Imagine if one quarter of your workforce was suddenly unable to perform in their roles due to illness. Would your business cope?
Absenteeism due to injury and illness costs the Australian economy and employers millions of dollars every year.
Yet what we’re learning from a range of research, including WorkSafe Victoria’s WorkHealth program, is that employers who support the health and wellbeing of their workers can influence crucial areas like productivity, absenteeism, morale, retention and safety.
Strategy for staff
The WorkHealth program, available to workplaces and workers in Victoria, involves free 15-minute WorkHealth checks, which help workers understand the health risks associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Details can be found at workhealth.vic.gov.au
One in four participants in the WorkHealth checks program had a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes – a life-threatening yet preventable disease.
Those found to be at risk of these chronic diseases can access support through the WorkHealth Coach program.
This program also helps workplaces offer health and wellbeing activities by providing grant funding and free resources.
To date, more than 680,000 Victorian workers have participated in a voluntary WorkHealth check, and more than 30,000 workplaces are engaged with the program.
In particular, I think it’s excellent to see that males, who traditionally avoid seeing doctors unless absolutely necessary, have embraced the opportunity to have a health check at work.
In fact, just over half of the 700,000 Victorians who opted in to having a WorkHealth check were male, and for many of them it was the first time they’d had a health check-up.
Not an optional extra
Employers may be surprised to learn that health and wellbeing programs at work are no longer a “nice to have” extra – they are fast becoming an expectation.
According to WorkSafe Victoria’s Workplace Perceptions survey (September 2012), 69 per cent of respondents say they would consider an employer’s attitude to health when seeking a new job. A further 87 per cent believe their employer should do something about promoting good health in the workplace.
It makes sense that we use the workplace to influence health behaviours – after all, the average employee spends about one third of their day at work.
Simple, cost-effective initiatives to encourage healthier choices during the working day include:
- Providing fruit boxes.
- Installing bike racks.
- Organising lunchtime walking groups.
Walk the talk
To have a significant and sustainable impact, healthy choices need to start at the top.
When leaders ‘walk the talk’ and are seen to actively participate in healthy behaviours, this can have a powerful effect on the choices employees make.
While some employers might argue health is a personal or community problem, not a business one, I believe that addressing poor health should be a joint obligation.