Organisations have a responsibility to ensure employee physical and mental health
Organisations which already had a comprehensive health and wellbeing setup have been more resilient throughout the crisis
Organisations in the UAE have a responsibility in ensuring the health and wellness of their employees, especially during the global pandemic which is impacting the physical and mental health of workers, experts said.
Dr. Mansoor Habib, head of Sustainability & Wellbeing at du, noted that good health goes much beyond simple fitness. “Society has evolved and awareness concerning physical and mental wellbeing has come to the forefront of attention throughout society. This is very much a collective effort, one that requires dedication from every business and industry. Ensuring all personnel and teams are well, physically and mentally, will always be among our topmost priorities. Personal and professional life have been more entwined, and we have a responsibility to provide the care and support people need whenever required.”
Towards this end, du established an in-house clinic in 2010, which was the first internal clinic of its kind in the UAE telecom industry.
“Preventative services have always been available, with an emphasis on vaccinations, health diet advice, fitness, mental wellbeing, and our Employee Assistance Program,” Dr. Habib explained. “As a fully-licensed clinic, we are also proud to provide curative services – monitoring and managing everything related to acute or chronic illnesses. This includes, for example, conducting blood tests and carrying out subsequent investigations, as well as prescribing medicines when required that are then delivered to our employees.”
Similarly, Belgin Ertam, VP of HR, for the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey, at GE, said that ensuring the safety, health, and wellness of their teams has always been the top priority for GE.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to drive not just physical wellbeing but also strong mental health, especially given the pace of change and the new ways of working we are experiencing,” she said. “As more employees pivoted to work-from-home scenarios, it was important for us to ensure that they continued to receive the same professional standards of support they would have received at office.”
Promoting work-life balance, she said, is an integral part of organisational culture, and during the pandemic many employees have had new pressures to manage. “To support them, we further strengthened our Employee Assistance Program to give our team remote access to counselling, as and when they need it. We offered free access to online applications that encourage mindfulness, healthy sleep, exercise, and nutrition habits, and strategies to combat stress and anxiety. We also offered telehealth services that allowed our employees to remotely tap into licensed doctors around the world by phone or video.”
Ertam also shed light on how volunteering initiatives can play a central role in building positive mental health as employees get the opportunity to serve the community, and the community in turn benefits from focused volunteering efforts. In the past year, GE Volunteers held a virtual food donation drive benefitting a local not-for-profit educational facility. They also spearheaded the ‘GEV Take Me Home’ campaign, which connected sponsors with blue collar workers stranded in the UAE due to the pandemic. To date, the initiative helped 80 men and women return home.
Dr. Habib added that the Covid-19 pandemic has created difficulties that have been challenging for everyone, and that many have experienced health and wellbeing problems throughout this time. “Every employee requires support – and what I mean by this is that, even if people are feeling well in every sense of the word, support must always be there for them regardless of the current situation. And, of course, those requiring help must be provided the care and attention they require by their respective organisations.”
Overall, he said that it is apparent that organisations who already had a comprehensive health and wellbeing setup have been more resilient throughout the crisis; able to manage the overall situation and individual cases much more proactively and professionally. “In the end, lessons and use cases are freely available for others to take inspiration from – and they can take steps right away to ensure they are fully prepared moving forward.”
Looking ahead, Dr. Habib said that there are a host of possibilities for organisations to explore in terms of health and wellbeing. “Every individual is different and there are many problems that an individual or group may have at any given time. Although we cannot predict the future, we can always prepare for it as best we can – and this means ensuring frameworks and resources are in place that can instantly accessed. From my point of view, the minimum I hope for is for every organisation to have a full-time professional for physical health, mental wellbeing, and more. Medical insurance and gym memberships play a part – but it is a holistic platform that cares not only for employees, but also those who depend on them.”
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