JUGGLING work and life is difficult. With the movement control order, this has only worsened as many continue to work from home.
Although achieving work-life balance is challenging, the key is to prioritise and optimise.
To create greater awareness, Star Media Group organised live online forums on July 14 and 15, with various experts speaking on “Work-life Wellness in the 21st Century”.
Health aspects and good sleep
Social Security Organisation (Socso) prevention, medical and rehabilitation head Dr Azlan Darus opened the forum by stating that the number of people, below the age of 60, who were unable to work had doubled in the last decade due to health factors such as stroke, heart failure, kidney diseases and cancer.
“From 10,769 in 2009 to around 24,000 last year, on average, about 46 employees leave the workforce daily due to non-communicable diseases, higher than the number of people who are unable to work because of death, workplace injury or Covid-19, ” he pointed out.
Azlan said statistics also showed the poor state of health of employees over the age of 40.
“About 72% are either overweight or obese, 27% have hypertension, 9% are diabetic and 62% have high cholesterol.
“Also alarming is that 69% have never gone for health screening, ” he said.
The session was followed by Prince Court Medical Centre ENT consultant and medical director Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh, who touched on the importance of getting seven to eight hours of good quality sleep daily.
He urged people to focus on nasal breathing, which was very beneficial, to practise consistent sleeping times and eating light at night.
“Good sleep reduces diabetic risk, improves emotional and social interaction, less calories intake, better immune function, improves concentration and productivity, lowers risk of heart diseases and stroke, as well as reduces depression and inflammation.
“Those in athletics will also see an improvement in their performance, ” he said.
Work-life optimisation is possible
The first day concluded with a panel discussion on “Pursuit of Work-Life Optimisation”.
The panellists were Mindvalley people and culture head Marta Kondryn, Permodalan Nasional Berhad chief people and culture officer Norlida Azmi and Philip Morris Malaysia people and culture director Chinmay Sharma.
Kondryn said working from home had increased productivity.
“The pandemic has redefined how we do things and our typical work day has increased by two to three hours.
“Many are working twice as hard at home. Many tasks require double the effort due to the lack of physical presence.
“So, organisations can help set work boundaries.
“Work should be measured by outcomes and not the number of working hours, ” she said.
Norlida suggested a more integrated programme to drive engagement and productivity.
“Besides infrastructure, as the demographics of the workplace changes, employers have to be very cognisant of putting programmes that address different segments of the workplace and to have more holistic and integrated total well-being programmes.
“That will really drive productivity because the staff would feel the organisation cares about them, and so they will want to give back, ” she explained.
Chinmay said the fact that leaders went through this experience first-hand changed a lot of the paradigm.
He said there was no major productivity loss at his organisation despite 70% of the workforce being at home.
“Scepticism around work from home went away and the whole sense of empathy was much higher as everyone was locked at home and having the same challenges as everyone else.
“That has created a paradigm shift on how companies are looking at the future of work or ‘smart work’, ” he said.
Digital health and work-from-home success
On the second day, DoctorOnCall co-founder Hazwan Najib spoke on the topic of “Sustainable Employee Healthcare Benefits: Exploring the Impossible Through Digital Health”.
Hazwan said medical costs were rising and the focus should be on health outcomes for long-term sustainability.
He advised employees to prioritise preventive measures such as detecting early symptoms, quick access to healthcare and full access to every staff member’s health profile and history for doctors to better understand the patient.
“I believe in the future world of technology and connectivity, we can enable this for all employees, to prevent problems and troubles in 20 to 30 years, ” he said,
WOBB founder and chief executive officer Derek Toh shared tips on succeeding in the post-movement control order working environment.
Toh said it was vital to build trust, be productive and be seen as productive while working from home.
He suggested a short daily morning “huddle” with team members to kick off the work day by recapping tasks completed the day before and challenges faced, as well as share the work for the day.
“Staff must be disciplined to be actively working, accessible and accountable during office hours.
“An open calendar will help keep everyone informed of each other’s availability, too.
“Replicate the office environment as much as you can, including much communication, ideally through video calls to make up for the lack of physical presence, ” he said.
Other speakers were KZ Events director Kevin Zahri, who shared on why employees were overweight, and TDCX human resources executive vice-president Lim Chee Gay, who spoke on achieving happiness through mental and emotional balance.
Mental wellness and smart healthcare
The second day stressed on the importance of mental and emotional wellness as well.
Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) consultant psychiatrist and president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj talked about mental and emotional disturbances among working adults.
He said commonly reported work-related stress were harassment and bullying.
“Creating a healthy workplace is not very complicated.
“Three main factors employers should consider are protecting good mental health by reducing work-related risk factors, promoting mental health by developing positive aspects of work and harnessing the strengths of employees, and addressing pre-existing mental health issues, ” he said.
On the effects of emotional exhaustion or “burnout”, Dr Andrew said, “Symptoms to look out for include reducing efficiency and energy, demotivation and increase in mistakes.
“Some staff may self-medicate by unhealthy intake of alcohol or other substances such as tobacco to help cope.
“If left unaddressed, the staff may end up suffering from full-fledged clinical depression, affected physical health, prone to risk of motor vehicle accidents, and breakdown in communication not only with colleagues but also with friends and family, ” he added.
The second day concluded with a panel discussion on online and offline doctors, moderated by Sunway University’s Dr Lau Sian Lun.
The panellists were KMI Healthcare chief executive officer Dr Rayney Azmi Ali, Monash University Malaysia clinical associate professor and consultant urologist Dr George Lee and Walnut Wellness chief executive officer Khor Xin Yun.
Dr Rayney said online doctors were a component in the development of smart healthcare, which was an inevitable evolution in the industry.
To Lau’s question if offline doctors would survive, Dr Rayney said yes and cited that medicine was a combination of science and art.
“Science is the technology and art is the human touch. While you can teach a computer to interpret symptoms, it will not be able to replace the human touch in a diagnosis, ” he said.
For Dr Rayney, online doctors are not only confined to being online.
He also addressed the challenge of making people adapt to changes and technology in the next five years.
The two-day forum was a collaboration with gold partner DoctorOnCall and strategic partner MMHA while supported by Socso, eLearningMinds and Cisco Webex.