What SMEs need to know about health and wellness programs in the workplace
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What SMEs need to know about health and wellness programs in the workplace

UAE Medical Insurance covers what Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) owners need to know about wellness programs in the workplace, and how they can implement one.

As an SME owner it can be hard not to see the recent implementation of the DHA's new mandatory health insurance scheme as anything but a strain on already narrow profit margins. The fact of the matter, however, is that health insurance is essential for care in Dubai, and many employees will benefit from it. Interestingly, there are many companies out there who have actually turned this scheme into something highly beneficial, through the implementation of wellness programs. The thing is, most of these companies are MNCs or large corporations, but the fact of the matter is SMEs can actually benefit from wellness programs too.

What exactly are wellness programs?

Traditionally, wellness programs are defined as any program a business implements in order to help improve the health of employees and, in turn, see a decrease in the health-related costs that you, as an employer, face.

These plans often vary from business to business and can include any health or fitness related activities that business owners believe help to meet the two goals listed above. For example, according to EBN,  "A survey conducted by the NBGH and Fidelity in early 2015 revealed that onsite flu shots (90%), health fairs/educational seminars, promotions (84%) and health risk assessments (83%) were the most prevalent health risk management programs offered by employers."

There has, however, been a recent move - especially among smaller businesses - to expand the definition of wellness programs beyond simply health to include other forms of wellness, so that companies offer what's called a "total wellness" solution. Health and wellness experts predict that companies all over the world will continue to integrate total wellness solutions in 2016. One such example of this comes from EBN which predicts that, "One aspect of total wellness that is expected to show continued growth in 2016 is a focus on financial security, personalized by the employees’ stage of life. For example, millennials are interested in financial education about buying a house, having a baby and saving for their kids’ college education,”

What are the benefits of implementing a wellness program in a SME?


Regardless of how you define wellness solutions, there are a number of key benefits SME owners can capitalize on, here are the three most common:

  • Lower absenteeism - For many companies, absenteeism is often attributed to illnesses like the common cold or body pain. By having a wellness program that encourages employees to get up and moving you could see lower rates of sickness (many studies including this one covered by WebMd have found that regular exercise reduces the chance of getting sick) and, therefore, sick days. This in turn means employees will be generally more productive.  
  • Healthier employees - Providing health related support such as group exercise activities, nutrition coaches, health insurance, medical care support, mental health days, etc. can go a long way in helping to improve the health of your employees. This in turn can help reduce absenteeism, as we covered above, but can also help improve the happiness of your employees.
  • Reduced costs - The above two benefits also contribute to a third benefit, and that is reduced costs. With present and healthy employees you will see the cost of replacing employees or covering lost time decrease. Beyond that, a healthier staff will also mean fewer medical claims, which in turn could result in lower premiums or the ability to modify certain types of coverage to make them more affordable. As long as they meet DHA requirements, of course.

According to Inc. "Findings from 56 studies on worksite wellness programs that were published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed an average 27 percent reduction in sick leave absenteeism, 26 percent reduction in health care costs, and 32 percent reduction in workers' compensation and disability management cost claims." It is entirely possible for small firms in Dubai to see figures like this too.

Ways to implement a wellness plan into business?

While wellness plans in Dubai, and indeed many other countries, seem like the domain of large corporations who can invest in massive multi-faceted schemes, they are becoming increasingly popular in many smaller businesses as well. The truth is, you don't have to implement the world's greatest or most comprehensive wellness plan in order to capitalize on the above benefits.

Some examples of wellness plans we have seen implemented by SMEs include:

  • Bringing a consulting doctor in - By bringing the doctor's office to your office say once a year, you give employees an opportunity to talk to a doctor on their time which can be a big help in encouraging them to face their health issues and receive care.
  • Offering healthier food options - In Dubai it is not uncommon for workers to spend extended hours at their desk and settle for either junk or fast food, which ,over time, can pose a serious health risk. By investing in healthy snack options you can provide your employees with an easy way to increase their health.
  • Implementing a preventative care plan - This includes flu shot clinics and even vaccinations for staff and family or colleagues who travel for work. If your employees stand a better chance of avoiding the flu or other common illnesses you could see a direct payoff.
  • Group exercise plans/activities - Oftentimes people need a motivational push to start and keep exercising. If you plan group activities such as daily workouts before work, or team sport you can provide employees with the extra boost they need to start exercising.  
  • Investing in incentives - These can be varied and include things like gamification of exercise plans that rewards employees for showing up, or inter-team exercise competitions, etc. Some companies have even found success in implementing a program that sees the company offering prizes to staff who have reached certain levels of weight loss or steps taken.  

The key here is that you don't have to implement everything. Try starting with one or two actions and seeing how staff react/partake then tweak and track. This Inc. article provides some solid tips that other SME owners have used to implement wellness plans in their organizations.

How can UMI help?

In our experience, the foundation of the most successful wellness plans is health insurance. Now that it is mandatory in Dubai for companies to provide it to their employees, we can help ensure that you have the best foundation that you can build an attractive and successful wellness plan upon.

Contact our experts today to learn more about our health insurance options for SME owners.




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