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.