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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 January 2019

Promote worker happiness and save cash, companies told

As well as increased productivity, happy companies benefit from cheaper health insurance bills

Employers who try to make their workers happier are being offered lower insurance premiums.

Dr Sherif Mahmoud, regional head of health care for AXA Insurance in the Gulf, said companies that ran successful programmes to improve their staff members’ well-being generally filed fewer claims.

AXA’s policy recognises the link between well-being, health and productivity, which can lead to better efficiency and profits.

Companies are hiring “happiness officers” to organise social events and other schemes to keep their employees motivated.

“We have seen from experience that when employees are fully engaged in their company’s wellness scheme, the resulting claims generally fall, either in terms of frequency or cost,” Dr Mahmoud said.

“Ultimately, these savings are reflected in the premiums that our customers pay.”

He said research, carried out by management consultancy Gallup and involving 22,000 workers, proved the link between happiness and productivity. Other studies found employees who feel well or consider themselves healthy are 84 per cent less likely to change their jobs.

And a GCC Insights report from March 2016 by Global Corporate Challenge found that the cost of employees being present but not fully productive was 10 times greater than absenteeism.

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Read more:

UAE firms turn to 'happiness officers' to boost bottom lines

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AXA is among the companies in the Gulf that has invested in initiatives such as flexible working hours designed to make workers more content.

Last year, Karim Ghaleb was appointed “happiness lead” at Cequens, a communications company with offices in Dubai.

Mr Ghaleb said the company introduced a series of “happy quick wins”, such as organising events for Ramadan and Eid, and improving communication with staff.

Cequens recently advertised for a new happiness officer to help with its long-term strategy, which includes nurturing “a culture of warmth and belonging” at work.

“We highly believe in the magic of engaged and enabled employees for overall business performance,” Mr Ghaleb said.

Analysts say the trend of hiring happiness officers began in the US, spread to Europe and is now increasingly popular in the Gulf.

The UAE government has acknowledged the importance of emotional wellbeing, appointing Ohoud Al Roumi as Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing in 2016.

It also said that 60 chief happiness and positivity officers would be trained to work in federal and local government.

“We are aware that most of the government entities are recruiting for happiness officers, yet now there is still a big gap in private sector boards that some companies are now starting to fill,” said Ajay Malhotra, chief executive of recruitment and management consultancy Nadia Global.

Nadia Global offers courses to companies to help them understand the importance of employee happiness.

“Encouraging the private sector to engage seriously with the happiness movement will broaden the reach of this vision to achieve the government’s goal,” Mr Malhotra said.

“Happiness officer roles should be filled by trained officers to create and lead a happy and healthy environment that drives greater productivity and motivational programmes for employee engagement.

“Bringing a positive direction for employees in their roles is a key pillar for success.”

Updated: January 2, 2019 07:04 PM

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