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Taking the temperature of employee wellness

“Human capital is a valuable asset which needs to be as well managed as any other strategic business development, starting with employee health and wellness programs (EHWPs),” says Agatha Pretorius, CEO of OCSA, leaders in occupational health and wellness. A good employee health and wellness program provides employee support, contributes towards a healthy workplace, increases business value and improves overall mental health.

Employee wellness is no soft issue; it is a business strategy

There are 13.6 million workers in South Africa according to the latest employment figures from StatsSA for Q1 of 2013. This makes it essential for employers to look after the workforce.

Traditionally employee assistance programmes referred to support for issues around mental health and substance abuse. Programs have evolved in the last 6 – 8 years to include the promotion of health and wellness for employees – or EHWPs.  Programs must be made available to all employees, be free of charge and accessible.  On the counselling side, confidentiality must be upheld and use of the service has to be voluntary - where employees make the choice to refer themselves.

Wellbeing saves millions

Health and wellbeing are two of the most important ways to ensure optimum production and creativity and save companies millions. There is also the benefit of a workforce with high morale.  A recent study released in August 2013 by the SA National Health and Nutritional and Examination Survey showed that South Africans were developing lifestyle diseases from a young age, with diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol starting to peak from as early as 25.  It also revealed that more than half the population is living in hunger or at risk of it, while a large percentage of the rest are obese or at risk of developing poor lifestyle-related illnesses.  There is an ever-increasing need for employee wellbeing interventions that address the health risks of all the chronic diseases of lifestyle.


Making the right choice of employee wellness program depends on a number of things. Consider the level of professionalism on offer, the pricing, the delivery model and its fit with your business (it is an internal, external or hybrid / blended model?).  And look at the type of services on offer and whether it suits individual, managerial, organisational and administrative needs. Each organisation has a culture and character.  It is essential to work with a partner that has the flexibility, experience and systems to create a program specifically for the client and its employees