• September 18th, 2019

Back to basics: Our humanness, our weaknesses, our wellness


I am detecting an engaging aspect in my eclectic reading, namely, the growing focus on employee wellness programmes. 
   It is possible that the programmes have taken root at some workplaces. My interest lies in the literature that defines them as “evolving and innovative, and an effective way to address the rising trend of chronic diseases from diabetes to heart disease.” Work-related health problems are an emotive issue. 

Dr Ron Friedman argues that “multitasking, as many studies have shown, is a myth. A more accurate account of what happens when we tell ourselves we are multitasking is that we are rapidly switching between activities, degrading our clarity and depleting our mental energy. And the consequences can be surprisingly serious.”

   In the bestselling book, The Power of Positive Living, Norman Vincent Peale writes that: “The more we learn about mind and body as a unity the more difficult it becomes to consider them separately…we have to unclothe our thought processes if we are to return to health.”

That is basic stuff, elementary; I hear you say. Correct! Yet, like me, you may have noted the recent unique reports about representatives of two teachers’ unions in South Africa. They were responding to what they considered as unfair and impetuous deductions from a schools monitoring survey.

   Although carried out in 2017, the survey’s findings are just gaining traction. The survey revealed a number of positive developments; among them, increased hours spent on professional personal development; better learners’ access to libraries and media centres, and improved textbook availability.

However, the teachers’ unions were disturbed, no, aggrieved, by the survey’s findings on a ten percent increase in the national aggregated absence rate on an average day.     

   The teachers’ representatives complained that the cases of absenteeism had not been given a context. As part of their explanation, they said teachers have to attend employer-sanctioned workshops during weekdays. Financial constraints preclude holding such meetings on weekends. Further, the teachers claimed that they handle overcrowded (and at times unruly) classes.

In closing their defence, the teachers underlined that there are human! Their appeal? “Consider our health and other responsibilities.” 

   They consider it unforgivable that the survey overlooked exigencies of family life: when do they take their leave days? What about indisposed family members who need care? And did the survey consider the inescapable Grim Reaper, and its deleterious effects?

   Continued quality teaching and learning, they emphasized, should be premised on a new thrust of teacher wellness programmes.

I found the point worth investigating. After all (note the year), “late in 2014, Occupational Care South Africa and Statistics South Africa released the shock statistic that the country was losing some R16 billion a year to absenteeism. Around fifteen percent of employees were absent on any given day. On the broader continent, meanwhile, the greatest scourge is teacher absenteeism…”

   The same report continued: “in South Africa, statistics on workplace absenteeism are far more readily available than on the rest of the continent, which already illustrates that this issue needs to be prioritised far more than it is in the rest of Africa’s economies.”

My reading shows an issue that is clearly growing in importance. And rightly so. For example, one health plan suggests that members of a wellness team “should have wellness responsibilities written into their job descriptions while the team is publicized throughout the organization so employees know that wellness is an organizational priority.”

   Without doubt, the future will revolve around a “corporate culture that encourages and helps healthy lifestyles;” one that fosters increased productivity through less absenteeism, better presenteeism (presences) and reduced injuries on the job.
One study estimates that “eighty percent of diseases are lifestyle-related and new wellness programmes should help employees in adopting healthier habits.”

   Vending machines that dispense healthy food choices and snacks, fruit juices, a variety of sugar- and caffeine-free selections are some of the proposed innovations. A brave and better world calls.         
  


Staff Reporter
2019-04-26 09:27:30 4 months ago

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