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Workplace Wellness with Dr Arien

written by Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB NHA FRSPH MISMA

Health happens in the workplaceAs consultant in workplace wellness for well over 20 years, I’m amazed that even now, relatively few companies implement at least some basic wellness interventions for their employees. After all, employees are any company’s most important assets!

We live in a rapidly changing world – from the economic and social changes around us, to personal health and relationship challenges. The workplace is about making a profit, return on investment and the bottom line. If care is taken to provide employees with sustainable wellness tools and techniques, what better return on investment could there be? This would equip them with techniques to manage their stress on all levels, learning how to access ways and means to manage their emotions effectively, and provide them with coping skills to become more resilient. This will ensure employees who are productive and creative, using both sides of their brains for whole brain thinking and acting.
Stress and wellbeing
Work stress doubles our risk of dying from heart disease. Traditionally, we’ve been advised to stop smoking, cut down drinking, eat healthily, and exercise regularly. More recently, research suggests that the prevention, mastering or management of work stress is just as crucial.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in modern society. Employees with high job strain, a combination of high demands at work and low job control, have high stress levels and more than twice the risk of death from heart disease compared to employees who have low job strain. The stress levels and risk for employees with effort-reward imbalance (low salary, lack of social approval, and few career opportunities relative to efforts required at work) were 2.5 times higher. High job strain also showed an increased total cholesterol at the 5 year follow up, while effort-reward imbalance showed an increase in body weight.

Can something be done about this?

Work stress is bad for your health. So is personal, financial and relationship stress. Not only does it double your risk for getting heart disease, long term unrelenting stress can be the cause or exacerbating factor in almost any of our modern day chronic diseases or ailments: from infections, cancer, skin problems, premenstrual tension, severe menopause, back problems, to chronic fatigue, digestive system problems and lung disease.

Stress management is of the utmost importance to maintain health and wellbeing and restore a sense of serenity and peace while maintaining a creative, productive, healthy and happy lifestyle.
Expected results when implementing health and wellness programs: Improved productivity and creativity, higher levels of company morale, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (employees being at work, but not optimally healthy or well), improved day-to-day quality of working life for the employer and employee.
Many studies show that psychological and physical factors in the workplace such as intense deadlines, poor interpersonal relationships, poor ergonomics, absence of a stimulating work environment and healthy work culture, as well as inadequate job descriptions, are also major contributors to employee absenteeism and increased health risk.

Working proactively to reduce the risk of developing disease, as well as the very important promotion of a wellness lifestyle to prevent and treat disease, wellness programs empower the individual to recognise the danger signals of overdoing it, of living an unhealthy lifestyle, and educate employees about taking preventative measures to reduce the harmful effects of their habits and behaviour. Wellness educator training is a wonderful wellness intervention to effect this through all layers of the workforce.

Not only do wellness programs lead to improved productivity and creativity, higher levels of morale and reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, they also improve the day-to-day quality of working life for the employee, while still taking care of the bottom line; after all, employees are a company’s most important assets! Wise companies know this. Healthy, happy, relaxed employees will ensure a good return on investment for shareholders!

DR ARIEN VAN DER MERWE is a medical doctor and specialist consultant in workplace wellness, natural medicine and stress management. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health (London), Member of the International Stress Management Association (UK Branch) and Training Consultant for the Natural Healers Association (SA). Arien is the author of many books on health and wellness. Her current work focus is on finding lasting wellness solutions for the management of chronic diseases of lifestyle (health challenges in wellness terminology) in the workplace, through talks, workshops, courses and wellness educator training. More information:
For further enquiries about Wellness Educator Training, Stress Management and Soul of Leadership Programs, please visit Dr Arien van der Merwe’s Website:
Contact details: Email: / Landline: 012 362 2422