Healthy workers, healthy company

2014-11-23 15:00

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Ballet classes, daycare centres, on-site doctors and even a day on which employees are encouraged to “lie on the beach”.

Welcome to life at three of South Africa’s “healthiest” companies, those that are trying to make their employees’ lives easier and happier, and, ultimately, their working hours more productive.

Open Box Software, Johnson Matthey and Outsurance were unveiled earlier this month as the winners of Discovery Vitality’s 2014 Healthy Company Index Awards.

The three won in the small, medium and large company categories, respectively.

The index found improvement in many South African workplaces.

Craig Nossel, who heads Discovery’s Vitality Wellness programme, said: “We have moved beyond the point of defining return on investment and impact on absenteeism.

“Prioritising the health of our workforce is good for business and critical for society.”

This means companies are realising that a healthy employee works harder and isn’t absent as often.

“We’re seeing a significant shift in how employee health is viewed by companies globally.

“There is increasing focus on improving and managing health and wellbeing, and also on how this is affecting their bottom line,” he said.

Wellbeing and productivity linked

The insurance call centre industry is tough and competition for staff is tough – so Outsurance does all it can to keep employees happy, healthy and focused.

Suren Naidoo, human resources director, says the company is certain employees’ performance and productivity are linked to their wellbeing.

Outsurance’s head office in Centurion boasts an indoor sports arena for cricket, netball and soccer. There’s also a volleyball facility, a running track, and table tennis and soccer tables.

But sport and fitness is just one element of what scored the company the Vitality prize. It also offers an after-hours and holiday crèche for employees’ children.

“We are in the insurance call centre industry and competition is tough. We believe that by doing all this, we have an edge to retain our employees,” says Naidoo. – Sipho Masondo

Fruit salad, treadmill time and beach days

Open Box Software in Cape Town employs 120 people. Each day they all get a free, healthy breakfast.

“It could be fruit salad, eggs or cereal,” says Cecilia de Freitas, a talent acquisition and retention specialist.

“It’s quite a cool wellness programme we have here,” she says – and she’s not kidding.

Open Box offers a fully equipped gym with structured classes, running and cycling clubs, horse riding, ballet

classes, flexible working hours and a fun day on which employees are urged to “go and lie on the beach”.

The staff are encouraged to randomly stop work, head to the gym and walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes at a time.

“We also have a biokineticist who is at the gym every day to help our employees improve their lifestyles,” says De Freitas.

“That’s our biggest perk. We work hard and play hard. If you work with great people, you will get great results.

“Open Box is not a workplace; it is a lifestyle.” – Sipho Masondo

‘We invest in the welfare of staff’

Alloy manufacturer Johnson Matthey, whose South African offices are in Germiston in Gauteng, focuses on food, mental and physical health, and a bit of friendly competition to keep its employees going strong.

The company heavily subsidises the healthy food

sold in its canteen, says human resource director Ndima Rawana.

“We have a free clinic with three sisters and a doctor. We also provide counselling sessions for employees dealing with psychological issues.”

There are on-site athletics, netball and soccer facilities, too – and in case anyone needs some encouragement to get involved, Johnson Matthey hosts a “biggest loser” competition every three months. Whoever sheds the most weight gets a R2?000 voucher.

“We realised that healthy employees are productive employees,” says Rawana.

“It is also about caring for our employees. We realised that we had to invest in the wellbeing of our staff.” – Sipho Masondo

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