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Health in the Workplace

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Health in the Workplace

Whether you're an entrepreneur running you own business or a professional working your way up the corporate ladder, investing in your health should be one of your priorities, says Dr Anuschka Coovadia, a health and risk management expert at KPMG South Africa.


"Most people don't realise it, but the cost of neglecting your health is often greater than the cumulative return generated by your entire investment portfolio," she warns.

The ultimate price is life itself, with all too many career focussed people succumbing to heart attacks and strokes. For every one of these extreme cases, many others are afflicted with debilitating and costly maladies like diabetes, depression and ulcers, many of them avoidable.


The solution? "You need to apply the same discipline to investing in health as you would to creating wealth."


Coovadia says successful business owners and executives tend to be very goal oriented and performance driven. She urges them to apply these same principles to their own health and well being.


"Whether you run a business or work in one, you need to treat yourself as a business, understanding the risk factors and acting decisively to mitigate them. You are you own capital.


"This realisation can be empowering and liberating. For example, instead of viewing exercise as a waste of time you could be spending at work, you'll see it as a valuable investment in your future productivity.


“And by adopting a positive attitude to exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices, like quitting smoking, you're more likely to stick to your new regimen. It's a self-reinforcing cycle.”


According to Coovadia, insurers and medical aid providers are increasingly recognising the importance of their clients leading a healthy lifestyle and several now offer incentives for attending gym, buying healthy groceries and sticking to their medication and treatment plans.


Forward looking businesses are also realising that a healthier workforce has a measurably positive impact on their bottom lines.


“It's not just about the obvious things like fewer sick days. It doesn't take a genius to realise that healthier employees are more productive. But it goes further than that, with positive effects on staff motivation and morale as well as decreased staff turnover.”


Recognising this, increasing numbers of businesses, multi-national corporations among them, are turning to advisory firms like KPMG to help them minimise the risks posed by health issues and maximise the benefits offered by a healthier workforce.


On an individual scale, this means identifying risk factors – for example a family history of heart disease, diabetes or cancer – and taking steps to address them, preferably working with suitably qualified health and wellness professionals.


“Then make those small incremental changes. Having the motivation to stick to those changes can be difficult. We all know the importance of eating fruit and vegetables and regular exercise, yet these are things we give up first when we're under pressure.


"It helps to get buy in from your work colleagues. And you'll certainly need your family's support if you're to stick to a healthy eating programme."


For Coovadia, the sooner a business or individual makes the required changes, the better. She likens the process to investing in stocks or property.


“Investments in good habits accrue benefits that are enjoyed over a lifetime. Wise investors understand that in order to build wealth, they need to start investing or saving early. Similarly with health, early adoption of a healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone to preventing the development of chronic diseases, as well as staving off cancers related to poor lifestyle choices. And most importantly, while financial assets can be measured in Rands and cents, the benefits from having a strong, healthy body are intangible – happiness, peace of mind and vitality.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 15:07

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