workplace & wellbeing
  • Published on February 04, 2019

“Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind, and spirit – the realisation that everything we do, think, feel, and believe has an effect on our state of well-being.”

Greg Anderson (Author of “The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness”)

Why Businesses are Embracing Wellness and Wellbeing in the UAE & Globally

Companies around the world, both small and large are investing in creating healthier and sustainable working environments that focus on improving employees’ physical health and mental wellbeing. Research shows that unhealthy working habits like staring at computer screens, remaining stationary for hours and eating unhealthy lunches are leading to increased sick days and reduced productivity. Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity.

In the UAE, rapid economic growth, a relatively high standard of living, coupled with a stressful work environment have contributed to the rise of many chronic health problems

  • Around 30% of UAE residents have hypertension[1]
  • 12% of Dubai population is obese[2]
  • 66% of men and 60% of women living in UAE are overweight

 

Dubai is taking active measures to deal with these issues, including developing the Dubai Health Strategy, which stresses the value of prevention and healthy lifestyles to improving overall health. We should also mention the Dubai Plan 2021, which focuses on helping “individuals take care of their own wellbeing and their family members through proactive measures to manage their health, as well as the Dubai’s Happiness Agenda.

According to Cigna Corporation’s 2018 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Future Assured, while overall wellness in the UAE dropped slightly compared to last year, the country still ranks higher than the global average, and countries such as the UK, France and Singapore. Workplace wellness programs are regarded as critical with 81% of respondents stating that such programs were a factor in choosing between two potential employers. This percentage increases to 85% for millennials. Unfortunately, 60% of survey participants say that they do not have access to any formal workplace wellness program; and 50% say that their employer does not provide support in dealing with stress. Thus, as responsible corporate citizens we must adopt new ways to improve the health of our employees, colleagues and fellow residents.

Health and Wellness Challenges in Office Environments

Office work has never been considered as a particularly hazardous way to make a living, not when you compare it to a job say in manufacturing or construction where health and safety regulations are clearly set out. You may not have to wear a hard hat to the office, but your workplace can have an impact on your physical and psychological wellbeing.

Why Businesses are Embracing Wellness and Wellbeing in the UAE & Globally

Companies around the world, both small and large are investing in creating healthier and sustainable working environments that focus on improving employees’ physical health and mental wellbeing. Research shows that unhealthy working habits like staring at computer screens, remaining stationary for hours and eating unhealthy lunches are leading to increased sick days and reduced productivity. Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity.

In the UAE, rapid economic growth, a relatively high standard of living, coupled with a stressful work environment have contributed to the rise of many chronic health problems

  • Around 30% of UAE residents have hypertension[1]
  • 12% of Dubai population is obese[2]
  • 66% of men and 60% of women living in UAE are overweight
    Dubai is taking active measures to deal with these issues, including developing the Dubai Health Strategy, which stresses the value of prevention and healthy lifestyles to improving overall health. We should also mention the Dubai Plan 2021, which focuses on helping “individuals take care of their own wellbeing and their family members through proactive measures to manage their health, as well as the Dubai’s Happiness Agenda.

 

According to Cigna Corporation’s 2018 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Future Assured, while overall wellness in the UAE dropped slightly compared to last year, the country still ranks higher than the global average, and countries such as the UK, France and Singapore. Workplace wellness programs are regarded as critical with 81% of respondents stating that such programs were a factor in choosing between two potential employers. This percentage increases to 85% for millennials. Unfortunately, 60% of survey participants say that they do not have access to any formal workplace wellness program; and 50% say that their employer does not provide support in dealing with stress. Thus, as responsible corporate citizens we must adopt new ways to improve the health of our employees, colleagues and fellow residents.

Health and Wellness Challenges in Office Environments

Office work has never been considered as a particularly hazardous way to make a living, not when you compare it to a job say in manufacturing or construction where health and safety regulations are clearly set out. You may not have to wear a hard hat to the office, but your workplace can have an impact on your physical and psychological wellbeing, nutrition, and various ways to de-stress, health or keep fit sessions like Pilates, Yoga or Zumba, healthy snacks and team events.

Companies have many options in availing wellness activities both onsite and offsite. It makes sense to consult with employees and be guided by their preferences. Here a few examples:

  • Company, department or team fitness challenges
  • Activity trackers – and digital wellness tools
  • Corporate gym or fitness class memberships (off-site)
  • Meditation breaks
  • Health checks – heart rate, blood pressure among others (On-site)
  • Encourage regular “physical” full medical check-ups (Off site)
  • Cooking classes
  • Annual Flu shots (On-site)
  • Encourage company sports or recreation teams and participation in competitive sporting competitions

Wellness and Wellbeing is Core to Summertown’s Focus on Sustainability

We take the well-being of our employees very seriously, not only because this is one of the core objectives of our sustainability strategy but because we know that it has a direct beneficial impact on our bottom line. Healthier employees who enjoy a high sense of well-being perform better, are more engaged and cost less in terms of sick days and insurance coverage. For us, happiness and health are overlapping concerns. A happier workforce delivers better results. Research carried out by the University of Warwick economists in 2015 demonstrated that happiness made workers 12% more productive, while unhappy workers were 10% less productive.[1] Happy workplaces can attract and retain top staff more easily. Business performance is improved, absenteeism, sick days and dis-engagement are reduced.

Happiness Award 2018In April 2018, we were privileged to receive the inaugural ‘Best Workplace Wellness Program’ Award at Happiness @ Work Awards in recognition of our continuing efforts to avail our employees a workplace wellness program to improve both their overall health and sense of well-being. We were one of the first companies in the region to implement such a program, which is a key pillar of our overarching corporate sustainability strategy. [2]

Our “Health, Wellness and Wellbeing” program is designed to improve both the wellness and wellbeing of our employees and to provide them with knowledge and opportunities to make smarter and healthier lifestyle choices.

Wellness: We promote regular physical exercise and healthy nutrition to help improve health and prevention.

Wellbeing: We offer a happy, collaborative work environment and build awareness of common wellbeing topics through workshops and communication.

The impact of our programs on employee morale have been clear. We have a very low staff turnover rate compared to the UAE average. Results from our most employee satisfaction survey, (highlighted in our 2017/18 Sustainability report) show that 85% of our staff say that our Wellness and Wellbeing program has improved workplace moral, and 96% say that it has increased team spirit.

We have also begun the pursuit for WELL Certification for our offices in Dubai. “The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellness, through air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind and community…”[3]

Our Managing Director, Mr. Marcos Bish observes that: “The WELL Building Standard aim is to improve the health and wellness of building occupants. We believe that this certification process will create a better workspace for our team”. This belief is rooted in our conviction that if a workplace environment improves the health and happiness of its occupants then this will inevitably have a positive impact on their productivity, engagement and efficiency.[4]

As we progress on our journey towards WELL Certification, and as we continue to gain knowledge and experience in developing and implementing our own employee wellness program, we are happy to share what we have learned. Get in touch today to learn how we can assist you on your own journey towards creating a healthier, happier, and better working environment.

 

References:

[1] https://gulfnews.com/uae/health/around-30-of-uae-residents-have-hypertension-studies-show-1.2279535

[2] https://gulfnews.com/uae/health/survey-12-of-dubai-population-is-obese-1.1838295

[3] https://www.inc.com/business-insider/how-your-job-is-ruining-your-health.html

[4] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100511092145.htm

[5] https://www.businessinsider.com/how-your-office-job-is-destroying-your-health-2016-4

[6] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/293314.php

[6] https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/compressed_WorldGBC_Health_Wellbeing__Productivity_Full_Report_Dbl_Med_Res_Feb_2015.pdf

[7] http://www.ifma.org/docs/default-source/surveys/hvacsurvey2009.pdf?sfvrsn=2

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/06/02/medical-researchers-have-figured-out-how-much-time-is-okay-to-spend-sitting-each-day/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e812e335c105

[9] https://www.whatsnextcw.com/five-active-design-ideas-that-will-improve-employee-well-being/

[10] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/exposure-natural-light-improves-workplace-performance

[11] https://workdesign.com/2018/01/building-on-workplace-well-being/

[12] https://www.worldgbc.org/news-media/building-body-clocks-how-human-centric-lighting-can-improve-people%E2%80%99s-wellbeing

[13] http://ideas.time.com/2012/08/15/why-the-open-office-is-a-hotbed-of-stress/

[14] https://workdesign.com/2018/01/building-on-workplace-well-being/

[15] https://hbr.org/2015/03/stop-noise-from-ruining-your-open-office

[17] https://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/63228/7/WRAP_Oswald_681096.pdf

[18] http://al-press.com/index.php/en/2013-02-20-08-59-23/corporate-world/19830-summertown-interiors-wins-best-workplace-wellness-program-award-at-happiness-work-awards

[19] https://www.commercialinteriordesign.com/41865-summertown-interiors-pursues-well-certification-for-its-workspace-in-dubai

[20] IBID