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Imagine living your best life at work? I believe this is possible and can become a reality for everyone which is why I’m so passionate about the work that I do (Employee Wellbeing Advisory). I want more than anything else to see people thrive and excel in life. When people around me feel good about themselves they make me feel good about myself. There’s nothing more that I love than walking into an office where I am greeted with warmth and wide-open smiles. It makes my day and reconfirms to me this is going to be a great day, we are going to do amazing things today.

I believe that people are the key to everything we want in life. It’s about finding and connecting with the right people that will bring the things we so desire into our lives and make them a reality. This world is so diverse, it’s filled with unique, exceptional individuals. Each individual has their own special talents and life path. This is why each of our purposes in life is so different. It’s why we are able to create so much and achieve so much together. There is an old African proverb that says: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

We are all connected to each other, this has been proven by quantum mechanics and a wealth of research supports the fact that it’s how we enhance our relationships with others that enhances our wellbeing.

On a fitness or health transformation journey, a great deal of support is needed along the way. As we spend most of our lives working, employers arguably play the greatest role in supporting their employee’s health and fitness journey’s. So how can they go about doing this without ‘breaking the bank’? The awesome reality here is that numerous studies have now been performed linking employers spend, on their employee’s health and fitness, to bottom line gains, long term organization sustainability and economic growth. So, the spend is not ‘breaking the bank’, it’s building it!

There are many ways employers can set up fitness and health programs for their people and what’s been proven to work time and again is incentive programmes that have lots of short-term rewards along the way. Discovery has proven over a number of years, working with a vast number of people across the globe, that ‘Behavioural economics: the science of rewarding the behaviour’ instead of only the outcome works. It’s the practice of offering tangible rewards for ‘making the right decisions’. They have proven that the ‘motivation equation’ is based on a wide range of aspects – pride, identity, ownership, getting promoted, losing weight, turning around a health issue, running marathons, writing books, hiking, starting a new business etc. And it’s about rewarding steps along the way to achieving these different ‘aspects’ that drives longer term sustainable behavior change.

Specifically, if you’re going to put a new fitness programme in place, it’s ideal to first start with a survey to determine which physical activities your staff are most enthusiastic about. Your staff or your team are the ones who are going to be doing the activities so make it something they have always wanted to do or are keen to try out. Then design a specific programme with tangible milestones and rewards along the way. It’s not just the winner at the end who ‘takes it all’ but everyone who participates gets something along the way. Run a PR campaign across your organization for everyone to see the transformational benefits to both the participating individuals and the organization as a whole. Manage your fitness programme like a strategic project, link each employee into their job spec, productivity dashboard and area of the management accounts and financial statements they impact on. Create a Fitness Dashboard that you report back to your Board on once a month along with the other financial results. Incorporate this into your financial reporting commentary along with the quantified financial impact it’s had. And then finally but most importantly celebrate results and see how each participant has positively impacted their community as part of the programme / challenge. Reward the winner by gifting their community with, for example, a swimming pool (which can be part of CSI spend). We need to look at sustainable results not just a ‘white elephant fitness programme’, so keep building on your programme as you learn along the way from the results your organization achieves. You can also start to build in other elements of employee wellbeing into the programme as you come across common hurdles, such as counselling, resilience training, mental health workshops, healthy snack vending machines, time and life management workshops etc.

To me it all starts with my health which is largely dependent on my fitness which is why I believe fitness to be the starting point of a great wellbeing programme and also a great way to kick off your 2020 new year to get your employees motivated and engaged.

I want to leave you with this, there is no one size fits all when it comes to fitness, you need to find what motivates you and your people the most and go for it. It’s what motivates you the most that will fuel your life with passion. And, as we are all connected, when the whole group is motivated significant positive change takes place.

In closing I would like to share this video with Vic Alley, one of the world’s top Fitness and Bodybuilding Coaches, where he shares on his personal fitness journey and why he is so passionate about it. As he says, a healthy life, is a healthy mind and it’s a healthy body:

In future posts, I will be sharing with you more each week on the different types of fitness activities and programmes you can implement. We have made some podcasts and more videos where we find some great insights from experts in a number of different fitness fields. We’ll also be looking at a few employee’s fitness journey’s and how they manage to turn around their health and physical fitness while working busy jobs and having a number of other commitments to meet.

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What makes a commercial business viable and brings it to greatness is its ability to generate sustainable and scalable income streams and with that a healthy net income (after all expenses are deducted). In order to do this and to do it well, great people are needed. But what happens when great people start experiencing burn-out, mental health issues and sometimes just the typical adversities life throws at us? From my experience, which is supported by research, these great people actually start to cost their organizations more and more and a lot of these costs are ‘hidden’. People can be an organisations greatest asset and they can also most importantly, be an organisations greatest liability. It’s people who make organisations fail.

In this second article of my ‘Focus on Fitness’ series, I want to share with you insights on the workplace today and why and how fitness is a great way to increase employee engagement and as a result increase organizational profitability and sustainability.

People most often fail at their jobs and can lead to the failure of an organization, because their wellbeing is not looked after by their employers. This in turn results in greater unemployment levels which prevents economic growth. As a result, the market for business is adversely impacted which creates a repetitive vicious cycle. The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) recently released a comprehensive study on ‘How reporting on employees health and wellbeing can impact your business’s bottom line’. The report gives many examples and references of how not looking after employee wellbeing is negatively impacting business profitability and sustainability. In the introduction it says: ‘The third United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is to “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”. One of the crucial targets for this goal is “to reduce by one third premature mortality from non- communicable diseases (NCDs) through prevention and treatment and to promote mental health and wellbeing by 2030”. NCDs are the leading global cause of deaths in the working-age population (World Health Organisation, 2018; United Nations, 2019). The workplace has been recognised globally as a critical platform to tackle issues relating to NCDs (World Health Organisation, 2010). Employees are an important stakeholder group to business, and their productivity has an underlying dependence on health since an unhealthy employee is unable to operate at optimal productivity (Vitality Institute, 2014) . Studies have provided evidence that companies promoting employee health and wellbeing yielded greater value to their investors through reduced health care costs, increased productivity and improved financial performance (Roslender, Stevenson, & Kahn, 2012; Goetzel, et al ., 2016; Pronk, Malan, Christie, Hajat, & Yach, 2018).’

It is extremely encouraging to see South Africa now taking this matter so seriously and becoming one of the leaders in addressing employee health and wellbeing with the establishment of SAICA’s new Health & Wellbeing Advisory Group. The main purpose of this Group is ‘to be the leading specialist forum for stakeholders across all sectors and industries who are interested in promoting excellence in practices to advance the health & wellness of employees in South Africa, Africa and globally. The better treatment of employees is the right thing to do, and has far- reaching benefits and positive impacts for society.’

One of the key ways to decrease NCD’s and increase employee health and wellbeing is through physical activity which was also highlighted by Discovery in their results announcement, in early November 2019, of their global study on the economic impact of physical activity.

To bring this all back directly to the workplace, I want to share with you a bit of Ursula Fear’s, (Ursula is the Managing Director of Adcorp’s Training Solutions and a Talent Learning & Development Expert), journey of health and wellbeing. Here Ursula shares with us how she had to deal with burn out and auto immune disease and why she now views ‘the importance of health in the workplace as critical’.

Wellbeing is a very broad topic and when I speak to people about what it means to them they give me many different answers which of course are all correct.

I have done a lot of research into all the wellbeing models used by organizations globally and what I’ve found is that there are 6 common building blocks which are all impacted by environment. I have also found that if all these building blocks are addressed this results in people living their lives with purpose. And it is purpose that fuels productivity.

The most important building block is arguably the physical one. As without our health we cannot fully appreciate and live our lives. Physical activity and fitness is the best way to increase the health in our lives. Physical activity has also been proven to be the key driver of staff engagement and productivity. Staff engagement and productivity leads to reduced presenteeism, staff attrition rates, absenteeism, health care costs and general workplace ‘negativity’. As a result, it increases organizational profitability and results in sustainability.

I hope I have been able to show you in this article why and how fitness is a great way to increase employee engagement and as a result increase organizational profitability and sustainability.

In my article next Friday, I will look at ways to provide and even incentivise fitness activities for employees, what’s the best way to do so and how the benefits can be captured in the Financial Statements and Results.

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Did you know that a quarter of the world’s population is physically inactive? I didn’t, my initial thoughts when I heard this were, what does it mean to be ‘physically inactive’ and why should it even concern me? In the series of articles I’ll be publishing for the next three weeks of this year and then continue with in the new year, I want to share with you the answers and explore the topic of physical activity and fitness as it relates to employers. I’ll be looking at why employers should focus on providing and even incentivising fitness activities for their staff, what the benefits are – especially to the bottom line – and what’s the best way to do so.

Technology has been developing in leaps and bounds, we have now reached the point where people can basically tailor make their own entertainment each day in the ‘format’ they enjoy most: movies, tv series, podcasts, videos, gaming, social media etc. With this great wealth of available tech resources, I have chosen to incorporate video and podcast content into my articles to try and give you a real connection with myself and all the people I’ve worked with. I hope you find this set of articles to not only be informative but also enjoyable and entertaining to read, watch and listen to. I’m sure you’ll find ‘there’s something for everyone’ or more specifically something you in particular relate to. This was really my goal when I set out to find and work with the top experts from a number of different fitness fields to develop the content.

Here is the first video:

It’s a 5 minute introduction where Ursula Fear (Managing Director of Adcorp’s Training Solutions and Talent Learning & Development Expert) and I chat about why I’m so passionate about physical activity and most importantly why employers should incorporate it into their employees daily work activities.

Getting back to my first thought on this topic ‘what does it mean to be ‘physically inactive’? I found this was the term used by the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’) and THE LANCET in their article on ‘Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants’ published in 2018. Both of these organisations define it as:

  • Not doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (circa 20 minutes per day), or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or any equivalent combination of the two.

I first heard this term used by Adrian Gore when he announced the results, on 6 November 2019, of a ‘ground-breaking global study on the economic impact of physical activity conducted by Discovery and Rand Europe’. The study was conducted as part of Discovery’s drive to help people become more physically active as it leads to us living healthier, longer and better lives. Why the study is different from previous studies of its kind is that for the first time it links physical activity to economic growth. It also gives very clear, simple guidelines to follow in order to obtain economic growth. For South Africa these are:

  • If we get all adults 20% more active over the next 30 years, our average GDP will grow by R7 billion per annum; and
  • If we get all ‘inactive people’ (as defined by the WHO and THE LANCET above which is all people who do less than 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as walking a day) to do 20 minutes of walking a day, over the next 30 years, the average GDP of South Africa will grow by R22,4 – R29,4 billion per annum.

The study’s economic growth numbers are derived from projected lower mortality rates (more people alive and contributing to the economy), reduced absenteeism and lower presenteeism driven by the positive impact of physical activity on mental health. Adrian also stressed in his announcement that yes the impact is significant in terms of financial gains to the economy but the impact on a personal level is most profound. This is because it would increase the lifespan of an average 40 year-old by 2.5 years and lead to 5 additional productive days a year. No doubt the quality of a person’s life experience is greatly enhanced too.

I’d like to conclude this introduction to these ‘Focus on Fitness’ articles by answering the question ‘why should it even concern me?’ I believe physical activity and fitness is a subject that should greatly interest and concern all of us because it has a massive positive impact on our wellbeing. As THE LANCET clearly states: ‘The health benefits of physical activity are well established and include a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and breast and colon cancer. Additionally, physical activity has positive effects on mental health, delays the onset of dementia, and can help the maintenance of a healthy weight.’

I hope this introductory article has been both informative and inspiring, encouraging you to keep going with your physical activities or to start engaging in some. Please keep an eye out for my next article where I share insights on the workplace today and why and how fitness is a great way to increase employee engagement and as a result increase organisational profitability and sustainability.

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Here's Part 2 of the Panel Discussion WELL held last year on how to transform Employee Wellbeing programmes.

In this Part we explore practical steps that can be taken. There’ve been thousands of studies into the science of yoga including meditation, conducted over a number of years. All these studies reflect numerous benefits for the individual arising from these practices. We discuss how WELL can assist you to make them a part of your employees lives.

In addition, we look at how families can increase their overall wellbeing as this impacts on a persons 'zest for life' and hence their overall productivity levels. Wellbeing is not one isolated aspect of a person's life, its about everything in a person's life. This is why WELL recommends and tailor makes Wellbeing Programmes specifically for each individual that takes all aspects of their life into consideration. Contact me at for a FREE initial consultation where we perform a FREE WELLBEING SURVEY upfront to diagnose what your organisations greatest needs are.


It’s with great pleasure, I introduce to you Swami Kamala. Swami Kamala is the Founder and Director of the South African School of Yoga. Many people refer to her school as the top yoga school in South Africa. Swami Kamala has been a practicing yogi and teacher for over 44 years. Having trained in India for a number of years under a guru of the Satyananda Yoga tradition and travelling extensively to countries such as Peru and Tibet, she went on to build her school, in Hyde Park, 16 years ago.

Swami Kamala has been teaching her students a holistic system of how to develop their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing through yoga. Her teachings provide her students with tools to handle and manage their lives with greater ease, awareness and serenity. She works with each student to achieve their full human potential.

Swami Kamala has also assisted in teaching the Abused African children at ‘Childline’ in Soweto. Through a ‘Yoga Capsule Programme’, she trained 14 children as yoga teachers. The yoga teachers then taught hundreds of African children at the ‘Old Children’s General Hospital’ on Constitution Hill here in Johannesburg. Through these teachings, the children learnt how to recognize and use their own inner abilities and potentials.

Swami Kamala’s knowledge, wisdom, insight, love and practical lessons are unique and immense.

Welcome Swami Kamala! It’s both an honour and privilege to have you here with us this evening.


The first question I’d like to ask you is please could you share with us on how yoga can transform a person’s life?


  • Today stress is considered as being one of the prime causes of disease. A great deal of research has been done on this subject by scientists throughout the world and they have concluded that tension, depression, anxiety and disturbed mental conditions can cause serious physical ailments. In order to understand ourselves we need a science that also understands us and a system that is reputable and well known throughout the world, is what I teach, Bihar / Satyananda Yoga.
  • The Bihar Yoga School in India, also known as Satyananda Yoga, is renowned for its scientific research. The Yoga Research Foundation is a scientific institute founded by Swami Satyananda, in 1984. It is in Munger which is in India. One of the most important factors that can be concluded from the Satyananda Yoga studies, of ancient yoga literature and modern scientific texts, is that there is not one but hundreds of causes of stress.
  • Bihar/ Satyananda Yoga provides a system that restores order to our lives, creating harmony so that imbalances in the form of diseases etc. drop away. The mind regains its peace, the emotions begin to harmonise and the body recovers its vital capacity, so that the individual can face life and its distractions with a greater sense of inner serenity and balance. The beauty of Bihar Yoga is that it slowly grows on one and it is totally on the practitioner to commit themselves to the practices.
  • The Bihar/ Satyananda Yoga System, is a complete science of harmonious living, suitable for everyone, regardless of age, gender, nationality, religion, mental condition or level of fitness. It is a holistic system which addresses all aspects of human life in the spheres of physical health, mental condition or level of fitness. It is a holistic system which addresses all aspects of human life in the spheres of physical health, mental well- being, emotional behavior and work environment. Awareness is emphasized and practitioners are encouraged to learn about all aspects of their personality through yoga. Adjustment in stages is emphasised, not a total change in one’s lifestyle and environment.
  • Lastly, Satyananda Yoga is slow, steady and systematic, purposefully for the individual to adapt, adjust and accommodate in order to get in touch with themselves. You are going to go through a transformation of personal self- development, body mind emotions and spirit which will need acclimatising to.


Wow! So in order for us to start achieving these transformations, what’s the proper practice we need to start doing – or should I say what’s the proper practice that we as busy people could start doing as a minimum?


  • When Sri Sw. Satyananda established Bihar/ Satyananda Yoga, he developed a system of Outer and Inner yoga.

Outer Yoga, improves the quality of the body, mind, expression of the senses and your behavior. Remember, it is the effort that one makes in order to discipline the body and mind to be managed and handled. It prepares, reconditions and fine tunes oneself!! The emotions are also harmonised and then mind and senses start experiencing a new understanding!! You begin to feel peaceful thorough this harmonisation and creative expression kicks in!!

Inner Yoga, cultivates an attitude that changes one’s ideas and perceptions. This change is based on one’s experience and understanding through one’s practices. Most importantly one needs to go through preparation in order to keep the body still and understand the nature of the mind in order to meditate.

  • For these personal changes mentioned, I suggest a particular set of practices called the, ”Yoga Capsules”, created by Sw. Niranjananda. This takes no more than 15 minutes a day for busy people. Preferably in the morning upon rising, on an empty stomach, to be incorporated into your daily lives.
  • It is a series of movements in a sequence that is fixed. The stretching movements in conjunction with breathing, will assist in correcting imbalances on the physical, mental and emotional levels. This enables you to get in touch with yourself to manage and handle your life. Regular practices of any yoga technique creates a pattern in the body, mind and emotions. One will start benefiting immediately when commencing to practice and these benefits will continue escalating as you progress. After many years of practice perfection is attained and it becomes a lifestyle!!
  • At night before retiring to sleep, a ten-minute deep relaxation called Yoga Nidra is recommended, Monday to Friday will suffice, taking the weekend off!! This technique cultivates awareness in a state of deep relaxation. Yoga Nidra is the scientific method of removing tensions. It is a more efficient and effective form of rest. With daily practice, you will soon experience profound changes in your stress levels and sleeping habits. Please take note that natural chemicals called endorphins and melatonin are stimulated and released into the body, enhancing relaxation. This counters the effects of too much adrenalin and cortisol, due to high stress levels. This is all necessary and vitally important in preparation to meditate!!


I must say, those are all very practical steps and do seem possible to do each day. I’d now like to ask you, what do you think is going to happen in the 'yoga space' as it relates to Wellbeing programmes over the next 5 years?


  • Unfortunately, city people accustomed to the modern brands of commercialised yoga, just cannot see beyond the body. Dabbling with a few breathing or meditation techniques, is limiting them. We are on the threshold of sincerely needing and seriously having to commit ourselves to handling and managing the moods of the mind. Improving one’s character and the personality traits we have has to be taken seriously!! These are the aspects of our personality that affect our lives directly. This needs to be discussed and mentioned in our yoga lessons / classes with a holistic and integral approach.
  • I personally and emphatically believe that this is the central theme which needs to be mentioned and practices incorporate, which understand the minds of the people collectively!! This is a core message for change that is imperative for the next 5 years ahead.
  • For this reason, until today, people have missed the opportunity of experimenting, realising and experiencing the true nature of yoga. It can take many years, it will take time for change, but the first steps have been taken. We must be aware of the other dimensions of yoga, which are equally important if not more, than stretching the body. These are called asanas and breathing techniques called pranayama.
  • We need to incorporate, elaborate and highlight the authentic practices of meditation, which helps in unleashing our potentials to perform better, in high-stress situations that we encounter in our working environment and daily living. “It helps the body to relax. It is the best tool to cope with lack of sleep. It reduces oxygen requirements and relaxes the metabolism. It also enables you to breathe deep and slow, instead of fast and shallow.” Yoga embraced holistically is the most powerful tool to help stay relaxed and improve health on all levels.


Given the changes I’ve seen in my life since starting to practice yoga, I can completely agree with you. How can organisations incorporate this hugely beneficial practice of Yoga into their Wellbeing programmes to ensure they are at the forefront of developments in this important science over the next 5 years.


  • Organisations have to first acknowledge the seriousness of how important it is to introduce an applied science like yoga, enabling individuals, to untangle themselves from the entanglement of their very own stress. This is basic self-help which is empowering not only to the individual, but also to the organisation, because a holistically well-balanced person, is also more productive!!!
  • So, the way forward is to teach and demonstrate simple, practical but effective techniques that have an immediate effect. Where quality of life is regained from a state of just purely existing. We are aiming towards self-help upliftment.
  • I also suggest creating a space in the work place where one can retreat to when necessary to manage oneself, for example in order to accelerate their energy level or to de-stress and relax. This must be designated as a quiet area, no talking, no phone calls and no interaction. The focus must be temporarily totally on oneself, to realign and then productively continue with one’s work.
  • By applying this one’s attitude changes, one becomes more enthusiastic, creative and productive, which is beneficial to the organisation, as well as the individual. This too can spill from the working environment into one’s personal life, where you too can practice leading a lifestyle of self - management. Self - management is the key word!!
  • Going forward, organisations can incorporate yoga workshops pertaining specifically to its staff, with manuals that can be referred to, as well as cd’s etc. Presented and overseen by someone like myself who has a good understanding and knowledge of yoga and personal self-development. Once an understanding is part of the ethos within the organisation, regular talks and updates should be arranged.


Thank you, Swami Kamala, as always, your insights and recommendations are both well researched and can easily be applied in our daily lives.

There’ve been thousands of studies into the science of yoga including meditation conducted over a number of years. And all these studies reflect numerous benefits for the individual arising from the practice of yoga.

With the growing number of people practicing yoga globally, it’s no surprise to now see it becoming an important part of Wellbeing programmes.


Finally, but by no means least, it gives me great joy to introduce to you Hugo Ribatika. Hugo has vast experience within the Community arena, particularly in relation to Sport. He’s highly skilled in Marketing and Brand Management. He has a Sports Management Diploma from the International Olympic Committee and … has his Private Pilot’s License!

Hugo’s experience involves working as the Managing Director for Bolt Africa Sports Management Company, being a Radio Talk Show Host and TV Sports News Anchor and being the CEO of the Mash Eagles Cricket Franchise.

Hugo has also been and is currently a Board member of:

The Young People Foundation

The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee

The Brand Guy and Associates; and

The Harare Mayors Cheer Fund.

Welcome Hugo! I look forward to the insights you’ll be sharing with us on Community, Sports and Family.


Hugo, given your experience, where do you see Wellbeing going in the Community space over the next 5 years – particularly in relation to Sport? What are the major changes you see coming into this space? And tell us a bit about how families can start to better look after their Wellbeing.


I love sport, with a passion. About 10 years ago, I had the fortune of being recruited by a cricket franchise as its chief executive. One of my immediate challenges was to build rapport with the team in the shortest time possible. The biggest obstacle, naturally, was finding common ground with a bunch of twenty-year olds. Amongst my options of engagement were meetings in the boardroom, coffee, movies… nope, none of that was going to work.

After much pondering, I decided to join them for cricket practice a few days a week when they weren’t on the road. This meant changing out of my shirt and tie into a pair of shorts and trainers … and kicking a ball around for half an hour each morning because that’s what they did. They played footy for half an hour before practice proper commenced. The benefit was two-fold. I found my connection with my team and my wellbeing journey kicked off. I loved the experience and achieved phenomenal results both for the business and for myself as an individual.

So, what options are available for the average individual to engage in physical activity that will contribute to their wellbeing?

  • Trends are evolving with more community centered activities taking place. These various sports activities are significantly impacting the wellbeing space – many managed and created by former sports people. The frequency and proximity of these activities is increasing and changing too:
  • Running clubs – more and more people are getting together to run after work during a week day. Running in numbers both encourages and motivates the wellbeing agenda.
  • 5 Aside Football – a quick run around that offers high intensity a couple times a week has allowed a huge number of football lovers and fitness buffs the chance to achieve their wellbeing targets.
  • Yoga / Pilates – in the gym and in some parks across the city offers incredible opportunities to build focus around wellbeing.
  • Corporate runs and mountain biking – the running calendar is growing continually with scheduled wellbeing initiatives ranging from marathons to park runs and mountain biking. The perceived benefits and comradery emanating from these is pulling in more people and building communities of wellbeing. As a result, this will lead to improved health and increased longevity within communities. People will just feel enthusiastic about doing more with their lives.

Right now, however, obesity amongst young people is worrisome. The effects over time include early death for the ones you love at worst and a miserable life at best filled with discrimination of sorts.

The solution is not nearly as difficult as one would think. Sport / Physical activity. One of the single most important solutions to this problem is to involve kids in playing sport. The challenge that remains though is that some children are embarrassed by their weight or feel discouraged because they’re no good at the sport. Player to coach ratios in schools are pretty high. One coach will be expected to teach anything up to 30 or 40 kids. Coaches are intent on winning and will almost always focus on kids that have some talent – not on kids with potential. So – Let’s Play – with our kids. Buy them practical gifts – bicycles, tennis racquets, footballs etc.

Technology – is one of the most amazing gifts that we’ve received but also the bane of our existence. TV, Play Station, the internet have created more couch potatoes in our time than anything we could have ever imagined ten years ago.

However, one of the most amazing technological developments is the App. Hundreds of apps now allow you to exercise at home, on your own and in a limited physical space. Getting your kids off the couch has never been simpler. With the advent of the smart watch and Fitbit you can challenge your kids to exercise in exchange for the pleasure of play station and free time – fair trade I think that could save you thousands of Rands in future medical bills because you or them are a tad overweight.


Thank you, Hugo! Exercise has certainly turned around and changed my entire life. Nothing beats that feeling you get from exercise!

Contact me at for a FREE initial consultation where we perform a FREE WELLBEING SURVEY upfront to diagnose what your organisations greatest needs are.

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Here's Part 1 of the transcript from WELL's first Panel Discussion held last year. It's filled with rich insights on wellbeing particularly as it relates to human resource strategies, how it fits into organisations and also how wellbeing service providers view their roles in terms of increasing employee wellbeing. Belinda Carreira moderated the Panel which had 4 members: Ursula Fear a Talent Architect and Lead Contributor at Talent Talks, Radhi Vandayer who was the Head of Strategic Learning & Development at ICAS and is a Board member for the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, Swami Kamala who is the Founder and Director of the South African School of Yoga in Hyde Park - referred by many as the top yoga school in South Africa - and Hugo Ribatika a Brand Manager, Radio Talk Show Host and TV Sports News Anchor.

Have a read of the full transcript or you can browse to the sections that interest you most. It was a great evening, thoroughly enjoyed by all, jam packed with valuable information still relevant today and for the foreseeable future. If you're interested in wellbeing this is a great read:

This is PART 1 featuring Ursula Fear and Radhi Vandayer...


Good evening everyone and welcome to our ‘Dynamic Wellbeing Transformation’ Panel Discussion. I would like to firstly start by thanking each one of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend this evening. I hope you find tonight to be both informative and enjoyable.

I have no doubt you’ll learn loads from each of our exceptional, empowering and enormously experienced panel participants.

We’ll be looking at the latest developments in the wellbeing space and what’s going to be happening in it over the next 5 years!

We’re going to look at wellbeing from many different perspectives, in particular around human resource strategies, then how it fits into organisations as a whole and also from a wellness service providers experience. We’ll then explore how we, as individuals, can enhance our wellbeing and how this impacts on both our communities and families.


It is with no further ado, I now introduce to you our first Panel Participant, Ursula Fear.

Ursula and I have known each other for many years, we meet while working together on a Consultancy Project Proposal to set up a Learning Academy for a client … which we won!

Ursula’s an extremely talented woman and has achieved a great deal. She’s a Talent Architect and Lead Contributor at Talent Talks. Talent Talks is a platform which has been set up to be a catalyst facilitating action and change in the dialogue about talent management across the African continent. Ursula’s also an Associate at Catalyst Consulting.

She was a Director at Deloitte Consulting and, her experience has been vast. It includes life changing initiatives such as setting up the Deloitte Graduate Academy in 2005. This is considered to be a best practice Academy by international standards.

Ursula was one of the first women members on the Board of Deloitte Consulting. She’s also sat on the Board of the African Society of Talent Development and assisted in the establishment of NGO TEACH South Africa in 2007. Given her huge commitment to people development and simple desire to see people succeed in life through achieving their best, she’s been involved with NGO TEACH ever since.

Ursula is one Dynamic HR Disruptor! She ensures organisations transform their workforces to become “future fit”.

Welcome Ursula! (All clap)


Ursula, the first question I’d like to ask you is, given all your experience, where do you see Wellbeing in relation to Human Resource Strategies headed in the next 5 years?


  • Firstly, let’s begin with what “wellbeing” means according to the Oxford dictionary - it means “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”.
  • I therefore see wellbeing of staff as a direct correlation to employee engagement.
  • Too much access to information has turned us into “overwhelmed” employees. Nearly every company sees this phenomenon as a challenge to productivity and overall performance but struggles to handle it.
  • Information overload and the always-connected 24/7 work environment are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement.
  • Sixty-five percent of executives in the 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends survey, rated the “overwhelmed employee” an “urgent” or “important” trend, while 44 percent said that they are “not ready” to deal with it.
  • The cost of illness leading to a lack of productivity is costing South African organisations billions of rand’s every year. We have seen a recent report (The Momentum Effective Employee Index) that was launched in September 2018 indicate that SA businesses are losing up to R89 billion a year due to ‘distracted’ employees – a direct correlation to disengaged staff members. We see that organisations are losing up to R25bn every year just on excessive absenteeism.
  • So, the concept and reality of ‘wellbeing’ is no longer a catch-phrase – it has significant ramifications and consequences for organisations, the most important being the cost implications to the bottom line.
  • The pressure that staff, especially critical and scarce skills endure has become a huge priority and concern of CEO’s today. If these people ‘fall over’ – there is enormous business risk that falls on the shoulders of a mere few. The load has got to be spread and hence the development and growth of staff, not only as people but as experts now takes on precedence in most organisations. Learning and development has taken on a new flavour and direction in our businesses.


Thank you for some very informative insights. Now I’d like to look to the future as it relates directly to the workforce. What major changes do you see coming into the Workforce over the next 5 years and why is Wellbeing so important when it comes these changes?


  • I am seeing a change in leadership development. We now see that ‘management programmes’ are not working, and the journey of personal transformation has become the most important catalyst to good leadership and people empowerment. Good leaders ‘bring the best’ out of people.
  • We see some organisations are assisting employees become more productive with their time by creating smaller, more agile teams. High performance teams and how we organise ourselves in this regard have huge implication on the traditional hierarchical structures that we have all grown so accustomed to. We will start to see a reduction in this type of organisational development and effectiveness.
  • Taking time out to ‘reflect and think’ are going to be become more prevalent in our workplaces. When we are rested, we can be far more productive because of the time we have taken to reflect and unpack things in our minds. There’s a lot to be said for taking a step back to observe and reflect.
  • Helping staff to identify their passion is taking precedence today. In the absence of job profiles, passion of staff will lead one to critical thinking and most importantly a drive to ‘problem solve’ effectively.
  • There is going to be greater focus on mental and health related issues of staff. A more determined and resolute approach to understanding staff is going to be an important consideration of fit-for-purpose and relevant organisations going forward.

HR has an opportunity to lead efforts to manage the pervasive communications practices that overwhelm employees, simplify the work environment, create more flexible work standards, and teach managers and workers how to prioritize efforts.


A big emphasis there on personal transformation and organisations not only addressing employee’s physical health but also their mental health, the “invisible illness”.

Mental health is also high on the agenda of the World Health Organisation, in October this year they noted that 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental health issues in their lives. Data from Alexander Forbes Health Management Solutions shows that around 25% of all leave applications received at present are due to mental and behavioural issues. Their data continues to reveal a steady increase in the number of South Africans suffering from mental health problems over the past 5 years. As a result, staff are taking more and more sick leave each year.

So, what do you think organisations can do about this?


  • First and foremost, organisations need to buy into the concept of employee engagement, productivity and the impact this has on the bottom line. As more and more research is released and more scientific approaches to understanding employee context is understood, the more advancements we will see with more radical approaches to wellbeing being considered and actioned.
  • ‘Whole person’ understanding and holistic development become a deep consideration when leaders consider the success of organisations today and into the future.
  • It is imperative for organisations to build ‘emotional connections’ with staff. Without this, employee engagement will not materialise.

Companies need to be more considered around ‘growth’ mindsets and the implication this has on performance management and failure. Our changed mindsets are having a very positive impact in our organisations, even in schools for that matter. Our entire traditional set of norms are starting to change and be negotiated so that the ‘felt experience’ of employees becomes far more positive. Thus, resulting in more positive business results and the different positive experiences of staff will be felt and experienced in a far greater capacity than what it is today.


Coming back to your first point, in terms of measuring the impact that employee engagement - which really determines productivity - is having on the bottom line, it will be great when we have a comprehensive set of metrics that does just this and actually ties these numbers into the Financial Statements. This will ensure that Wellbeing metrics are not only audited but they are also easily comparable across different organisations globally. Developing these metrics is in fact one of the key initiatives that my company WELL is busy working on.

And just to wrap up on what Ursula has said, it’s very much in line with the Deloitte’s 2018 ‘Human Capital Trends’ report. This report states that ‘Only 4% of South African organisations currently offer extensive wellbeing programmes and analyse their impact on productivity.’ Deloittes further says that ‘As the line between work and life blurs further, employees are demanding that organisations expand their benefits offerings to include a wide range of programmes for physical, mental, financial and spiritual health.’


I’m excited to introduce to you our next Panel Participant, the incredibly wise, ‘in the field experienced’ and extremely driven Radhi Vandayer.

Radhi is a Board member for the Employee Assistance Professionals Association. This is the largest, oldest and most respected professional Association for persons in the employee assistance field. The Association has nearly 5,000 members in 40 countries and is the world's most relied upon source of information and support for and about the employee assistance profession.

Radhi is also the Head of Strategic Learning and Development at ICAS. ICAS is South Africa's top Wellness Service Provider. It provides wellbeing services to over 500 clients in South Africa and they also operate internationally.

Welcome Radhi, it’s wonderful to have you with your depth and breadth of practical international wellbeing programme experience, as one of our Panel members! (All clap)


Radhi, given your experience, where do you see Wellbeing within Organisations headed in the next 5 years? What are the major changes you see coming into this space and how do you advise Organisations to prepare for these?


The future of wellbeing / people engagement is entwined in the 4th and 5thindustrial revolution. Technology and digitaisation are the buzz words of the 4th and 5th industrial revolution. They play a major part in the changes I see coming in. This phenomenon is impacting all industries. It’s forcing us all to look at the current workplace and workforce and question; what professions or jobs will be able to weather this wave of technological change? Wellbeing / people engagement as a profession is facing the same dilemma. There is no simple answer.

Wellbeing service providers are beginning to look more and more at opportunities to harness new technologies. Doing so will enable us to reach more people, especially the people we couldn’t reach before.

We’ve seen that the y generation or millennials, would sooner access an app then go for counselling. So, we’re exploring how we can get to engage with them, when they need our assistance, by initially using apps and bots. Let’s take for example depression. It’s a very common occurrence these days, so how do we get an employee to go for counselling when they have depression via the use of technology such as an app or bot? Firstly, we start by providing some education around depression like what are the symptoms of depression and what happens to the chemicals in your body when you have depression? This creates an awareness. We then perform short quizzes to determine if an employee is showing symptoms of depression and could possibly have depression. We want to identify the people in need of further help via the information we request using apps and bots. Of course, it gets more challenging and not as useful or helpful to use technology, when it comes to the more difficult emotional questions, the ones that require a deeper psychological understanding. This is why, after we have obtained the initial information from our apps or bots, we then contact the person telephonically if we identify they are or may be in need of help. Their first conversation therefore is with us is over the phone and then, if necessary, we make the relevant appointments for them for counselling. This intervention can be life-saving – and it all starts with the use of apps or bots.

I believe, there will always still be a need for a psychologist to provide counselling when required. To deal with more complex, emotional human needs. However, by making smart use of the latest technologies, we can get more people to start interacting, informally, about their wellbeing and also educating themselves on this important subject. It’s vital to their overall health. Technology will help us to ‘catch’ and then assist people in real need.

Let’s look at another example where technology can be and is being applied to assist in employee wellbeing. Many people are stressed at work and they need tools or skills to help them manage their stress, the pressures they face. Some guided imagery meditation programmes can be placed on their apps and they take a ten-minute ‘mindfulness’ break every now and then. Much better than a smoke or ‘gossip’ break!

So, as you can now see, there definitely has to be a blended approach, using both technology and ‘human interaction’, when it comes to effectively addressing employee wellbeing in the workplace. This is what’s required to develop outstanding employee wellbeing programmes that are ‘fit for the future’. This will allow organisations to get the best out of their people, their most important and valuable assets.

I don’t see the human element within the people component of the workplace ever being fully automated. And I’m not the only one, many people are talking about putting the ‘human’ back into HR because automating empathy along with the ability to properly identify wellbeing risk, for example in a staff members texts or in their tone of voice, has not been mastered by machines … as yet! I say it tongue in cheek as the 1st robot is already trying to show empathy and emotions.

However, in South Africa, our culture is not there as yet and I don’ believe it will be for the next 5 years. In my experience, we’re finding many people asking for face-to-face counselling, especially when there are issues that are highly emotional like a workplace restructuring, distress over finances, depression or family issues.

So, the wellbeing industry will need to look more at and understand further what can be automated to get relevant information both to and from the masses around wellbeing. This will enable us to identify and help people in real need. To get them the wellbeing practitioners or preventative classes etc. they so desperately need.

This can not only end up saving a lot of lives and preventing severe medical conditions from developing but, it can also greatly improve the quality of a person’s day-to-day life.


Thank you, Radhi. Wow, so I guess one way to look at the new industrial revolutions is that they are providing us with greater opportunities to in fact extend our lives and enhance the quality of them through the smart use of technology.

Building on what you say, we can also now see this through the advances that are being made in monitoring our medical conditions through using, for example, wireless sensor technology - you can practically see this tonight with Dynamic Body Technology’s offering. The use of fitness tracking devices is on the rise and more and more companies are using big data to both inform and develop smarter treatment programmes.

There’s no doubt that technology’s being fused into our everyday lives, the lines between our physical, digital and biological spheres are being blurred.

I saw a recent IMF blog on what countries should do when it comes to artificial intelligence and the future of work. Some of their research reflects that artificial intelligence may transform jobs more than it’ll make them obsolete. They say that developments in technology, if planned for correctly, can boost productivity and over time create new jobs leading to decreased unemployment.

They IMF says a key way to plan for these developments is to enhance the human capital component within organisations by increasing expenditure on education. Companies should focus on roviding education that’s not only relevant to develop their people so that they can meet current market demands but they should also look to the future and start providing their staff with the relevant lifelong learning opportunities. It’s been found that learning and development have a huge impact on employee wellbeing so it’s not surprising to see “Lifelong Learning” now being incorporated into wellbeing programmes.

Another programme development that’s underway is at Deloitte Consulting in the Netherlands. Deloites, in collaboration with TNO Research and Zilveren Kruis, a healthcare service provider, recently kicked-off a project to realize breakthrough innovations in workplace health and wellbeing. Through the application of complex systems theory research and simulation modelling techniques they want to identify the “defining factors” impacting employee health and wellbeing. Their objective is to prevent employee burn-out and to increase individuals overall physical and mental energy at work. They believe this approach will result in increased employee engagement and performance.

I’d now like to move on to some practical ways in which we can start improving our own wellbeing today.

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“The art of living lies in the fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” A quote from Henry Ellis, a famous explorer, author and US colonial governor. As my 45th birthday approaches, I feel the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life. It is a miracle because it’s been quite a journey for me to reach this point. More than a couple of times along my way I’ve felt utterly hopeless, completely heart-sore and as if I were ‘hexed’. I’ve reached the point where I very nearly committed suicide. In fact, I lost my older brother to suicide five years ago. With World Suicide Prevention Day having just been on Monday the 10th of September, it made me self-reflect and research further into what it means to be well. I came across 3 key ‘ways of being’ that I believe unlock the door to wellbeing. These are:


I’d like to share with you my findings.


‘The good life is built with good relationships.’ This is how Robert Waldinger concluded his captivating, carefully constructed and very capably researched TED Talk presented in November 2015. Waldinger’s speech was based on a Harvard study on Adult Development utilizing data from 75 years that tracked the lives of 724 men. It’s maybe the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done, studies like these are rare. Asked year after year about their work, their home lives and their health the clearest message from these 724 men was that: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” This talk has been viewed over 23 million times. All throughout history are good relationships not what we have been striving to achieve in one way or another? When the American Declaration of Independence was signed back in 1776, Thomas Jefferson said: “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.” Was the essence of these words and this declaration, that went on to build a great nation, not in fact to start with building great relationships? Research confirms that It is good to have great relationships that bear witness to who we are, that see us as we are and that ultimately bring out the best in us. However, a person cannot become fully aware of the very essence of another human being and hence have a truly meaningful relationship unless they are fully self-aware and love themselves first. This brings me to my second key to unlocking the door to wellbeing:


Would you keep returning to an empty well to fetch water? Especially if there hasn’t been any rain? No. It’s pointless, an empty well will never give you what your heart and soul desires most. In fact, going to an empty well is much like always looking to justify our worth by seeking what is outside of us. We need to look inside ourselves to find personal fulfillment.

In Shawn Achor’s 2011 TED talk “The happy secret to better work.” he provides research which concludes that only 10% of our long-term happiness is affected by our outside world. The ‘Awaken The World Film’ organization released a movie on YouTube this year called “Samadhi Movie, 2018 – Part 2 (It’s Not What You Think)”‘. In it is explained that Samadhi is a state of elevated consciousness where we realize our true selves through realizing our divine nature. It is in realizing our divine nature, sometimes after having gone through the ‘dark night of the soul’, that that we are able to love and accept ourselves completely. Samadhi we are told is personal fulfillment. I completely agree. But how do we get there? This brings me to my third and final key:


From my experience and relationships with others I have found that most people I know have gone through a crisis of confidence at some point in their lives. Jacqui Brassey,, a Global Partner in Leadership; Development and Learning at McKinsey & Company, told her story, in a TED Talk on authenticity earlier this year, of how she had a complete confidence melt down at work and shares how she struggled but got through it. She got through it by facing up to it in three ways: telling her story; researching it and working on herself. Jacqui spoke about and dealt with her insecurities with authenticity and as a result got over them. Her experience has led her to become an advocate for authenticity at work and today focuses her research on authentic confidence. Authenticity as it can be seen lies in overcoming adversity while being true to ourselves. I believe the best project I could ever work on is me. There’s nothing better than being unapologetically my true self. Joseph Campbell, an American Professor of Literature, says: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” In conclusion, through my personal experience and research I have seen that being well depends on being authentic first and foremost. It is because authenticity lead to personal fulfillment which in turn improves relationships. This week why not challenge yourself to live in complete authenticity? Take it one day at a time, see how it goes. See for yourself if this brings you a deep sense of personal fulfillment and leads to growth in your meaningful relationships. I’d love to receive your feedback.

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Why are people unenthusiastic about employee wellbeing programmes? What lead to this? Why bother to improve them?

These are three key questions to ask when deciding whether to invest in evolving employee wellbeing programmes. Research provides some pretty informative answers. I hope these help you when considering your investments into wellbeing programmes and their related financial returns.

1. Why are people unenthusiastic about employee wellbeing programmes?

  • The benefits are not formally measured in the Financial Statements, therefore there’s no auditable link to company share price and valuation. As a result, there’s no structured standard monthly reporting to the Board on the financial impacts of employee wellbeing programmes.
  • ‘Toxic’ workplace culture is not addressed as part of wellbeing programmes (see The problem with employee wellness programs). This increases non-participation rates.
  • The programmes are run in silos, left to HR departments to manage and focus on the wrong things (see 10 Common mistakes employee wellness programs should avoid)
  • Using the latest technologies to track employee’s health, (referred to by some as the commodification of human labour), has been seen as compromising health privacy and forcing employees to ‘participate in wellness programmes against their will’.
  • Employers don’t formally allocate time to employees for them to participate in wellbeing programmes. They also don’t set wellbeing goals or make them a part of performance requirements.

2. What lead to this?

  • Wellbeing Programmes have never been set up like any other top priority Strategic Project. Typically, Strategic Projects are set up with the aim of improving financial performance and they’re always tracked and reported on to the Board. As people are the driving force of an organisation, getting the Employee Wellbeing Strategy right and its effective execution should be the Top Strategic Priority – it never has been.
  • No clear view of the drivers linking them to costs of health and wellbeing issues.
  • A lack of education and awareness about what employee wellbeing is and why it is important to an organisation’s success.
  • No integration into daily operations. Wellbeing programmes should just be part of the normal operating activities of a business. Part of the ‘daily required tasks’ – performed along with other tasks and managed in combination with them. This has never been the case.
  • Some studies have found that it can take three years for a sound wellbeing strategy to yield tangible results. As no proper business case (including financials) is drawn up to start off with, organisations are unable to see the progress they make and also to identify where they need to make adjustments. They can’t see ‘the wood for the trees’ – they do not understand the most important parts of it. (Half of employers who offer wellness programs don’t formally evaluate them, according to a Workplace Wellness Programs Study performed by RAND Corporation).

3. Why bother to improve them?

  • According to reserach performed by PwC South Africa, many employers felt their wellness programmes positively impact the health and wellbeing of their employees and create long term value. However, a more strategic and integrated approach towards wellness along with formal measurement and monitoring of outcomes was found to be critical for sustainable success.
  • This is further supported by Aon’s 2018 EMEA Health Survey (covering more than 900 employers and 2.7 million employees) which found that although ‘employers recognise the role they have to play in influencing good employee health, most are not employing strategies that best enable these outcomes’. It urges employers to ‘challenge themselves around whether they are doing enough to protect the health and wellbeing of their top assets’ saying it’s time to shift from positive intentions to measured investment.
  • And finally, an informative research paper ‘’Corporate Health and Wellness and the Financial Bottom Line – Evidence From South Africa’, tested if corporate health and wellness contributed positively to South African companies’ financial results. It found that it does.

In answering the three questions it can be seen that there is a strong business case to invest in employee wellbeing as a Top Strategic Project expected to yield financial benefits over the long term. Critical to the success of such a Project will be to regularly track, monitor and adjust it in order to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness.

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Eudaimonia is a Greek word meaning “human flourishing’ – a contented state of being happy, healthy and prosperous. Now isn’t this where we all want to be?

To me, being human is the greatest gift because we are able to do so much, create so much, feel so much. We can experience friendship, love, kindness, concern, compassion, support and joy. Then, on our darker days, feel self-doubt, pain, fear, despair, hatred and sadness. Our capabilities are so vast.

We are so beautifully and intricately made. In traditional Japanese aesthetics wabi-sabi (and no that’s not wasabi!), wabi-sabi means the “discovery of beauty in imperfection, the acceptance of both life and death.” It is a beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Is this not what it is to be human?

However, people often experience the very real problem of not being treated “as human” at work.

I’d like us to consider three major problem areas the media has been highlighting recently when it comes to assessing employee wellbeing in the workplace. Then I’d like to offer some food for thought by proposing solutions that you could start to implement now into your workplace.

1. Fear of Artificial Intelligence making us redundant: Artificial Intelligence could rather be viewed as providing opportunities to explore as yet untapped areas of human potential. Why not let the “machines” perform all the mundane, repetitive, boring tasks? We as humans can continue delving deeper into our very unique and beautiful consciousness, unlocking greater levels of human potential and knowledge. We can uncover and bring to the surface ever new, ever higher, ways of thinking, interacting, working and living.

Can we not already start shifting the conversation from “machines vs people” to rather being one of “how machines better support us in achieving our full potential?”

2. Insufficient Employee Benefits: What do employee benefits programmes historically include? Most frequently it’s been: medical aid contributions, paid leave, paid sick days, pension fund contributions and performance bonuses.

Specifically, many employees are unable to afford their high medical aid and health care costs. They consistently request increased cover and additional lifestyle benefits at no extra cost.

If organisations are to truly treat employees as human beings with valid needs and not just “human doings”, they need to take these requests seriously. Benefits mean a lot to the “human bottom line.” They also impact population demographics (such as life expectancy, fertility rate, GNI per capita, population growth rate and the unemployment rate).

Don’t you think that extended paid parental leave, assistance with paying off student loans, fully paid medical aid cover and in-house holistic therapies (such as weekly meditation and yoga classes) are some of the key benefits that would enhance employee’s day-to-day lives? This in turn would positively impact our population demographics.

3. Stress levels are way too high: Numerous studies reflect a large number of people suffer from illnesses caused or made worse by their working environments. Stress in particular has one of the most adverse impacts on employee’s mental wellbeing. It is the result of: · Heavy workload demands · Lack of job security · Poor work relationships; and · No work-life balance.

Here is where HR functions could be “revamped” to put the sustainable wellbeing of employees first, before any other organizational goals. Bring wellbeing into performance achievement goals and introduce coaching programmes facilitating healthy lifestyle changes. Get rid of the outdated stigma around mental illness.

These three somewhat simple solutions could go a very long way to ensuring people feel they are valuable to their employers, giving them a deep sense of purpose and commitment. You could be the catalyst, transforming your teams today by really looking after their wellbeing through making some of these changes.

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Mayday or ‘Workers Day’ has been unofficially celebrated in South Africa since the 1800s. It only became officially recognised as a public holiday after our democratic elections of 1994. Internationally, Workers Day has been officially recognised as a public holiday in many countries since 1891. Workers Day is important as it pays homage to the working class. The rise of industry throughout the 1800s brought with it a great deal of exploitation and abuse of labour forces around the world, triggering a decades-long battle for improved working conditions, new labour laws and other steps towards social justice. In 1886 ‘The Haymarket Affair’ became a landmark moment in the quest for an eight-hour work day and other advances in labour protections.

Our celebrations in South Africa have generally revolved around rallies and marches held throughout the country in support of furthering the rights of workers and others who faced oppression. Injustices such as poor wages and working conditions, humiliating racial discrimination and other oppressive practices were typically rallied against. This year truly is a cause for celebration with 'Cosatu to use May Day to celebrate the national minimum wage' – it’s an achievement worth celebrating as it will lift many out of poverty.

We have already come so far. The future looks hopeful for our beautiful country!

With this positive progression, a major area in which South Africa could now look to significantly assist its workers and change their lives for the better is in improving their overall wellbeing. It’s not only the humane thing to do but also makes a great deal of financial sense. Here, South Africa lags significantly behind the global market, (which is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% to reach USD 63.26 billion by 2022 according to IndustryARC), as it’s still very focused on the old corporate wellness models that have proven ineffective. The US, UK, Canada and Australia are making great innovations in their employee wellness programmes by evolving them to be directly relevant to the total wellbeing of their employees. They’ve learnt to focus on developing individual’s potential, remove any stigma around mental health issues and to work on keeping their people engaged and productive. It’s a major turnaround from having continually only looked at escalating medical costs and trying to avoid or ignore them.

A 2015 Bloomberg study ranked South Africa as the second ‘most stressed out’ country in the world, with Nigeria coming in first place. The Joburg office of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group receive 400 calls on average a day from distressed people. Absenteeism in the workplace costs South Africa between R12 billion and R16 billion each year in lost productivity.

Occupation Care South Africa (OCSA) as well as Statistics South Africa claim that on any given day, over 15% of staff could be absent. They also believe that two out of three employees who fail to show up at the office are not physically ill – but are rather battling to cope or are unhappy at work.

On average only one third of a team is said to be actively engaged. Employees are found to be highly stressed and tired. This is bad for the individual, bad for the team and bad for business and ends up in illness. Illness decreases productivity, morale and ultimately profits. Samantha Crous, regional director of Africa and Benelux at the Top Employers Institute (TEI), says many companies fail to take into account how burnout can affect staff morale and health.

So how do we turn this for the better? A suggestion is to focus on rejuvenating, reviving and resuscitating our old wellness programmes. Bringing them in line with the global trends that are proving to work. In the Reward and Employee Benefits Association’s Report, 'Employee Wellbeing Research 2017: The evolution of workplace wellbeing in the UK' the fastest growing areas of wellbeing employers plan to address are listed as:

  • Sleep – set to more than double in the number of organisations including this in their wellbeing strategies (from 42% to 88%);
  • Offering support for Carers (anybody who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty or disability. All the care they give is unpaid) – primed for a big jump from 37% to 83%; and
  • Comprehensive financial education, guidance and counselling – 25% of organisations acknowledged this to be a major problem area they’d address by adding it into their wellbeing strategies. Financial stress is a major problem in South Africa -Momentum's website states that ‘Figures vary but it is estimated that it costs South African employers R20 billion a year to deal with financially stressed individuals.’

I think it can be fairly easily seen that achieving a state of wellbeing is a basic human right and if you have any influence over the lives of your colleagues why not start looking at how you can improve their overall wellbeing? ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ – Maya Angelou


Belinda Carreira – “unconventional lover of souls”, founder of WELL – working on transforming lives. Mosquitos find me attractive. I wholeheartedly love helping people excel in life and fulfill their true potential. It’s time to start smiling again in a very serious world! We relax when we smile and feel properly valued for who we are. It opens up great doorways that lead us to who we are destined to be. Exceptional. This is when the real magic happens. When our real “well-being” gets ignited. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant 20 years ago, and having engaged in finance, banking and strategy, learnt that facts, numbers and optimism burn very brightly! Investors are always fired up to obtain the very best for their people. WELL helps inform investors about what their people need most and how this benefits both their business and society. By nature, I’m insatiably curious, eternally optimistic and overflowing with joy. The essence of me is to look for the ‘funny side’ and laugh with all my heart and soul. I love mysteries, horse riding, surfing, hiking and…‘games nights’.

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As Ralph Waldo Emerson says ‘The first wealth is health’. Have you ever asked yourself: ‘What does it mean to me to be healthy?’ I certainly have, having struggled with a number of health issues over the years and taking my time to finally reach a point where I can say I feel healthy, I have often along the way, stopped to consider what it really means to be healthy. I have also been considering what is required in order to remain healthy!

I discovered that being healthy and remaining healthy require far more than just ‘being free from illness or injury’ – as the Oxford Dictionary defines health. It doesn’t only mean not having to go to the doctor or perhaps not having to take medication, it’s so much more than that.

Here’s where the World Health Organisation puts their finger on it. On their website’s frequently asked questions and in their report WHO and wellbeing at work, they clearly state that “Wellbeing is a keyword in the WHO definition of health: ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

The Oxford Dictionary defines wellbeing as the “state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.” I’m not sure why it should be either or! I feel that to be truly healthy is really to have all things in your life in balance and to be enjoying life, living it with a sense of purpose and passion (doing what you really want to do) each day, achieving goals that you set for yourself. It means being able to just have a good laugh at times, have fun and feel that real zest for being alive.

So, what does this all have to do with companies? Well numerous studies, including the Discovery Healthy Company Index, have found that when employees achieve a state of wellbeing they are far more engaged, work better in teams and naturally become more productive. And in order for employees to achieve this state of wellbeing they need the help and support of their employers. This is because employees spend such a large amount of their time working for their employers.

A recent report on The Future of Employee Engagement informs us that employee wellbeing programmes first started coming onto the scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They became almost a necessity in order to stop or slow down exponentially rising healthcare expenses. They just haven’t been all that effective but, instead of terminating them or writing them off, which may be a quick easily made mistake, we need to rather ask why they haven’t worked and start evolving them.

As Harvard Business Review pointed out ‘the success of wellness plans…comes down to how they’re designed and executed’. And in a recent article in the FT How companies can intervene to transform workplace health, we are shown how more and more organisations are placing a high priority on employee wellbeing because of the knock-on benefits they receive.

Here are just a couple of these benefits noted internationally:

  • Wellness Councils of America, citied in Cloete (2015) reflected an average return on investment of approximately $3 US for every $1 spent.
  • A UK study reflected a saving of approximately £60 000 per annum for an organization of 500 people.

In South Africa:

  • The Discovery Healthy Company Index tells us that “South Africans suffer an 11.4% loss in working days due to suboptimal health, which equates to 25 working days per employee…When compared to the UK, SA employers have a 2.3% higher productivity loss rate due to employees being unhealthier and taking more sick days.”
  • The report translates the cost of illness/injury per employee per year to be R10 000.
  • iFacts who perform employee screening and vetting services say that to replace an employee can cost between 16 and 213% of the annual salary of that employee.

With great employee wellbeing programmes in place these costs could be avoided and greater productivity achieved.

There are definitely exciting developments taking place as we see with Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan teaming up to disrupt healthcare and Apple setting up its AC Wellness Subsidiary.

The market is evolving from health and wellness to one of wellbeing. Great health is still a key goal, but so is being financially healthy, reducing stress and improving work-life balance. This new wave of emphasis is set to continue into the future as organisations start evolving their wellness programmes into wellbeing programmes, and start formally measuring and reporting back in fun and new ways on the financial benefits realised.

Wellbeing can become a fantastic “win-win-win-win” situation for investors, employers, employees and communities.

Belinda Carreira – “unconventional lover of souls”, founder of WELL – working on transforming lives. Mosquitos find me attractive. I wholeheartedly love helping people excel in life and fulfill their true potential. It’s time to start smiling again in a very serious world! We relax when we smile and feel properly valued for who we are. It opens up great doorways that lead us to who we are destined to be. Exceptional. This is when the real magic happens. When our real “well-being” gets ignited. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant 20 years ago, and having engaged in finance, banking and strategy, learnt that facts, numbers and optimism burn very brightly! Investors are always fired up to obtain the very best for their people. WELL helps inform investors about what their people need most and how this benefits both their business and society. By nature, I’m insatiably curious, eternally optimistic and overflowing with joy. The essence of me is to look for the ‘funny side’ and laugh with all my heart and soul. I love mysteries, horse riding, surfing, hiking and…‘games nights’.