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VIEWPOINT: Health, hard work and happiness


February is usually the month in which we relapse on all the well-intentioned goals that we set ourselves at the start of the New Year. Unfortunately, our indulgences over the past festive season now seem to have added up at the cost of our health.

Studies have shown that four main risk factors – physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, smoking and excessive alcohol intake – are largely responsible for four diseases, namely cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes, which together cause 60% of deaths worldwide. These risk factors can be mitigated by simple but consistent changes in one’s lifestyle.

Studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that lifestyle diseases are responsible for nearly 50% of premature deaths in people who are in the most productive years of their lives. Closer to home, we analysed over 5 000 life-years of data of the workforce of my current company in areas where performance could be accurately measured by specific key performance indicators. The results showed a 15% difference between the performances of employees with good general health over those with poor health. Similar results were found when comparing the productivity of non-smokers versus smokers. It was irrefutable that healthier employees were significantly more productive than others.

Armed with such knowledge, it is no longer sufficient for leaders to set goals based purely on business metrics. The personal wellbeing and health of your staff is just as important a factor in striving to remain a competitive company in the future. Simple encouragement and the example you set your team to work on the four main risk factors could have a positive impact on their lives long after they have left your employ.

I believe that our ability as leaders lies far beyond what we traditionally considered leadership to be. While it relies heavily on our leadership discretion in allocating resources to areas that will produce the most yield or customer satisfaction, it also relies on how we ensure our employees are healthy.

In an age where non-communicable diseases are in the process of overtaking communicable ones in terms of health risks, particularly in developing and developed countries, such foresight will leave a lasting legacy in our employees’ lives.

Author: Brett Tromp CA(SA) is CFO of Discovery Health