Social ills can threaten business and farming communities, but help is at hand:
Businesses and the communities they operate in are interdependent, as the economic health of an area has a profound impact on the people and social fabric of the region. Where the social fabric of a community is compromised, the associated social ills that arise tend to negatively impact back on the bottom line of businesses that draw their workforce from troubled communities.
“The economy of an area and the community’s health directly influence each other. Financial strains cause high stress levels among members of the public, and the effects of this can manifest in a number of ways,” says Lizette Bester, Executive at Agility Corporate, an employee risk management company.
“Poverty leads to hunger, and the prospect of hunger leads people to despair. Seeing your family faced with possible starvation, or being unable to afford household necessities, naturally makes people desperate. Poverty and deprivation are not easy to shake off, since seeking work comes with a number of expenses including transport costs, for example.
“Feelings of hopelessness about their prospects is extremely stressful for anyone, and people react to this in different ways. Some may take their frustrations out on members of their families in the form of domestic abuse, others may find solace in alcohol or drug addiction which often leads to violence and other forms of criminality.
“Furthermore, otherwise law-abiding individuals may resort to crime when they find themselves in dire straits in order to provide for their families. As social fabric erodes in a community, businesses are not immune from these troubles and may face a plethora of negative consequences,” Bester adds.
The close-knit nature of many farming communities can provide some protection against social ills, as individuals tend to be more supportive of one another than in large urban centres. However, this social support can only stretch so far, and beyond a certain point the community’s shared troubles result in increased burdens for individuals in that society.
“Workers, even though they are gainfully employed, often face increased stress as they struggle to provide for their families – particularly when other family members have been retrenched and the individual employee finds themselves the sole breadwinner.
“In addition, if the worker’s family cannot make ends meet, there are often health consequences stemming not only from inadequate nutrition but also from the stress associated with poverty.”
“Small and medium enterprises, of which there are many in the agricultural sector, feel the burden of employees on sick leave, or who are not giving their all, more acutely than large corporations do and this can have significant consequences for a company’s bottom line.
According to Bester, the business community in areas afflicted with social ills can make a collective difference if they carefully target the root problems of social decay. If each company can make small changes that will contribute to all-round employee wellness, in its truest sense, this improves productivity.
“Where productivity improves, businesses reap the rewards and this is reflected in companies’ bottom lines. Ultimately, this has the effect of swelling the prosperity of the region and rebuilding communities,” Bester explains.
“This is because employers contribute to the wellbeing of the community through providing employment. Where a company’s competitiveness and profitability is enhanced, job security is improved and there is room for employment growth. Although this is no quick fix, it can provide sustainable solutions for the socio-economic health of communities and reduce the incidence of social ills, such as crime and substance abuse.”
“We know that employees who feel valued and engaged tend not only to have better productivity levels, but frequently demonstrate a more proactive and innovative approach to their work, which can have unexpected benefits for employers,” she notes.
“When we look at some of the main factors affecting the productivity of individual workers, themes of ill health and poor management of chronic disease; substance abuse and emotional problems, including financial stress, are recurrent problems.”
There are numerous ways that employers, particularly those in small and medium enterprises, can demonstrate to their workers that they are valued. “One simple means of conveying this is through recognising individual contributions to organisational goals and praising staff for positive productivity.”
“Many smaller enterprises are under the misapprehension that they are ‘too small’ to be in a position to provide medical cover for their workers. Investing in the health of staff members, however, can improve productivity as it demonstrates employer commitment to them. This has such positive impact on morale and wellbeing that the benefits can far outweigh the monetary costs.
“By choosing an integrated solution to suit your company’s health, wellbeing and financial services needs – irrespective of the nature or size of your organisation, you can provide your workforce, from blue collar employees to executives, with access to a network of healthcare providers at affordable rates. This is not limited to medical scheme cover and can also include advanced chronic illness management programme, dentistry, optometry, as well as emotional and financial wellbeing services for low-income employees, thereby ensuring that occupational health goals are met.”
At a nominal cost, employers can include additional income replacement, disability and funeral cover benefits for their low income employees, thereby ensuring every eventuality is provided for.
“Such a cohesive risk management approach has the effect of meaningfully reducing absenteeism, increasing productivity and improving employee wellbeing, which not only has benefits for your company’s bottom line and growth potential, but also provides the foundation for sustainable community upliftment and social development,” Bester concluded.
Source: Port Elizabeth – MyPR.
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