Employers in the Middle East and Africa are reporting stress as their primary health concern for employees, and the main driver for establishing wellness programmes according to a recently released study.

“Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies,” issued by Buck Consultants, a Xerox company, indicates Middle Eastern and African organisations’ focus on stress mirrors feedback from many other regions around the world.
For Middle Eastern and African employers, chronic disease (such as heart disease and diabetes) and infectious diseases rank second and third, respectively, as health concerns.
These results were among key findings in Buck’s fourth annual global wellness survey, which analysed responses from more than 1,200 organisations in 47 countries, representing more than 13-million employees.
Middle Eastern and African wellness programme objectives are led by improving workforce morale and engagement, followed by boosting employee productivity. The respondents ranked better workplace safety third on the list of primary wellness programme objectives.
“The emphasis on reducing stress is not surprising,” says Barry Hall, a Buck principal who directed the survey. “Lack of job security, changing work patterns and globalisation are hurting workers’ health and their employers’ bottom line. Stress causes excessive absence, loss of productivity and lower worker morale and engagement.”
Other key findings of Buck’s wellness study include:
* Globally, 66% of respondents have a formal wellness strategy, up from 49% in 2007.
* Wellness programmes are most prevalent in North America, where 74% of responding employers offer them. Middle East and Africa trails with 41%.
* Worldwide, only 37% of respondents have measured specific outcomes to validate the success of, and justify investment in, their wellness programmes.
* The fastest-growing components of wellness programmes are technology-driven tools. In three years, employers in the Middle East and Africa expect a ten-fold increase in their use of mobile technology – such as smartphones – to support employee wellness initiatives.
Additional issues covered by Buck’s global survey include programme design, organisational ownership of wellness programmes and communication strategies.
The Buck Consultants survey was conducted in association with Pfizer, CIGNA, Wolf Kirsten International Health Consulting and WorldatWork.