Dubai Holding runs the extra mile for employees’ well-being

Dubai Holding is a company putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to its 15,000 employees’ well-being — something that will be evident at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon this month. Hundreds of runners will make up its corporate team at the event on January 22 – the company has had the […]

Dubai Holding is a company putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to its 15,000 employees’ well-being — something that will be evident at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon this month.

Hundreds of runners will make up its corporate team at the event on January 22 – the company has had the largest representation by any UAE company for the past three years.

While some will run the marathon, the remainder will traverse the 10-kilometre route.

Last year, 2,430 runners took part.

“We spend more time at work than in any other setting and wellness initiatives allow staff to network, get their voice heard, immerse and experience company culture while achieving their health targets,” says Cedric Betis, chairman of the Dubai Holding wellness committee.

Dubai Holding established the committee three years ago to advocate lifestyle improvements and improve health and productivity among staff.

The company also sponsors the annual 52-flight, 1,334-step Vertical Marathon at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, which takes place in April, with Dubai Holding’s vice chairman, Ahmad bin Byat, and chief executive, Fadel Al Ali, frequent participants.

Thom Janssen, lead consultant for organisational surveys and insights at the HR consultancy Towers Watson, says the best companies “treat their employees like consumers” to “create emotional connections between employees and the company”.

Companies that take this approach report better business performance and more success in attracting people with critical skills, he explains. “Well-being programmes are not just a solution to a health ‘problem’; instead, they relate to much broader issues of worker engagement,” he adds.

“Engaged employees provide better customer service by going the extra mile, and they help drive productivity gains by bringing their best thinking to work.”

Dubai Holding’s corporate wellness programme has helped to bring a 14 per cent reduction in sick leave at Dubai Properties Group, says Mr Betis.

About to turn 40, Mr Betis – also the director of wellness for Jumeirah Group – is himself an advertisement for healthy living. Formerly an international kick boxer, he runs the Dubai Marathon each year and has been part of the winning team at the Vertical Marathon three times.

But his best “wellness ambassador” is Claire Hartnett, a mother-of-five who shed 28 kilograms in a year and ran the Dubai Marathon last year, becoming its biggest fund-raiser too. “We really took a personal interest in her success,” he says.

q&a health is wealth

Suzanne Locke outlines the importance of employee wellness schemes:

What’s the cost of sickness absence?

The average employee is absent from work 7.6 days a year, costing their employer £595, according to UK health insurance provider Cigna.

Can an employer put a monetary value on their return on investment into well-being?

Johnson & Johnson estimate that from 2002 to 2008, the return was US$2.71 for every dollar spent, saving the company $250 million on healthcare costs in a decade. And according to a study by two US doctors on 185 workers and spouses at a single company (reported by the Harvard Business Review in 2010), every dollar invested yielded $6 in healthcare savings.

Are Middle East human resources departments working on employee wellness?

Yes, according to a 2015 Bayt.com survey; 66 per cent of respondents said their HR team was effectively promoting wellness, and 46 per cent also thought their company was a good place to work.

What are the best ways for workers to focus on well-being?

“Focus on the basics,” says Cedric Betis of Dubai Holding. “Maintain a diet of clean and healthy food, high in protein and low on fat and sugar. Eat in controlled portions – it’s more sustainable than dieting. Follow through with exercise and treat yourself often to food you love. Every little bit counts for those spending most of the day sitting at work; so make an effort to stand and move as often as possible – chat to somebody rather than e-mailing, stand while on the phone and use the stairs instead of the lift.”

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