Companies can engage consultants to organise health-promoting activities in the workplace.
Like business consultants, those who design workplace health promotion programmes to whip employees into shape can help firms raise productivity and profits. A healthy workforce leads to higher staff morale and lower absenteeism rates which, in turn, help a company retain its staff. The consultant first seeks to understand a company’s profile and its employees’ demographics to tailor programmes for their needs. He then gives advice and handles the logistics of the programmes, which may include anti-smoking drives and mental wellness workshops. The best part? His services can be funded by the Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) grant from the Health Promotion Board (HPB), which will be increased from $12,000 to $15,000 from April this year. The move, announced by Minister of State for Health Amy Khor last November, aims to double the proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with health programmes to 80 per cent by 2015.
In 2010, only 40 per cent were found to have such programmes in the Workplace Health Prevalence Survey. One oft-cited reason for doing without such programmes is the lack of budget, which HPB hopes to resolve with its grant. The grant has been used by some 180 SMEs since it was introduced in May 2009. One of them, 3HP Architects, has used the grant to cover its consultant’s annual fee of $1,200 in the last three years, said its chief executive, Mr Michael Wong. It found its consultant from a directory of service providers on the HPB’s website. The consultant organised a half-day captain’s ball session for about 35 employees in January last year, booking the court at East Coast Park and bringing in an instructor. Mr Wong said: “All we needed to do was to provide a date that was convenient for the staff to take time off from work. We do not have an employee to organise such events, so it’s helpful to have a consultant.”
Another SME, Just Education, which runs 19 tuition centres and has a publishing arm, started a workplace health promotion programme in 2007 and tapped on the grant in 2008 and 2010. It used the grant in 2010 to pay for half of the cost of health screening for its employees. Three in 10 of them – including teachers, operations and support staff who are mostly women – were found to have high cholesterol and 37 per cent were overweight.
Last December, Just Education hired a consultant to plan and run health initiatives so that its staff could avoid the “quite taxing” paperwork and logistics needed, said Mr Sean Chua, the company's chief operating officer. It hopes to pay the consultant using the grant awarded in 2010, which has not been fully utilised. The consultant has planned a mixture of dance and aerobics classes and has found instructors to run them, Mr Chua said. Nutrition workshops, to be conducted by an employee who practises bodybuilding and is knowledgeable about dieting, and by experts hired by the consultant, are also in the pipeline. Mr Chua said: “The consultant plans the budget in collaboration with us and saves us the hassle of finding people with the correct expertise to run the workshops.” The consultant’s job does not end with the implementation of a programme. He may be required to track the effectiveness of a programme and submit the results for the HPB’s Singapore Health (Helping Employees Achieve Life-Time Health) Awards.
This biennial award recognises organisations and individuals who have gone the extra mile in promoting workplace health.
To apply for this year’s grant (any time of the year) and for the award (between March 1 and April 30), visit www.hpb.gov.sg/healthatwork.