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. A business owes a duty to ensure the health and safety of its workers and to protect their welfare.

Wellbeing programs can be a type of proactive healthcare. They are designed to assist workers with the following health and welfare issues:

  • mental health;
  • energy levels;
  • weight management;
  • blood pressure;
  • sleeping patterns;
  • nutrition; and
  • alcohol and drug consumption.

Workers can benefit from wellbeing programs through improved worker morale and job satisfaction, which leads to benefits for businesses through increased productivity and stronger worker engagement.

Wellbeing programs can be used to improve alertness and concentration among workers, decrease stress levels, and other work-related illnesses.

Businesses can see their return on investment in these programs through reduced absenteeism and fewer workers’ compensation claims, reduced staff turnover, and an improved corporate citizenship image.

Wellbeing programs can be an economical way of attracting the best new employees.

Two types of wellbeing initiatives

There are two main types of health and wellbeing initiatives - educational health and wellbeing initiatives and action-based health and wellbeing initiatives.

Educational health and wellbeing initiatives may provide information about:

  • nutrition;
  • fatigue and sleep management;
  • exercise and posture;
  • alcohol and drug consumption;
  • sedentary risks;
  • managing risks of heart disease;
  • managing parental responsibilities;
  • stress;
  • mental health; and

Action-based health and wellbeing initiatives involve activities that require workers to actively participate in a program designed to improve their physical and/or mental wellbeing. Types of action-based health and wellbeing initiatives include:

  • access to wellness centres that include sporting and gym equipment, swimming pools, etc.;
  • company-paid physical health check-ups and company-sponsored flu vaccinations;
  • support and communication networks that aim to foster an open workplace and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness;
  • worker-led work groups in key diversity focus areas of gender, culture, accessibility and age;
  • company-provided fruit and/or healthy lunches;
  • social sporting activities, such as pedometer challenges, cycling, cricket and tennis;
  • subsidised casual gym visits or corporate gym memberships; additional personal days off for reducing stress and improving mental health; and
  • allowing workers to volunteer for one or more days per year at an organisation of their choice.

Determining what type of wellbeing program to implement at your workplace will depend on the size of your business and your budget.

Many health and wellbeing programs do not cost a lot of money and, in some cases, workers will be happy to contribute to the cost of the program if they can see how it will benefit them.

The type and range of wellbeing initiatives you implement should also be linked to feedback you receive from workers and management during the foundation phase. Consider what programs are being offered in other businesses in your industry. Businesses with similar health and wellbeing issues may provide some useful guidance.

Roadblocks

Some factors that can impede your program include cost, time, access to facilities and, importantly, workers’ attitudes.

Try to design a program that gives a variety of options to workers. Research has shown that diverse health and wellbeing initiatives are more likely to engage the majority of the workforce because workers can select the programs that work best for them.

Make sure that any programs can be easily integrated into your business. Your business may need dedicated workers, e.g. trained safety officers or nurses, to assist in the initial implementation of the program and ensure that workers are proactively engaged in the program in its initial stages.

Think about how you can best promote the program within your business. For example, will you use pamphlets and brochures, or social media, or will you need a more direct method, such as one-on-one meetings?

Who will be your wellbeing program ‘champions’ to help remove any negativity workers may have surrounding the introduction of wellbeing programs?

Depending on the types of initiatives you implement, ensure there are appropriate risk management processes in place.

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