HEALTH

Companies join unified healthy-worker program

Firms complying with World Health Organization norms receive a certificate

The crisis and its relentless job destruction has got many workers fearing one thing: getting laid off. Yet there are still companies out there that feel that investing in their employees' physical and mental wellbeing can actually be profitable.

Pilates classes, medical check-ups, gym facilities, nutritional advice, and workshops for smokers and people with bad posture are some of the initiatives that have sprung up at corporations to improve worker productivity.

Caring for the workforce has been a reality for years. But until now, each individual company had launched its program with nothing to fall back on but the 1995 Occupational Safety Law.

But in late 2012, the Spanish Association for Normalization and Certification (Aenor), which verifies safety and health projects at businesses, published a document called Healthy Company aimed at ensuring that all these programs meet World Health Organization guidelines.

Accenture and Mahou, two companies taking part in the pilot project, are the first to be following the new guidelines. In early 2012, the consulting company - which has over 9,000 workers in Spain - launched its Tu Mayor Bienestar program.

"The project began after seeing the results of nearly 4,000 medical check-ups in which we detected very high levels of excess weight, smoking and sedentary lifestyles," explains Encarna Tato, director of the medical service at Accenture. A strategy was designed to improve these results while addressing individual needs.

 "Last year we had 9,000 medical consultations. Going to see a doctor takes an average of 150 minutes. With our program, people don't waste time going to get analyses, because they can get them right here," she notes.

Businesses that invest in employee wellbeing know that it pays. The physical and health program launched in 2010 by the beer company Mahou-San Miguel cost 220,842 euros and made 635,891 euros in profits, according to a 2012 study by the government's CSD sports council. These profits are measured mostly in lower absenteeism levels and greater productivity.

 "People who come to the health workshops stop going to the doctor and buying medicines, and they also feel better about themselves," says Ana Ávila, director of occupational safety at the corporation.

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