GNcareers, from Gulf News

Great employee wellness practices in UAE

Dubai: At the National Bank of Fujairah, employees don’t need to deal with their personal problems alone.

Through the bank’s employee wellbeing programme (EWP), the staff and their immediate family members who may be facing issues that are difficult to handle have a round-the-clock access to qualified experts, from psychologists to independent financial advisers.

If they are experiencing certain problems that could potentially affect their work life, be they mounting debt or household dispute, employees can choose to get some advice from specialists either in person or over the phone. The key objective of the initiative, carried out in partnership with Axa ICAS International, is to help individuals “navigate issues faced in everyday life”.

The bank believes that by providing emotional and psychological support to their staff, the less likely the organisation’s productivity will suffer when an employee is in crisis. Under the same initiative, the company has also put in place an interactive multilingual online portal that offers employees some health risk assessments that help them make an informed decision to better their physical and psychological wellbeing.

Human resources (HR) specialists recognise that there is a close link between the company’s bottom line and the staff’s wellbeing. The more satisfied the workers are, the harder they work. NBF is just one of the growing number of companies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries who believe in this and are investing in wellness programmes.

Over the last few years, since NBF implemented the initiative, there have been some positive results. According to Abdulla Aleter, the bank’s head of HR, the participation levels in their annual employee engagement surveys have improved year on year, culminating in a 100 per cent survey response rate in 2012 and 2013.

“In the bank’s 2013 survey, NBF exhibited satisfaction and engagement levels that were ahead of the banking sector in the GCC and on par with, if not ahead of, many high-performing global organisations,” he said.

“NBF’s 2013 overall climate index, an industry measure of employee engagement and enablement, peaked at 70 per cent, higher than GCC and global banks, and even surpassing that of many high-performing global organisations.”

A recent study among GCC companies showed that the promotion of health and wellbeing among employees is an emerging trend in the region, with more than half of organisations having an employee weIlness initiative in place.

According to the GCC Compensation and Benefits Trends in 2014 report by the HR Compensation and Benefits Forum, a number of firms are now keen to introduce or revamp their schemes based on the results from their employee engagement surveys. This indicates that employers today are taking into account employee feedback.

However, the report said, most of the organisations in the region believe that there is still much education needed to convince the management, as well as their staff, that initiatives that promote employee weIlness have a tangible impact on the bottom line through reduced absenteeism, lower increases in health care premiums and high employee engagement.

Johnson Alexander, director, human resources and quality, health, safety and environment at Dulsco said that through wellness initiatives, companies show how much they value their workers. “It clearly establishes the fact that the company cares for its employees and is striving to give them the best in various aspects,” he said.

“Happy employees directly translate into happy customers.”

Dulsco holds a number of activities in a year to engage its employees, and these include entertainment evenings; athletic events like cricket, football, volleyball, basketball and indoor sports; as well as Iftars, cultural programmes and competitions, among others.

Dulsco’s massive facility called the “Village”, which provides employee accommodation, has a full size football pitch and a large auditorium. It also has a state-of-the-art gymnasium with professional trainers to guide the staff.

“Apart from these, there are free health checkups and medical camps that are conducted to regularly monitor employees’ health and provide them useful health tips,” added Alexander.

The company has created a team to gather ideas from employees and ensure the important ones are implemented. Through its “Wednesday League” programme, Dulsco employees gather every Wednesday evening to unwind and engage in friendly competitions, such as table tennis, chess, billiards and darts, among others.

All these activities have generated some positive feedback from the employees. “We constantly monitor feedback from the staff and it has been very positive. Employees enjoy their work life more with all these small additions. We are a strong team of 8,000 people and we are committed to our workforce and they are our invaluable assets,” said Alexander.

Source: Cleofe Maceda, Senior Reporter, gulfnews.comGN