Getting workers fit and healthy is good for business, bosses told

Sedentary lifestyles are unhealthy and could lead to sickness and absenteeism, says the president of a trade association. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two business groups have highlighted the need for companies to encourage a healthier lifestyle among their employees, after a recent survey showed that more than half of Malaysians are overweight or obese.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (Samenta) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said employers should help to keep their staff fit as numerous studies have indicated that a healthy workplace tends to be more productive.

According to a recent survey by the health ministry, more than half of Malaysians are overweight or obese, with the majority living an unhealthy lifestyle.

The survey found that the percentage of overweight or obese adults rose alarmingly from 9.1% in 2011 to 54.5% in 2023.

Samenta president William Ng said that employers have several options when looking to encourage physical activity and cultivate healthier eating habits among employees.

“There are free apps to help track employees’ movement and activity. This can be used to then reward and recognise employees who are most active,” he said.

“It would be helpful if companies could encourage their employees to eat healthily. One way to do so is to provide healthy lunches or vouchers so employees get to try out and understand the benefits of healthier meals.

“At the same time, employers can consider rewarding employees for keeping to their ideal weight or BMI (body mass index).”

Ng said sedentary lifestyles are unhealthy and could lead to sickness and absenteeism, resulting in lost productivity for businesses.

MEF president Syed Hussain Syed Husman said employers should help encourage their employees to reach the health ministry’s recommended goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. He said this would improve a person’s health and mood, which can lead to better productivity.

He said that introducing short breaks at work while sitting and standing would ease and improve body posture and will benefit employees in the long run.

“As for sedentary work, it is recommended that employees should break from static posture every 30 minutes. Conducting stretching and physical movement would be a great idea,” said Syed Hussain.

“Many companies have planned staff outing events and activities. Some are organised by the staff and some are company events. All of these activities create healthy lifestyles.”

He also noted how some companies have sports or recreational activities as part of their company programmes, with some company-sponsored sports clubs also offering such activities.

Syed Hussain said an MEF survey last year found that 19% of businesses provided healthier foods in workplace cafeterias and vending machines, with some subsidising healthy food and getting rid of unhealthy food at the workplace.


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