that kind of thing,” says Ashok Gopal, responsible for performance management at Mashreq.

“So we didn’t have much of a benchmark to create a programme. We decided that since we don’t have external references we can use, we might as well create a programme that is actually a programme, as opposed to being just an event.”

It came up with Sahtak, which covers all dimensions of eat, move and sleep and includes step challenges, yoga classes, nutritional advice and even specialised programmes targeting specific groups, like diabetics.

So has it worked? Yes, says Mashreq. Not only is the company in the top 7 per cent of corporates worldwide in terms of employee engagement, according to Gallup, but an internal survey revealed that three out of four employees agreed that the well-being programme made a difference to their overall health.

Q&A: Flemming Dalgaard, the chief executive of Gulftainer, the second-largest ports operator in the UAE, tells Gillian Duncan about its new corporate well-being programme, Positive Pulse, which it introduced it in February:

Why did you introduce the programme?

The aim was to enhance health and well-being of Gulftainer’s employees and ensure wellness constitutes a core part of corporate culture and employee engagement. It was launched in line with the efforts of the UAE Ministry of Happiness.

What does it involve?

There are four core areas: fitness, nutrition, mindfulness and general health and teambuilding. Activities included: guided meditation, yoga, Zumba, CrossFit, laughter therapy, mini-contests [for fitness]; promoting healthy eating, cancer awareness talks, stress management and tension release exercises, general health talks [plus] weekend outing/ hiking, on-site medical check-ups and ergonomics workshops.

What feedback have you received from your employees?

It was very positive. We also received recommendations for future wellness initiatives.

How did you design it?

The idea was developed and designed in-house, through brainstorming and research, budgeting each activity and meeting wellness providers to put together a carefully customised wellness programme.

Who managed it in-house?

We had a team in the HR department and experts in the HR talent department.

business@thenational.ae

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Updated: May 17, 2017 04:00 AM

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