Greatest problem in workplace now is presenteeism, not absenteeism —Arinola Adeniyi

Ms Arinola Adeniyi, the Chief Executive Officer of Venivici Health Club (Sanctuary of Wellness), left the banking hall for a career in healthy living, and in this interview with YEMISI AOFOLAJU, she speaks on why she took that great decision when everything was going on well for her in the banking sector, while also highlighting why Nigerians now have a lower life expectancy. EXCERPTS

How do you mean with Venivici?

Venivici Health Club and Urban Spa focuses on preventive health as well as beauty enhancement. Spa has been in existence for thousands of years and they would not have withstood the test of time without proven results. Spa is not new, though when I started this business, there was nobody out there called spa. So in everything that we do, we look for the result and that is the essence of the centre. The word Venivici means ‘I came and I conquered’. It is an Italian/Roman language. It was purposely named through generation because I worked with a consultant from day one before I started the business. Looking into the history of spa, it was the Italians that started it. We wanted a link to the culture, history and the efficacy of spa and that’s why we named the centre Venivici, because you will never leave the same way you came in.


You came from the banking industry, how come you arrived at healthy living?

This arose out of a personal need. There is much to life than just having a career, climbing up a corporate ladder, which most of us do when we joined the workforce; young on high heels going to high places and neglecting the other aspect of life. At the point I became a management staff, I realised I didn’t have work life balance. The truth is, there are three dimensional beings, the body, soul and spirit. If your body is not sound, it affects the way you think; there has to be a balance. I later realised while I was still in the bank that every time I did a massage or took one hour out to relax, there was a difference. It was in the process of trying to take care of my body that I developed the vision because we push our bodies so much, it is the only one we have to live till we take our last breath. If you do not take care of it, it won’t serve you well. We have servicing times for everything, but not our body. The mortality rate in Nigeria has been put at 52 years by World Health Organisation, while our parents and grand-parents lived to their 90s and above 100 years without slumping or getting down with stroke. People are burnt out by the modern daily syndrome. 24hours is not even enough for a lot of people to catch up targets from their bosses, especially women who need to please their in-laws, take care of the home, children school runs, among other daily routines. The bug applies to both sexes, where we are doing too much in too little a time. Everybody is in a hurry, the stress level is too much and I realised that every time I did  this, I felt better and it was usually when on vacation, something that is supposed to be an everyday thing. The truth of life is all about balance, There is massive distraction everywhere. The mind is not aligned to where it is going as a result of technology. From history of spa, in some European countries then, it was taken as part of the medical treatment for people to get restored, calm, renewed, refreshed, happy and more productive. Our life styles are sedentary.


Venivici sounds elitist, how affordable is it for an average Nigerian to be a member of the club?  

It is not elitist. If you place a huge value on yourself, you would take care of yourself and create time for yourself. Because right now, life is being run as emergency services, catching up with one appointment, hopping up and down the plane. The weekend is more dramatic with all sorts of ceremonies and church activities. There is always something to do. Once we are not balanced, we begin to make mistakes. All these bottling up result in stress that builds up inside of us, which makes us to yell at the first person who meets with us having been in traffic for hours. Then some of us wouldn’t want to take vacation because we want to convert it to cash but you need time for yourself that is all I am preaching.


How do you go about disseminating this information?

Always ask yourself on a daily basis ‘what’s my value quotient? What’s the quality of my life? The easiest way to spread this gospel of wellness is by adhering strictly to these five  takeaways: make sure you drink enough water daily(hydration), get to exercise-  the body is made to move, avoid stress as much as you can, eat as close to nature as you can(nutrition), create time for yourself- remember that you are somebody, you have value, work value quotient and believe in yourself.

We need to increase our life expectancy. In Japan, the life expectancy is 90 plus, in China it is 89, in some of the European countries it is 87, 88; so why is ours 52? Now it is a passion, I have done this for 17 years  and I’ve seen the efficacy of holistic lifestyle; it is not about make-up, it is for all of us.


How daunting are the challenges in the Spa business?

For me, every challenge is a stepping stone to the next level, because what you focus on becomes what you get. Initially when I came, it was like a whiteman business in Nigeria, so people were not even listening. So why do the whiteman think it is important to have a work life balance? Medical bill will reduce, while productivity increases. What we have in Nigeria now is more of presenteeism and not absenteeism; presenteeism people are present, but are not productive. You are just present, but not producing anything; so studies have shown that the greatest problem in the work place now is presenteeism not absenteeism. Organisations have to start thinking and stay on the preventive side of things.  It is all about choices, you need to take control of your health in your hands. And even World Health Organisation has defined health not as the absence of disease, but the multi-dimensional state of your physical, emotional and mental well-being.


What is your opinion on emphasis of entrepreneurship in higher institutions?

Entrepreneurship, to me, is a welcome idea because there is so much unemployment in the country. We can no longer afford to get out of school to join the queue for white-collar jobs. In those days, skilled workers, even those abroad earned more than the people who sit in the offices, like a plumber will charge you per hour in England or in America. It is a deliberate choice not to look down on people who are skilled workers, because then we had skills acquisition, where the trainee learnt from a successful master. Talking of entrepreneurship now is to be self sustaining, which didn’t happen when we went to the university.  So getting them off the wrong side of life equally helps them towards paying their fees.

Have you any memorable time when you were in the banking industry that you cherish till date?

I don’t believe in living in the past; you can never have a better yesterday, since the path of the righteous shines brighter, brighter and brighter. If you are looking in the review mirror, you need to be moving forward. My banking years were fantastic; they were good. I was very young, I graduated before I was 21 and I always knew I wanted to be a banker, and by the time I got there I said was going to become a bank MD, so with my MBA and Economics, I went straight ahead into the banking examinations. I enjoyed the banking world while I was there, but I did not sit down to say ‘oh I should not have left’. I wish I had left earlier than I did. All I saw when I left was the results people would benefit from,  that there is a place for peace in their lives.


What informed that decision of yours?

There is a difference between ambition and vision. Vision is inspired spiritually, but ambition was to be a bank MD, but the vision is to help other people appreciate that they have to make choices to live well, live long, live better and enjoy life.


Your guiding philosophy

There is no impossibility in my dictionary. I am guided by excellence, discipline and can-do spirit.


How will you define a total woman?

A total woman is one who has found her purpose and is able to live a balanced life, because we all must live purposefully. Are you achieving purpose? Life is all about choices and a wise man said every day we do one of two things, either produce disease in yourself or health, so it’s a choice. I can choose to drink a bottle of water or ask for a fizzy drink or eat vegetables or junk! Regimen is superior to medicine. We all have to begin to develop a regimen that works for us.


How stylish are you?

I dress fit for purpose. I dress to fit the occasion. It is not about styles; it’s about being comfortable with what you do and not overboard with everything, everything in moderation.

and a wise man said every day we do one of two things, either produce disease in yourself or health, so it’s a choice. I can choose to drink a bottle of water or ask for a fizzy drink or eat vegetables or junk! Regimen is superior to medicine. We all have to begin to develop a regimen that works for us.


How stylish are you?

I dress fit for purpose. I dress to fit the occasion. It is not about styles; it is about being comfortable with what you do and not overboard with everything, everything in moderation.


How will you describe your growing up years?

It was fantastic, easy smooth ride. May be in our own days it was different, I came from a very strict background and upbringing, so I am happy. You know then the family unit was quite tight, compact. I didn’t have to fend for myself even up till university. I see that I had a privileged background.


What do you think is missing in homes these days?

You know in those days your mother would look at you, before you went out. You just didn’t take things from anybody, one look then made us sat up and behave. But now, kids are not complying.  Is it technology or modernisation to be blamed? In those days, just a look tells you that you needed to be back in shape and then even with our teachers, Ha! Mummy chill, chill to where? I think it is just a different dispensation because kids are probably closer to their parents and a lot of barriers and boundaries have been broken down now.


What do you think can be done to bring about sanity?

To yourself be true, I believe each family unit should go back. Because working with younger girls now I found out that most of them don’t even know what is right. I now see parents coming to say ‘thank you, we’ve seen a change’.


How do you strike the balance between your career, home and social life?

It is a conscious effort; you need to prioritise which is more important to you. I work on Saturdays for instance, so if it is not really family-oriented or I can’t do without it, you can’t find me at a social function. Saturday is a full working day for me. I can’t honour all invitations because I also need to honour the invitation of the people that I need to consult for.


Who is your model?

God is my role model or anybody who has shaped or informed my thinking or anybody who has gone ahead and succeeded in their calling.


How do you relax?

I purposely create my own mid-term, so I don’t reach burn out. I exercise every morning. I have two doctors -my left leg and my right leg, every morning I wake up, I lace up my shoes and go for a walk.


Your word for the woman out there who appears to be suffering from depression

The most important thing is to be balanced. I counsel a lot of married people. There is not much of such support in Nigeria apart from what some churches try to do for singles. It is about being able to understand that you need to be happy because as women, we are carrying so many other people, so you need to be strong, no two marriages are the same; you need to understand the peculiarities. Every woman must find her purpose. Your purpose might just be to be a great homemaker; once people find their purpose, it is easier to live with other people. The woman must be happy in body, soul and spirit. The body heals with play, the mind heals with music and the soul heals with spirituality; never allow others put you down or define you.


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