Healthy Workplaces

by Kerith Culley

Building a culture in the workplace where employees are supported with their health needs leads to greater productivity and decreased absenteeism. As a leader, manager, or business owner, we need to understand how we can promote wellbeing for the physical and mental health of our workforce.

About 50% of Australians are living with chronic disease and 63% of adults are now considered overweight or obese according to the latest report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Couple this with one in five Australian employees likely to be living with a mental health condition, this equates to time lost annually through stress, ill health, and potentially leads to workplace incidents.

Early intervention to build a culture to manage stress, promote wellness at work, and identify potentially issues to avoid is recommended. Pre-Employment medicals can identify health concerns that may flag to an individual that they need to address underlying health concerns such as high blood pressure or decreased physical fitness. Workplace education on manual handling techniques, ergonomics, and how to incorporate appropriate movement into your day can prevent back, neck and other musculoskeletal issues, and contribute positively to a self-management culture.

Setting an action plan to promote good mental health at work is another facet of the workplace health plan. Heads up has a wealth of constructive tips to increase awareness and reduce stigma. Beyond Blue found that a healthy workplace culture is where mental health and wellbeing is taken seriously, and managers are supportive. Mental health programs such as Employee Assistance Program counselling being available to employees, workshops on managing stress, traversing life’s issues, and drug and alcohol awareness training, establish an open workplace where differences are respected.

It makes good business sense to create a culture of being an employer of choice where all employees are valued and respected.