Could employee health problems endanger your staff and your business?

Agility Corporate productivity expert Lizette Bester encourages women to optimise their health this Women’s Month.

Simple wellness steps can save lives and boost productivity

The importance of basic healthcare check-ups cannot be over estimated, particularly in the workplace, where unhealthy individuals may pose a risk to themselves and others, as well as a business’s bottom line.

“Nowadays, most people are aware of the health risks that relatively common conditions such as diabetes, abnormal blood pressure, heart disease and associated medical problems pose for the affected individual,” says Lizette Bester,executive at employee risk management company, Agility Corporate.

“Unfortunately, the dangers presented by a number of lifestyle diseases may have consequences for others, especially when the sufferer works in a high risk environment, operatingpotentially dangerous equipment or heavy machinery. Often such jobs are inherently stressful, which may exacerbate underlying health problems,” she adds.

“We might not like to think about the potential practical implications of undiagnosed and untreated health conditions, but these things can and do happen. Consider the example of a driver operating a heavy vehicle in an industrial setting who loses consciousness due to low blood pressure, or suffers a heart attack while he or she is behind the wheel.

“The first concern is, naturally, for the individual. In addition, this staff member’s sudden medical crisis may well cause them to lose control of the vehicle they are handling, thereby endangering their colleagues or others.

“Apart from the human tragedy that can result from just one such incident, the employer may face expenses from irreparable damage to expensive equipment, production time lost, sick leave, and even recruitment costs. With a little foresight, however, thesedire safety threatscan be mitigated,” Bester asserts.

These are among the reasons why adults should have routine health screenings, including blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol tests, at least once a year, or every six months for high-risk individuals.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure refers to the pressure of the blood in the body’s circulatory system. When blood pressure is either too high or too low, this can cause a number of health problems including fainting, heart failure, stroke, or kidney failure, to name but a few. High blood pressure can also very quickly lead to irreversible visual impairment.

Blood glucose

Blood sugar refers to the amount of glucose present in the blood stream. The food in our diet provides our bodies with the energy we need, and healthy individuals following a balanced diet should have adequate glucose in their blood to feel alert and energised; the perfect condtions for productivity.

Blood sugar problems can be triggered by unhealthy eating patterns with too little exercise, medical conditions like diabetes, or certain medications. Constant high blood sugar, or hyperglycaemia, can lead to diabetes and organ failure, while low blood sugar, or hypoglycaemia, can lead to loss of consciousness, or seizures in extreme cases.

“Skipping meals, ingesting too much sugar and going on crash diets can have extreme effects on your blood glucose level and will impact an individual’s health and productivity negatively,” Bester adds.

“There are cost-effective solutions that companies can implement to help staff to maintainhealthy blood glucose levels. These may include encouraging regular lunch and tea breaks to keep blood sugar levels stable, and ensuring that workplace canteen menus include options to accommodate diabetic employees, as well as educating staff about the benefits of a healthy diet.”


Cholesterol is a type of fat that your body needs in order to function properly. Too much cholesterol, however, can cause many health problems including heart disease and stroke. Knowing your cholesterol level is crucial in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.Genetic factors, diet and physical activity all influence cholesterol levels.

Continuous high cholesterol can have many negative effects on the digestive and the circulatory systems, which in turn may cause a number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease or stroke.

“When people have undiagnosed and untreated health issues, such as those listed above, this can cause them to take copious amounts of sick leave. For their employers, this may result in slower process flow andlower productivity, which ultimately erodes profit,” Bester notes.

Feasible solutions

According to Bester, organisations that offer staff members access to health and wellness services can mitigate many of the risks outlined above by protecting employees and their ability to remain productive.

“Wellness days are an excellent starting point, where workers are offered basic health screenings and information on common medical conditions and how they can be avoided or managed. Such initiatives often yield better results if they form part of a wider employee assistance programme (EAP). EAPs can be as simple as provision for access to counselling, or a more holistic approach that includespsycho-social, financial and legal counselling to help address stress and its root causes, which can exacerbate health problems,” Bester explains.

“Areas that are identified as being of concern during such wellness days can be followed up with education campaigns that are best structured to address specific employee needs, therebyhelping to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity,” Bester explains.

“Basic health management is the first step in creating a long-term, sustainable and productive work environment that stimulates profit growth and encourages retention of quality staff,” Bester concludes.