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A health and wellbeing program is a collection of strategies and activities implemented by a business to improve the overall health and wellbeing of its workers. Health and wellbeing programs form an important part of compliance with workplace health and safety obligations because a business owes a duty to ensure the health and safety of its workers and to protect their welfare.

Welfare extends not only to physical health, but also to mental health.

The benefits of health and wellbeing programs are many and can include:

  • improved worker morale and job satisfaction;
  • increased productivity;
  • improved alertness and concentration among workers;
  • reduced absenteeism;
  • fewer workers’ compensation claims;
  • reduced staff turnover;
  • increased return on investment in training and development;
  • improved corporate citizenship and image;
  • improvement in attracting new, skilled employees;
  • reduced risk of accidents; and
  • reduced long-term health problems.

There are two main types of health and wellbeing initiatives - educational health and wellbeing initiatives and action-based health and wellbeing initiatives. A good health and wellbeing program will include both types of initiatives.

Educational health and wellbeing initiatives

Educational health and wellbeing initiatives involve the distribution and communication of information related to topics that help to improve physical and mental wellbeing, such as nutrition, fatigue and sleep management, exercise and posture.

Common topics for educational initiatives, include:

  • alcohol consumption;
  • smoking risks;
  • sedentary risks;
  • managing risks of heart disease;
  • managing parental responsibilities;
  • stress;
  • mental health; and

Action-based health and wellbeing initiatives

Action-based health and wellbeing initiatives require workers to actively participate in programs designed to improve their physical and/or mental wellbeing. These initiatives include access to wellness centres that include sporting and gym equipment, swimming pools, and the like.

The size of your business will, to some extent, dictate what type of health and wellbeing program you implement. Budget is another factor.

The type and range of wellbeing initiatives you implement should also be linked to feedback you receive from workers and management during the initial phase.

Consider what programs are being offered in other businesses in your industry.

How to enable your employee health and wellbeing initiative to succeed

To give your employee health and wellbeing initiative the best chance of success, you should:

  • consult all workers about the introduction of a health and wellbeing program;
  • ensure management and workers are committed to the program;
  • appoint a committee or leader who will drive the program forward and be responsible for its administration;
  • outline the purpose of the program to all workers;
  • incorporate feedback to encourage participation in the program;
  • design a program that gives a variety of options to workers;
  • design the program so that it can be easily integrated into your business;
  • consider how the program will attract and remain accessible to workers, including any high-risk groups, such as long-distance road transport drivers or shift workers;
  • make sure you continue to promote the program within your business;
  • ensure the program includes a mix of educational initiatives, such as information on nutrition, and action-based strategies, such as yoga classes.

Often, a drawback of offering wellbeing programs to employees is who gets to manages the program? It is worth considering the following things to effectively manage your health and wellbeing program:

  1. To support the continuation of the program, maintain communication with workers about the implementation of the program, its success and its benefits. Communicate directly where possible, but also consider appointing key people throughout your business who can ‘sell’ the program to other workers.
  2. Ensure that the program is being conducted in the manner you committed to. This will foster an ongoing acceptance within the business of the program’s permanency and importance. Even if the sessions are initially poorly attended, keep encouraging workers to attend through information sessions, emails, flyers, and social media.
  3. To maximise participation, ensure there is a consistent follow-up process with workers. Record their attendance and encourage them to continue to participate. Consider what incentives you could offer.

Ultimately, ensure workers know that the company is committed to providing them with a safe, healthy, and supportive work environment and that the company recognises that their health and wellbeing is important.

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