Workplace wellbeing programs are on the rise in Australia, particularly as people are working harder and longer and the interrelationship between the home and workplace environments is more apparent than ever, with home and family stress feeding off and reinforcing work produced stress.
Worksafe's Vicki McCarthy says that research has found chronic health issues are also impacting negatively in the workplace. “Given that most adults spend a significant part of their life at work, it is fair to say that their work-life balance can be affected and, particularly amongst those in sedentary jobs, we often see an increase in chronic injuries and illnesses,” says Ms McCarthy.
In an attempt to combat these work-related health problems, many employers in Australia are offering workplace wellbeing programs to improve productivity and performance, and help employees deal with stress and fatigue at work.
It is argued that workplace wellbeing programs serve two purposes:
- They are of benefit to workers as they target their health and wellbeing. Employees participating in workplace wellbeing programs have more energy, feel healthier and happier, put more emphasis on attaining a work-life balance, experience greater camaraderie with co-workers and feel as though they had a greater support system.
- At the same time workplace wellbeing programs are benefiting Australian employers, by assisting to increase productivity and assisting to improve morale and worker retention. Proven benefits include fewer employee sick days, decreased employee turnover, improved employee satisfaction and reduced workers’ compensation costs.
Workplace wellbeing programs can range from the basic offering, which may include apps and wellbeing information, detailed health assessments, wellness seminars, pilates, meditation, tai chi, and yoga classes.
Regardless of the size of the company and the range of benefits an employer can offer, it is important to recognise that even the most basic wellbeing program offering can have a positive impact on your workers and your workplace.
In the United States, where health insurance for staff is often paid for by employers, the push to identify workplace wellness initiatives that deliver results is more established than in Australia.
A 2015 report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the best corporate wellbeing programs addressed both the individual risk factors affecting employees' health, and the organisational factors that helped or hindered employees' efforts to reduce those risks.
It found the strongest programs created a culture of health, intertwining individual health promotion efforts with the overall company goals and objectives. The best programs were also created in consultation with staff, so they were invested in the idea and more likely to participate.