Dubai: It’s 7.30am on a Monday morning and Pankaj Jain, digital business manager at du, is warming up at the telecom operator’s in-house gym. He is all set for the regime drawn up for him by personal trainer Sean Crombie. It includes everything from squat jumps, bear crawls and push-ups to step-ups, vertical leg crunches and jumping jacks.
“It’s rigorous and I do it at least three times a week,” said Jain. “We work nine hours a day and can come in anytime between 7 and 9am. We factor about 35 to 40 minutes of gym time too. It’s so convenient to exercise at the office itself instead of having to go out.”
Like him, some 300 du employees regularly use the gym. “We offer a varied regime to keep people of different backgrounds motivated. We have something for everyone - circuit classes, running classes, yoga, weight loss competitions, etc,” said Regime Fitness manager Adam McGregor, adding that the gym membership is free.
Located on the sixth floor of the imposing 45-storey Du Tower in Dubai Media City, the gym and its adjoining swimming pool can compare with the city’s best fitness facilities. Their provision is part of a concerted effort by du to promote a healthier lifestyle amongs its 1,800 employees under a nationwide wellness programme.
“Unlike one-off, sporadic health campaigns and blood donation camps held elsewhere, du has a sustained year-round calendar of wellness activities,” said Dr Mansoor Anwar, du’s director of medical and occupational health, an Emirati physician who has been specially recruited to take the wellness programme forward.
From helping employees to cope with lifestyle diseases, stress and issues with line managers to assessing absenteeism, planning their phased returns after prolonged illness and maintaining their electronic medical records, Dr Anwar covers a wide range of functions. “The aim is to optimise employee health and personal wellness. Improved employee health is linked with increased engagement and productivity. It checks absenteeism and results in better retention. The idea is to give employees tools to get healthier so they can excel both in and out of the workplace,” he said.
Any employee who visits the walk-in clinic enjoys the benefit of a full-fledged consultation with Dr Anwar. “We are eligible to prescribe investigations and medications. We also have a pharmacy tie-up and get the medicines delivered to the employees at their desks. We currently have two clinics - one at Media City and the other at Academic City.”
He said last year du rebranded its wellness plan exclusively for senior executives and link their wellness with performance. “We made it a mandate that every top executive (vice-president and above) has a wellness plan. Their weight-related and other parameters are assessed at the beginning of the year. Accordingly, we set targets for them. Their ability to meet the targets is factored in their performance.”
Dr Anwar said the response to weight loss competitions, open to all employees, has been overwhelming.
“We’ve had two seasons of ‘The Biggest Winner’ competitions so far. The first held in October 2013 attracted 225 participants while the second launched in June this year saw more than 270 participants.”
Susan George who along with Pankaj Jain and five others emerged as the winning team, said: “The focus was to lose body fat. We were able to lose a total of 33.5 per cent body fat because we were consistent at the gym. I concentrated on exercising and eating right,” said the supply chain products senior manager.
Collection department team leader Lubna Hussain, an individual category winner, said regular gymming, aerobics and a healthy diet did the trick for her. “My managers were supportive and kept me motivated. They would check if I had hidden any chocolates on my desk. They also made sure I had no birthday cake.”
e-business manager Waleed El Shennawy, another individual winner, who lost five kg said: “I want to shed another 10 kg. I have started avoiding colas, chocolates and ice-cream.”
Helping matters has been the introduction of healthy food vending machines on du office floors. Employees are also encouraged to take part in football matches, marathon runs, global corporate challenges and other events. Dr Anwar said campaigns on diabetes, heart health, smoking, vaccinations, etc, are a regular feature on du’s wellness calendar. Employees can also use mobile apps to track their progress.
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