Taking us back a little in August, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Mboweni, speaking at a business breakfast organized by the Swedish Workplace HIV/AIDS Programme (SWHAP), in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Business Council on Wellness in Harare reiterated employee wellness must be integrated into the business strategy for it to be measurable and effective.

“Everyone in the organization should be able to clearly see that when employees are well and healthy, it reduces staff medical costs and absenteeism, and this in turn increases productivity and improves employee morale, and therefore results in higher returns on investment.”

Mr Mboweni also spoke about the Econet Employee League Games – held among the Econet Group of companies locally and regionally – and the Victoria Falls Marathon –  as parts of the company’s wellness programme that were popular with employees.

Those remarks came one month after Econet sponsored the Victoria Falls Marathon, a large event that has become a top calendar item with many people across boarders, attracting more than 2.500 athletes and fitness enthusiast from over 40 countries around the world.

The company sponsors any of its employees and their families wishing to participate in the marathon, which is now in its 11th year.

Econet is continuously investing in their staff wellness through such interventions as the SMI (Success Motivation International) course, which trains and equips staff with the knowledge they need to live healthy, fulfilled and productive lives all-round.

Mr Mboweni has walked the talk, now Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has integrated employee wellness into its business strategy and adopted employee wellness programmes across the group.

Mr Mboweni stressed that to succeed, employee wellness programmes must be collaborative and driven from the top. Therefore, it has emerged that Mr Mboweni and Econet have ‘walked the talk’ by creating a senior executive role to drive the implementation of employee wellness programmes across all its business functions.

Mr Lovemore Nyatsine, is the company’s new Chief Wellness Officer, said that the role was created to ensure maximum focus on the wellness programmes the company had already been running, and to ensure visibility at the right level for all wellness initiatives.

“I am excited at the opportunity to impact our people and our organization in the critical area of wellness through this role,” said Nyatsine

“We have been running a group-wide integrated model of employee wellness with staff welfare at its core, and have also been leveraging the programme to drive business growth and sustainability” said Nyatsine

“Now we are raising the bar, and ensuring we optimize and embed employee wellness in all that we do, for the benefit of our staff and for the good and wellbeing of our  business”, said the company’s new ‘wellness evangelist’.

Nyatsine said Econet’s employee wellness program recognised all the primary wellnes dimensions, which include physical, medical, sexual and reproductive health, financial, spiritual and occupational wellness.

He said contemporary employee wellness was both a virtue and a necessity as more and more organizations realised the need for wellness programmes to support their staff and to stay competitive.

“With the establishment of a 360 degree employee wellness programme, we have managed to successfully reinforce the recognition of our human resources as our most valuable business asset”, said Nyatsine, adding that at the centre of Econet’s wellness programme was the desire to create a culture that engages “the hearts, heads and hands of our employees”.

Meanwhile, Mboweni said that to succeed, employee wellness programmes needed to be collaborative and given management’s full attention.

“We decided to create a senior role that reports to me to oversee our employee wellness programme so that there is full accountability for its success and effectiveness” he said.

Nyatsine said Econet was already harnessing its innovation culture to tap into contemporary technology to manage employee health outcomes through proactive prevention and risk management, as well as integrating a ‘total health’ model into every aspect of business practice.

“We recently adopted ‘wearable technology’, a new frontier in global workplace wellness, which empowers the employees by placing the responsibility of health and wellness directly into their hands”.

Wearables are personal health and vital-signs-monitoring devices such as special wrist watches that individuals wear, often while exercising – or on a daily basis –  to help them measure and keep up with their vital signs such as blood pressure or heart rate in real time.

Nyatsine said the recognition that staff’s family lives are inextricably linked to their wellbeing and to the business’ performance, had led the company to successfully establish an open and supportive family culture.

“We run regular programmes that include, among others initiatives, popular family fun days, at which staff have the opportunity to bond and relate at the social and personal level outside the office, with their families and friends”, said Nyatsine.

Nyatsine said Econet had also adopted a collaborative approach to wellness by entering into strategic partnerships with select health service providers, to raise awareness of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and different forms of cancer. He saids staff across the group were encouraged to undergo voluntary screening for conditions such as high blood pressure (BP) and excessive blood glucose, among others.

To ensure the effective cascading of the programme across the business, and to adequtely address issues of diversity in its implementation, Nyatsine said the company had trained and deployed wellness champions from both genders, from different departments and across all age groups to help drive the wellness programme at functional level.

Mrs Emilia Chisango, a Chief Finance Officer at Econet and one of the wellness champions, said wellness went beyond just the absence of disease and stress.

“ For us, wellness is quite all-encompassing, including but not limited to physical fitness, social awareness and adjustment, spiritual wellbeing, intellectual growth and development, a balanced family life, emotional stability, occupational health and safety, and financial stability”.

Mrs Chisango – like many of the wellness champions –  is a passionate wellness and fitness enthusiast who exercises daily, has ran full marathons, and models wellness with a credible measure of authority.

“I try to live a balanced life; work hard, be there for my family, give back, stay fit and make sure I have fun in doing all that” said Mrs Chisango.

Nyatsine summed up the wellness programme by saying:

“The greatest technology we have  is the inspired staff who wake up every day with a desire to make a difference to our customers. This is why the wellness of our staff is a non-negotiable.”