Having an unhealthy workforce in large companies can impact productivity significantly, resulting in an uptake of costs amounting to millions of dollars. It is therefore imperative for large companies to bring increased awareness about health and wellness habits.
On Monday, the T&T Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted its health seminar at the its headquarters, Columbus Drive, Westmoorings, and Business Guardian spoke to a few businesses to find out their models for encouraging health awareness.
With more than 10,000 employees and their dependents attached to the company's health plan, Amanda McMillan, Massy's group manager, employee benefits, said the company's costs continue to go higher and higher. She added that this meant there was need to look at the data to determine what contributed to the higher costs.
"One of the things that we started to do, is look at some data collection by working and partnering with the insurance companies to see what are the statistics showing. What are you (the insurance company) seeing that is alarming to you that we (Massy Ltd) need to be aware of?
"We looked at some of our medical records along with medical advisers, we started to track some pre-employment conditions, people coming into the organisation. We know what we have, we need to track what is coming in.
"From there, we started to form wellness groups, get wellness champions, different people who had different passions. Some people like zumba, some people like spin, nutrition, yoga. Whatever is your passion, we formed a wellness committee."
Mc Millan added that a wellness programme which worked for one company within the group would not always work for another company.
"We started to offer incentives, we started to bring people together and have different types of competitions. We had a session where we looked at the cafeteria suppliers throughout all the organisations in the Massy Group. We brought all of them together and we had them at the hotel school. There we did some healthy meal planning. It is along that line that we started to collect different data and roll out different initiatives."
She said getting the facts about the medical history of employees would allow the company to determine why they are paying so much out in medical premiums. That's the biggest challenge we have right now. I made a plea to insurance companies: don't just come to me every year and tell me that my claims experience is high. Give me some statistics, show me some costs, show me what I paid before, show me what I am going to be paying for, show me in the next three years if I don't embark on wellness for diabetes or hypertension or cancer, show me some costs. That's my challenge in getting cost figures."
The company has 2,000 retirees who are also part of the company's health initiatives which includes medical tests and other health-related initiatives.
AA Laquis Ltd:
Cheryl Mohammed, marketing manager, said AA Laquis, like any member of the corporate community, believes high absenteeism is an overall cost to the company. She added that AA Laquis has extended its free health service to any member of the corporate community. The business community can make a formal request to AA Laquis to have employees tested.
Some of the tests include blood pressure testing and glucose testing.
"We provide free metres for staff use, so if there was a member of staff who was not feeling well, another member of staff could administer it. It is really education coupled with some free tools. The brands are ours, it is really the public education campaign we want to embark upon. We have registered nurses that we hire. It is an expense to AA Laquis. We also have in-house educators and our brand managers that would visit the companies, to get a sense of what is happening in the organisations."
The AA Laquis team that goes out to visit companies comprise of five including a nutritionist, and was launched in the fourth quarter of last year. Since its inception, AA Laquis has visited 10 companies.
"We want to make it a part of the calendar of the organisation, not just when they have one-off health fairs but every quarterly to keep a pulse on the health of their employees."
While not wanting to disclose how much it costs AA Laquis to provide this healthcare free, Mohammed said it is the cost of resources and equipment. It is like any business, you need to look at your return on investment. Based on what you are seeing today, the impact on productivity and the overall revenue stream of the company is contingent on the health of the employees."
For Atlantic, bringing about awareness about health and wellness involves creating a culture of health and safety, said Najila Elias-Samlalsingh, Atlantic HSSE (health safety, security and environment) department.
"One of the models we have is that our performance contracts from the chief executive to everyone else within the organisation: we have to put our core work activity that we have to do. We have our behavioural component and one of the major components is what you do in terms of HSSE.
"As employees, we can sign up for health initiatives, environmental initiatives. The person would sign up for safety walk down, people would do environmental work programmes, we do bio-diversity displays for the community, lectures, World Environment Day. Our occupational health team which is very dynamic has everything from the biggest loser campaign. It is all along the line of checking employees along the way, seeing who will lose the most weight and encouraging it as teams."
Elias-Samlalsingh said employees must put on their performance contract what they have participated in when it comes to health and wellness.
"It is part of the employees culture since you are also encouraged to take those (good health) practices home."