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Health and wellbeing programs in the NFP workplace

Is your staff being looked after?

As well as making staff members feel valued, health and wellbeing programs have a positive impact on workplace culture, and can also help organisations attract and keep quality employees.  

As well as helping ensure workers are healthy, these programs have the potential to also improve workplace culture by developing a closer alignment between employer and employee values, in turn increasing employee satisfaction levels. There is also evidence that a good employee health and wellbeing program boosts an organisation’s health too.

Research has found that healthy workers are more productive with fewer unplanned absences. An Australian study has found that the healthiest employees work about 143 effective hours a month compared to 49 by less healthy workers.

Chronic diseases in Australia are associated with one or more lifestyle-related risk factors:

> unhealthy eating

> physical inactivity

> alcohol

> smoking.

The workplace can contribute to some of these risk factors, for instance a sedentary work pattern and stress. Work-related stress is becoming increasingly problematic in Australia, with evidence of a 54 per cent increase in insurance claims related to workplace stress.

However, studies show that health and wellbeing programs offer employees real health benefits…

  • Interventions directed toward individual smokers to encourage them to stop increase the likelihood they will quit
  • Multi-component interventions addressing physical activity and/or nutrition can boost activity levels, promote healthy eating and help prevent obesity
  • Interventions targeting physical activity can help prevent musculoskeletal disorders such as lower-back pain
  • Measures addressing organisational culture can help improve musculoskeletal health
  • Interventions using a systematic or comprehensive approach can help control and even prevent job stress at an organisational level.

Protecting the health of workers is also becoming more critical as the workforce ages. There has been a consistent long-term trend in the Australian Public Service (APS) toward an older age profile, with a growing representation of workers 45 years and older.

Older workers are more likely to develop chronic diseases and disabilities, and may be more vulnerable to workplace accidents. As the workforce ages, health and wellbeing initiatives that support older workers can reduce their health risks and prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease and disability.

The key to developing a health and wellbeing framework, like any new program, is to consult widely with your workforce, as you need to ensure opportunities and activities are available for all employees.

This can be achieved by distributing a health and wellbeing survey, arranging discussion groups and reviewing your HR demographic data. Ensure these questions are included in your survey: do you smoke, are you overweight and how much physical activity do you do?

A complete annual health and wellbeing program will cost on average $800 an employee each year. Initiatives should include:

  1. Help to quit smoking
  2. Training programs
  3. Massage
  4. Nutrition and wellbeing seminars
  5. Teambuilding programs
  6. Skin checks
  7. Flu shots
  8. Alternative health programs such as iridology, reflexology and hypnosis (for weight loss)

Employees sponsored

For four years, a medium-sized NFP in Sydney has been sponsoring employees to enter a fun run (voluntarily). The program includes:

  • Eight weeks of group training
  • A personal nutritional program
  • A personal training program
  • The event entry fee.

In the latest instance, a group of 20 employees trained together one day a week for eight weeks. They then chose a charity and raised funds for it. The whole exercise cost $180 an employee for a total cost of $3600.

The result was a measurable increase in cross-department communication and employee engagement. On a personal level, the team members saw a combined weight loss of 45kg, increased energy levels and improved relationships with their colleagues. There was also zero absenteeism across the group during the program, and their attendance is still above the organisation’s average.

When developing a business case for your wellbeing program, focus on the return on investment. Here is the economic return for a workplace health program based on average programs:

  • sick-leave absenteeism down by 25.3 per cent
  • worker’s compensation costs chopped by 40.7 per cent
  • disability management costs cut by 24.2 per cent
  • $5.81 saved for every $1 invested.

As organisations continue to compete for talent and face the challenges of an aging workforce, the question is not if they can afford a health and wellbeing program, but if they can afford not to have one.

This article originally appeared in Third Sector’s March magazine- click here for more info.

Natalie Carrington, Principal, Blooming HR.

1 comment | click to view comment

Comment Manually



    April 18, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    While I recognise that some individuals benefit from workplace wellbeing programs like the fun run entry initiative you describe above, I think it’s important to remember that some employees already live healthy lifestyles and all they need or want from their employer is support to maintain that. Things like letting let them work hours that allow them to run before or after work, and arrive home with time to cook a nutritious dinner. This is just a pet gripe of mine, as a long-term runner with a generally healthy lifestyle. Nothing annoys me more than the pressure to join a work-based fitness or lifestyle group. Allow employees time to live complete lives, don’t subsume even more of their lives with unnecessary and inherently problematic “workplace wellbeing” programmes.

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