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Should We Take Corporate Wellness Seriously?

By Victoria Sharpe, Senior Corporate Wellness Manager at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)

The Global Wellness Institute reported as far back as 2016 that there was a “rising epidemic of an unwell workforce.” In May 2019, the World Health Organization updated its definition of burnout as “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Left untreated, burnout can lead to chronic disease, which, in itself, is life-threatening. With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, this only served to accelerate the economic burden of unwell employees, which was already estimated at around 15% of global economic output. 

A growing body of evidence identifies work-related stress as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke; it can even increase the risk of becoming diabetic. Although mental and physical health is inextricably linked, the main risks to people’s health at work are psychological and, as Dr. Brock Chisholm, Director-General of the World Health Organization, famously said, “Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” 

With over 3.3 billion workers worldwide, the rise of chronic disease directly affects every organization by negatively impacting profits and the bottom line. However, research shows that organizations with wellness embedded into their corporate culture outperform the stock market by a factor of three to one! This explains why we are seeing an increasing number of organizations appointing a Chief Wellbeing Officer to ensure wellbeing is strategically placed at the highest level within the organization. Adopting a culture of wellness is now seen as the default, not the exception.

TRSDC Leading the Way

The TRSDC corporate wellness program, HAYAH, the Arabic word for “life,” comprises three core pillars: Mental and Emotional, Nutrition and Physical Fitness, and Movement to support our colleagues’ holistic wellbeing. The program also aligns with the health targets and goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality-of-life Program. 

Our Employee Assistance Program offers all employees and their household family members over the age of 16 confidential, free access to professional psychologists, counselors, nutritionists, and life and health coaches 24/7, 365 days a year. The service also offers lifestyle support and advice by legal and career advisors via phone, email and the app. The HAYAH program also offers all employees access to Calm, an awarding-winning app for mindfulness, sleep and meditation.

As a support to the HAYAH team, we have a network of Wellness Champions and Mental Health First Aiders who are ambassadors and advocates for well-being and help to raise awareness of the HAYAH initiatives and embed a culture of wellbeing throughout the organization.

The rise of chronic disease and mental health is not something that is happening “out there,” it is reflected in our organization. Ultimately, we all have a personal responsibility to look after our own well-being, but it can be daunting to know where to start. With over one-third of our lives spent at work, the more organizations take corporate and employee wellbeing seriously, the healthier employees and the community will be. 

Corporate wellness programs have the power to change the world through the well-being of employees.