All too often, good infrastructure goes unnoticed. This is probably one of the reasons why few South Africans know and understand the country’s Central Securities Depository, Strate, however, without it, investors would shy away from South Africa.
Prior to the implementation of Strate in 1999, SA was categorised as one of the worst emerging markets in terms of operational and settlement risk. Trading volumes on the stock exchange were averaging 4,000 trades daily, very thin when this is compared to the 350 000 on average during a month today.
It may be one small step for man, or employee, but it’s a giant leap for employee wellness. South African central securities depository, Strate, has incorporated a “work while you walk” approach to its daily routine. Not only has the company purchased two In-Movement Treadmill desks, more employees are incorporating standing and walking into their daily work routines, and have opted to replace their office chairs with stability balls, which are known for the related improved health, posture and strength.
The Central Securities Depository already has a number of initiatives underway, which range from its corporate wellness day to financial fitness workshops. But since its CEO, Monica Singer, discovered the innovative ergonomic treadmill, she personally bought one for herself. She instantly felt energized because her serotonin levels were up at work, she was relieving stress and meeting her daily Discovery Vitality fitness goals. She wanted staff to have the same experience, which is why she invested in another machine to be used by staff as well and has promoted the use of standing desks.
“We live in the age of technology, whether it’s owning a smart phone that allows you to monitor your health, or a smart watch that tracks your eating and sleeping habits, or apps that combine that data to help you achieve your fitness goals. Many people have to exercise after work to achieve their desired fitness, but this In-Movement Treadmill allows them to work out and work on their computer at the same time,” explains Singer. “It’s also about more than just ensuring that employees are well enough to be at work, it’s about employees’ physical and mental health, their social, financial and spiritual wellbeing.”
One cannot address wellness and ignore the importance of physical activity. It is vital that employees are encouraged to be physically active. This may be through an office gym, something not all businesses can afford, or through an office sports team – which increases the solidarity between employees. Strate already sponsors its corporate soccer and cricket teams, as well as cycling and running initiatives for employees.
According to Statistics South Africa, absenteeism costs the country’s economy between R12bn and R16bn each year. These statistics also show that on any given day, over 15% of staff could be absent. They also believe that two out of three employees who fail to show up at the office are not physically ill – but are rather battling to cope or are unhappy at work. Absenteeism is possibly the single most expensive problem affecting organisations locally and internationally, so it’s worth investing in a solution that works, and which is one that fits the culture of your work environment.
From work-life balance, to providing employees with an annual training budget to better improve their knowledge and skills, Strate aims to be an employer of choice.
Singer ensures that Strate takes their employees’ wellness seriously through annual work with ICAS (Independent Counselling and Advisory Services), a health and wellbeing service that provides them with access to a 24-hour, 365 day-per-year toll-free helpline for counselling and consultation, and other services.
Strate regularly hosts financial wellness workshops for its employees to educate employees to better manage their finances and reduce some of the stress caused by their financial burdens. A recent PwC survey found that personal finance issues distract 20% of employees at work. “These workshops make a huge difference in terms of ensuring that employees aren’t distracted and have the necessary tools at their disposal to obtain and maintain their financial wellness”, says Singer.
One thing that many companies overlook when thinking about employee wellness is the beauty of the environment in which employees work. “Aesthetics are important too, because you want to create a welcoming environment that employees look forward to going to every morning. This can be done through natural light, the display of colourful artwork, or having fresh flowers around various areas of the office”, says Singer.
“Employers must move beyond health assessment to-do lists to a culture-driven and relationship building approach in order to ensure everyone who works at their organisation is healthy and able to reach their full potential in their career”, concludes Singer.
Strate has celebrated its tenth year of participating in the Deloitte Best Company To Work For Survey, a competition in which it has always excelled, consistently achieving top results and acknowledged as one of the Standard of Excellence Achievers.
During 2013, it was voted second in the survey’s small company size category for both South Africa as well as the southern African region.
Monica Singer says that employee satisfaction drives a high performance culture and sustainable results. “Strate’s staff enjoy coming to work every day where we drive a family culture with strong business values and ethics. It motivates everyone to work together to serve the financial markets and we enjoy what we do.”
The Deloitte Best Company To Work For survey has become widely recognised as a great insight into the overall employment experience of employees in participating companies. The survey uses an empirically researched and validated process, giving companies a unique opportunity to understand how they perform in terms of employees’ needs and expectations.
Singer says that there has been a culture created within Strate that looks at personal growth and development, encouraging staff to do more and be great by learning and studying further. “While Strate has approximately 120 employees, we’re certainly a family that come together each day to look at how we can give something back to the market through our services, to our clients through our relationships and to our communities, through our initiatives,” adds Singer.
The Best Company To Work For survey has been conducted annually by Deloitte since 2000. It identifies and celebrates companies across southern Africa that have been rated by their employees. In this survey, Strate was rated on a number of dimensions, such as job satisfaction, management style, leadership, values and culture, training and development, HR policies and procedures, change management, diversity and transformation, performance management, recognition, reward and innovation.
In the 2013 Survey, The Unlimited was ranked first while The MSA Group was third within the Small Company Size Category for both South Africa as well as the Southern African region.
Strate congratulates all winners and participants that took place in the survey.
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