16 Jan
2018

Old Mutual Corporate Disability Monitor reveals how poor lifestyle and stress causes disease


 

Workplace stress can cause an increase in corporate disability claims.

The digital revolution is shaping the way we work and live by driving innovation in the workplace but can also put a strain on our health at the same time.

“While this modern world of work is opening up amazing possibilities, it has also brought a new set of challenges and health risks,” says Clement Chinaka, MD of Old Mutual Corporate. “Living in an always-on culture, we have become physically disconnected from each other and emotionally disconnected from ourselves. We’re less aware of our own physical and emotional needs or just too busy to pay them any attention.”

Chinaka commented on the Corporate Disability Monitor research, which surveyed disability trends in South Africa and the contributing factors.

42% of corporate entities said that employee enquiries about disability cover increased and 43% of all respondents reported that the nature of disability claims had changed. “Following the digital revolution, it appears that the focus of workplace health issues has shifted from physical injuries to stress-related and psychological problems,” says Chinaka.

One of the most notable health risks and primary cause of disability claims, is because of a poor lifestyle (70%) which includes:

• Poor diet
• Lack of exercise
• Drinking
• Smoking
• Substance abuse and obesity
• General stress

Further, 70% of respondents said the economy impacted on the number of disability claims. In addition, 41% of respondents believed that financial stress led to stress, which results physical problems. “A limping economy and being over-indebted causes anxiety and contributes to employees’ inability to cope. The tough economic climate is also causing many employees to worry about jobs losses and retrenchments (38%),” says Chinaka.

workplace-stress

Inactivity is also a key risk, says Chinaka. “With people spending more time sitting at desks, in cars and hunched over smartphones and tablets, respondents see that musculoskeletal problems are on the increase.”

Inactivity risks are causing disability claims to increase. Disabilities have increased:

• 71% psychological disorders
• 70% cancer
• 24% musculoskeletal issues
• 16% cardiovascular illness
• 13% HIV
• 5% physical workplace injuries has increased

Respondents future predictions of the biggest health risks in the next three years:

• 64% psychological
• 54% cancer
• 34% cardiovascular disorders

The importance and emphasis on preventative care is clear within the corporate world if disability claims and costs need to be managed.

“Although many corporates don’t realise it, disability in the workplace is costly and employee disability claims have a significant impact on the bottom line. Top performers could be most at risk and corporates can suffer significant skills losses when these individuals become unable to work. Other challenges corporates face include the cost and difficulty of replacing employees.”

When asked whether corporates are aware of their ‘duty to accommodate’ and reintegrate staff with disabilities back into the workplace (Labour Relations Act), 93% said yes but 50% of respondents said finding suitable alternative work is one of the biggest challenges. While corporates are aware of this duty, very few have the resources to do so.

no-stress-success

Chinaka says that more corporates are realising that the best way to manage disability claims is to be more proactive and preventing employee claims in the first place. “Positively, the research showed that 80% of corporates say they are proactively getting involved if they see a potential disability claim and 70% of them say they have an absenteeism management programme in place.”

79% of corporates have wellness programmes in place but these often tend to have a short-term physical or medical focus rather than a long-term approach. The world of work has changed with a long-term view becoming more critical.

Disability cover also needs to be refined constantly to stay relevant and sustainable going forward, Chinaka adds. “The most impactful way to keep disability cover premiums more affordable is to focus on prevention and rehabilitation so that those who are disabled can return to work sooner.”

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