Investment in corporate wellness initiatives up, to fight stress and promote employee well-being

Close to 100 companies in the UAE have reported growing instances of stress in the workplace, according to a survey conducted by MEED as part of its Daman Corporate Health Awards programme 2019.

Of the respondents polled, 68% said their workforce is under stress because of workload, pressure on having a healthy work-life balance and a stressful office environment.

The majority of companies which participated in the survey said initiatives are in place to promote a healthy lifestyle among employees, to help them have a more positive experience at work.

Among the top ill-effects caused by stress cited by the survey respondents included health issues such as neck and back problems as well as performance anxieties. A healthcare-based company also said stress is affecting the quality of service they are able to provide to their patients.

“Stress in the workplace is a concern for employers as well as employees, and rightly so as it affects employee motivation and productivity as well as their overall well-being. This survey will be a useful tool in determining the long-term impact of stress and how well intervention measures in the form of corporate health and wellness programmes are successful in addressing the issue,” said Dr. Michael Bitzer, CEO at National Health Insurance Company – Daman, which together with MEED founded the annual Daman Corporate Health Awards seven years ago. The programme recognises wellness initiatives in companies and organisations in the Emirates.

In 2013, when the Daman Corporate Health Awards was launched, only 45% of companies in the UAE had a working wellness programme. In the latest survey, 70% now have initiatives in place to help combat stress in the workplace, promote employee health and wellbeing as well as engagement, reduce preventable conditions (such as obesity and diabetes) and cut insurance costs.

Investments in workplace programmes have also significantly increased, with one company saying it has invested as much as $1mn in wellness initiatives to boost employee wellbeing, morale and productivity.

“While increasing investments in corporate health is a good thing, business leaders need to realise workplace wellness initiatives can be done at very minimal or no cost at all,” said MEED editorial director Richard Thompson. “What is important to highlight here is that more and more companies are developing such programmes to enhance employee well-being, which has proven effective in contributing to overall business productivity and competitiveness.”

Recognising these initiatives is an important step in promoting corporate health, as it helps encourage businesses and organisations in both the public and private sectors as well as the non-profit community to develop and implement similar programmes.

Past winners of the annual awards programme have experienced major improvements in employees’ health and wellbeing as well as improved efficiencies and productivity in the workplace.  For instance, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry reported a 10% increase in employee health and wellbeing as a result of their wellness initiatives and a reduction in employee absenteeism by 56%.

In addition, 20% of the workforce who participated in Sehati, the in-house wellness programme of Dubai Chamber, have developed healthy habits that they can now maintain over time.

According to Dr. Bitzer, recognising these initiatives helps increase awareness about the growing importance of wellness programmes in the workplace and encourages companies in both the public and private sectors to develop and implement similar programmes.

Corporate wellness programmes are also critical to addressing stress levels at work. According to the survey, majority of the companies said their employees have difficulty managing their workload and maintaining a work-life balance. But 52% said they have initiatives in place to combat stress among their employees.

Companies and organisations with wellness programmes are encouraged to submit their entries into the 2020 edition of the Corporate Health and Wellness Awards through The deadline for submission is on 31st May 2020.

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