Creating Successful Workplace Health and Wellbeing Initiatives in your Organisation
The 'What' and 'Why' of Workplace Health and Wellbeing
Your Workplace Health and Wellbeing Toolkit
The World Health Organization defines Workplace Health and Wellbeing as the combined efforts of employers, employees, and society to improve the health and wellbeing of people while at work. Health and wellbeing are inextricably linked — and a deeper understanding of both is necessary to achieve a safer workplace and healthier workforce. Workplace Health and Wellbeing ties into a Whole Person Approach, through which employers regard employee health holistically (Physical, Mental, Social, Work) both inside and outside of the workplace, and encourage better wellness throughout.
Employers have always been concerned about their employees from a personal and human perspective. But recent studies have also shown that it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also the intelligent thing to do from a business perspective. Workplace health and wellbeing has a ripple effect on organizational productivity and can be linked to employee absenteeism or taking more sick or compensation leaves. Today, workplace health and wellbeing forms part of the company ethos, mission statements, and overall strategy — so much so that new roles, such as Wellbeing Manager and Chief Wellbeing Officers, are emerging.
Despite this, only 52 percent of employees believe that their workplace is healthy. Employers are continually battling risk. In 2018, in Australia there were 106,260 serious claims for workplace-related injuries and 144 fatalities a year. As employees need to manage the physical safety of their employees, they also need to protect the mental wellbeing of their employees. And, in times such as these, that requires getting creative.
First, let’s take a look at how a workplace can impact a person’s wellness.
In terms of physical health:
⦁ Hazardous work sites. When work sites are poorly maintained or poorly managed, they can become dangerous quickly. Employers need to take ownership of their worksites and create processes to manage and support them properly.
⦁ Occupational hazards. Some occupations are inherently dangerous. While an employer can do their best to improve upon their organizations’ environment, employees may still be exposed to hazardous levels of noise, stress, or dangerous chemicals. Physically demanding jobs such as construction and mining will always involve strenuous action such as heavy lifting.
⦁ Poor ergonomics. Offices that are not ergonomically equipped can lead to significant, long-term health issues for employees. Repetitive stress injuries and back problems can directly result from poorly-designed desks, keyboards, and monitors. Regardless of location, whether on-site or at home, employers are responsible for ensuring that employees have the appropriate equipment.
⦁ Fatigue and overwork. Physical and mental exhaustion can both lead to mistakes, carelessness and accidents. To reduce the chances of fatigue and overwork, employers need to make sure that employees have enough downtime.
⦁ Sedentary behaviours. Just sitting at a desk for too long and not getting enough exercise can ultimately lead to depression, weight gain, and other health-related issues.
In terms of mental health:
⦁ Stress. Employees may have personal stress that is unrelated to work, or may have work-related stress if their workloads are too large. They may also feel that they aren’t confident in conducting their job.
⦁ Anxiety. Work-related anxiety often relates to job performance, but today, it can also relate to job security. Employees may not have been assured that they are going to have a job or will continue to have the same number of hours.
⦁ Boredom. Employees who think they aren’t progressing with their career may feel as though they are aimless or directionless. Employees are happier with employers who offer opportunities for advancement.
⦁ Burnout. Employee burnout often has a severe impact on job performance and employee retention. A lack of social connection, business culture or physical challenges can leave employees feeling less confident about the importance of their work.
⦁ Depression. Employees can experience depression for many reasons — including no reason at all. This all depends on a persons brain structure, genetic disposition, and environmental exposures. But when it comes to work-related depression, it often involves them feeling dissatisfied in their role, or unable to fulfil it.
⦁ Discrimination. Discrimination and harassment can be serious issues for an employer and can cause significant harm to employees. Employers need to endeavor to have healthy company cultures that defeat this type of activity.
⦁ Work-life balance. When employees are required to spend too much time at work, it can damage their interpersonal relationships — including their relationships with partners and children.
Work has a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health and focus. Work gives people a sense of purpose and connectedness, as well as impacting their social lives — relationships, friendships, and time and ability to parent.
Physical and mental health can overlap. When employees are depressed, they don’t take care of themselves. When employees are injured, they can become depressed. Employers need to be proactive in managing employee health from all angles if they want engaged, safe, loyal, and productive employees.
Why is it so important?
Employee Health is already high on the priority list of most employers. The global pandemic has also shone the light on the importance of Health & Wellbeing. Ethically, it only makes sense to care about your employees. But when employers are thinking strategically, they also need to think about what’s best for their business. After all, their business has to survive to ensure that their workers remain employed.
Luckily, taking care of employee health isn’t just ethical; it’s also in the organisation’s best interests.
Employees with poor mental or physical health tend to:
⦁ Call in sick more frequently.
⦁ Display a lack of productivity when they are available.
⦁ May produce lower quality work.
⦁ Are more likely to leave the organization, incurring hiring costs to replace the employee.
Ultimately, this all may impact your organization’s bottom line. Organizations with poor wellness support may find that their reputation is damaged and may find it difficult to attract or retain talent.
Healthier employees lead to a more robust organization. Organizations that want to protect their stability and ROI should be investing in employee health and wellbeing.
Getting Started with Workplace Initiatives
Getting Started With Workplace Health and Wellbeing Initiatives
Your company has decided to improve upon its employee health and wellbeing initiatives. That’s great – but how do you get started and lead change? You know that you’re making the right decision, but workplace wellbeing initiatives can be time consuming and complicated.It also often sits with an over stretch function like HR or Safety teams. If you’re going to be investing time and money into developing new programs, you want to know that they’re the right programs. You want to know that they’re going to be useful to your employees and that they’re going to make a difference. Understanding how mature your organisation’s health and wellbeing strategy is usually a good place to start. This will help you highlight areas of focus to achieve a more integrated and effective strategy.
How to Secure Commitment
To have a visible and effective Health and Wellbeing strategy, it’s essential to get commitment (and active involvement / endorsement) from the top-down. The old adage “a fish rots from the head down” rings true here. Employees being onboard means very little if the C-suite isn’t involved. Employers need to provide leadership, prioritise mental and physical health and wellbeing, and ensure that everyone is working together towards a shared goal.
Generally, the easiest way to get buy-in from executives and managers alike is to explain how important a commitment to wellbeing is. Once key stakeholders understand that better employee health means better, stronger businesses, and once they understand the organisation itself is poised to make a difference in the health of its employees, they will usually fall in line. For this reason, it is crucial to always have programs that are focussed on clear and tangible outcomes from the start (whether that would be an increase in health literacy or a reduction in injury rates).
Once a commitment has been secured, the organisational needs to display that commitment through meaningful actions. When employees feel supported, it becomes more likely that they will be able to improve their health and encourage others to do the same. Here are ways an organisation can show its commitment:
⦁ Don’t lip service – be genuine about your commitment. Your employees will sense it.
⦁ Have your executive team launch and participate in health events (walk the talk).
⦁ Communicate clearly where Health and Wellbeing fits in the company’s values and ethos
⦁ Identify workplace health issues early.
⦁ Educate your workplace on health and wellbeing.
⦁ Develop processes and policies to support and drive better health outcomes.
⦁ Start healthy group activities and routines to stay active and connected, even during confinement.
⦁ Having Health and Wellbeing initiatives easily accessible to all employees
⦁ Identify workplace health and wellbeing champions.
⦁ Organize meetings and keep each other accountable.
⦁ Respond swiftly to risks against employee health and wellbeing.
⦁ Create processes by which health and wellbeing can be supported.
The more visible your initiatives are, the safer employees will feel — and the more likely they will be to come forward if they are struggling. The higher your levels of transparency, the more likely you are to be able to manage employee health effectively.
Culture How-to: Embracing Health and Wellbeing
How-to: Embracing Health and Wellbeing in Your Company Culture
About two thirds (74%) of Australian workers believe that health and wellbeing programs are essential. More than two thirds (85%) of Australian workers believe that employers should take a proactive stance when it comes to wellbeing — creating an environment that is low in stress. In a world in which half of all employees will be looking for work within the next 12 months, employers need to think about what they can do to increase employee happiness and safety, and reduce employee churn.
Workplace culture is critical. Culture is something that is learned, shared, and transmitted within an organization. When it comes to a “workplace culture,” it defines expectations within the work environment that may not be otherwise specified. A customer-centric workplace culture will be devoted to the customer. Likewise, a workplace culture that values health will put health and wellness at a priority consistently throughout all levels of the organization’s own processes.
Company culture informs how employees interact with each other, their direct management, their work product, and the company as a whole. It’s more important now than ever to protect your company culture, especially during (and after) a health crisis such as COVID, and embrace health and wellbeing. When employees work for a company that emphasizes health and wellbeing, they are more likely to take better care of themselves. They will be more willing to reach out to supervisors if they experience issues with their mental or physical wellbeing, and they will feel supported in their recovery by their company.
What is a workplace that embraces health and wellbeing? Here are some of the major hallmarks:
⦁ The organization has a clear mission statement. Health and wellness aren’t just tacked on; they are a major priority and value.
⦁ HR managers and supervisory staff members openly talk about health and wellbeing with employees and discuss methods of promoting, preserving and protecting it.
⦁ C-suite members and critical stakeholders involve themselves in developing new programs to support the health and wellbeing of employees.
⦁ Programs are visible, frequently discussed, and easy to access — employees know what programs are available to them and how to get involved.
Conversely, consider a workplace that provides health-related initiatives, but doesn’t ensure that employees have access to these initiatives. Employees may feel as though the company is not being honest about its commitment to health.
How to Design a Workplace Wellness Strategy
A workplace wellness strategy doesn’t emerge overnight. Instead, it’s often guided by a health and wellness partner. Employers and HR must work together to create a wellness strategy that will work well for employees, even during uncertain times. Further, employees must meet employers and HR halfway — they need to be willing to follow workplace initiatives and enthusiastic about working towards better health.
⦁ Conduct assessments regarding the organisation’s current status. Employee surveys can be used to determine the general wellness of employees, both mentally and physically. Further, HR personnel can analyse the ongoing health and wellbeing culture of the organisation, or hire a third-party consulting company to do the same.
⦁ Obtain support from the management. Workplace wellness needs to come from the top. Without help, it’s difficult to engage employees. HR professionals and managers may need to meet with higher management to show the benefits of better workplace wellness.
⦁ Establish a wellness committee. It’s always easier to get things done with a small group empowered to act. A wellness committee will work to create new workplace wellness initiatives and ensure that goals are being met.
⦁ Develop goals and objectives. Without goals and objectives, it’s not always possible to determine whether you’re moving in the right direction — or how quickly you’re doing so. Clear metrics make it clear how well your current strategies are (or aren’t) working.
⦁ Establish a budget. Many companies today are pulling back on their budgets, but investing more in employee health and wellness can yield high dividends in the future. Employers should consider the ROI and VOI of a strong team, and realise its impact on the bottom line.
⦁ Design the components of the wellness system. What type of programs will be in place? Health screenings, nutrition education, vaccination clinics, stress reduction programs, and general fitness programs all fall under the purview of wellness.Refer back to the initial assessments:
What were the most common challenges for your employees?
⦁ Create incentives for the wellness program. The easiest way to get employees on board is through “gamification.” Create rewards for employees when they achieve goals. To foster team-building, create prizes for groups, teams, or departments.
⦁ Use the right incentives. Studies have shown that external incentives (such as winning a competition) don’t provide for long-term health and wellness. Strategies should be targeted toward ensuring that employees enjoy the activities that they are being asked to complete, such as listening to podcasts while on a walk.
⦁ Notify employees of the wellness programs. Employees need increased transparency when it comes to wellness and wellbeing; they need to know what’s available to them and to whom they should reach out. Communicate the wellness plan through your organization’s internal marketing.
⦁ Evaluate the wellness program. Like other internal programs, the effectiveness of the wellness program needs to be continually assessed. It may need to be fine-tuned over time to meet the needs of the company.
Not every organization is equipped to develop its own workplace wellness strategy. Some organisations may need to work with external partners to create a workplace wellness strategy that is cost-effective and engaging for employees.
⦁ Develop commitment at every level.
⦁ Assess your workplace’s health needs and uncover hidden issues.
⦁ Implement the right workplace policies to support the creation of a health culture.
⦁ Create a safe environment based on trust and respect.
⦁ Keep managers, senior management, and stakeholders accountable.
⦁ Put in a dedicated budget towards health resources and services.
⦁ Spread health stigmas.
⦁ Take feedback about health and wellbeing lightly.
⦁ Fail to include everyone in the process.
⦁ Make wellness a second priority or viewing it as a nice to have.
⦁ Pay lip service without being genuine or having real goals.
⦁ Create a one-size-fits-all program that doesn’t consider individual needs.
Why you need an End-to-End Partner
The Benefits of Having an End-to-End Partner
Even organisations that value employee health and wellness may not be able to implement health and wellness strategies on their own. Having an end-to-end, long-term partnership with health and wellbeing experts such as Vitality Works can aid in creating policies that will work. An end-to-end partner will:
- ⦁ Assess your organisation’s health using world-class assessment tools and tests.
- ⦁ Utilise proprietary tools to uncover insights into your team’s whole-person health and identify risks in your organisation.
- ⦁ Get tailored solutions and deploy the right wellbeing programs to meet your organisation’s strategic objectives.
- ⦁ Track the return on your health investment, and realise real business returns.
Often, organisations may find themselves with multiple companies, handling different parts of the job. An organisation may develop its health and wellness programs organically, adding vendors as it grows. But having a single partner makes sense, especially when one considers that all facets of employee health and wellness are inextricably linked. A single company is able to better gather health and wellness data, consolidate information, and analyse it, ultimately yielding better results.
An external partner is an expert specialist with in-depth and detailed knowledge regarding the intricacies of employee health and wellness. Health and wellness partners have the technology and processes already designed so that organisations can hit the ground running with already established frameworks.
How to Choose an End-to-End Partner
When it comes to choosing an end-to-end partner, you need an organisation that will work with you, and that will understand your needs. Your end-to-end partner should be able to provide the in-depth analysis and strategic management that your company requires for a robust health and wellness program. Consider the following:
- ⦁ Take a look at the organisation’s programs. Will their plans mesh well with your company’s initiatives? Do they have the technology to support your needs?
- ⦁ Ask for client testimonials. What are their clients saying about them? Reviews and testimonials give you an unbiased picture of the company’s operations.
- ⦁ Review their case studies. Case studies give meaningful insight into what the organisation can truly do for a business.
- ⦁ Look at their systems. Make sure they have systems in place with privacy protection and methodology for handling personal information and medical records.
- ⦁ Examine their track record. How long have they been in business? Do they have experience with similar industries?
- ⦁ Ask about their coverage. Are they suited to national, multi-site, or otherwise diverse demographics? Your organisation needs a system that can support it everywhere.
- ⦁ Look for diverse competencies. The ideal partner will have capabilities across different areas: physical health, mental health, injury prevention, and more.
- ⦁ Study their participation and engagement reports. Ask them what rates they were able to achieve; programs are only as good as the participation they create.
An end-to-end partner is going to need to establish a relationship with your organisation. And that means you need to have trust and respect. Find partners that are knowledgeable with your industry, and that can show that they have been able to provide clear results.
Introducing Vitality Works
At Vitality Works, we believe that a healthy business starts with healthy people. For over a decade, we have partnered with over 1,500 organisations in ANZ across a wide variety of industries and workforce demographics to reduce staff injuries, increase productivity, maximise participation and engagement, drive wellbeing outcomes and foster healthy cultures. Our workplace health programs span health assessment, health protection and health promotion and we are proud to be able to say that we have helped improve the lives of over 1,300,000 people along the way
In addition to providing best-in-class data protection, we also:
- ⦁ Have reduced soft tissue injuries by up to 89% with our SafeSpine Injury Prevention Program.
- ⦁ Have driven participation rates of up to 90% in our Digital Team challenges.
- ⦁ Have delivered unmatched participation rates of 60% in our Influenza vaccination program.
Through Vitality Works, organisations can support employee health, and ultimately become healthier businesses. With safe, engaged, and well workforces, organisations can thrive even in the face of economic difficulty.
Measuring the ROI on Health
The ROI on Health
Health investments aren’t just nice to have. They drive real business results. Through better health initiatives, organisations can decrease absenteeism, provide greater productivity, improve employee retention, and support a higher quality of work. Improved health initiatives and a culture of safety and wellbeing ultimately lead to attracting a higher quality of employees and superior ROI overall.
Decreased Absenteeism and Greater Productivity
Absenteeism costs the Australian economy more than $44 billion annually. In New Zealand, absenteeism costs about $600 to $1,000 a year per employee. Presenteeism — attending work, but doing nothing — is also costly, though more challenging to quantify. When employees are injured, stressed, depressed, or otherwise haven’t been able to prioritise their mental and physical health, they are less likely to show up. By putting a greater emphasis on employee health and wellbeing, employers can encourage employees to show up and to work harder.
Employee Retention and Lower Staff Turnover
It costs as much as 33 percent of a worker’s annual salary to replace them. For an employee making $45,000, the average cost of turnover is $15,000. Employees who don’t feel valued by their employers are more likely to leave. Many employees don’t leave a job; they leave their managers. If you want your organisation to have lower turnover and higher levels of employee retention, you need to show them that you’re prioritising their health and wellbeing. Health and wellbeing programs can help.
Smarter-Working Employees and Higher Quality Work
Higher levels of job satisfaction lead directly to improved employee performance, which is part of overall ROI. When employees are stressed, anxious, or depressed, they aren’t able to focus as well on work. While they may be trying their best, they may not be able to deliver high-quality work. But when employees are more comfortable at work and ready to take care of themselves mentally and physically, they are more motivated to go the extra distance with their projects. Having motivated employees is especially more important now, as workers navigate a VUCA world due to COVID. Employees will deliver better work if they feel their company is prioritising them, and companies, in turn, will be able to achieve better work to their clients.
Attract High-Performing Employees
High-performing employees naturally gravitate to employers who will value them. Health and wellbeing initiatives can improve an organisation’s reputation, thereby attracting higher-performing employees. Three quarters (75 percent) of Australian employees believe that workplaces should provide mental health support; it’s an employee expectation. Going above and beyond can help an organisation draw in the best talent—the better the talent, the higher the ROI for the organisation.
Your Bottom Line Will Thank You
Companies need to consider their bottom line and understand how employees can impact it. In addition to providing a better environment for employees, health and wellness programs can positively impact productivity. Studies in the United States showed that employers who invested in health and wellness initiatives saw $6 in healthcare savings for every dollar invested. Of course, Australia is a different market as per capita healthcare spend is lower — but there are many other ways in which health and wellness initiatives improve an organisation’s ROI.
Through health and wellness initiatives, organisations can reduce absenteeism, encourage higher levels of productivity, and procure the best talent. This long-term strategy will develop a better and more stable foundation for the organisation as it expands.
Measuring the Return on Initiatives
To succeed, health and wellbeing initiatives need to be supported by the executive team. But key stakeholders may be hesitant to invest money into health and wellbeing programs without seeing a clear return. Because so many of the effects of better employee health may be challenging to quantify, showing direct ROI can be a challenge. How do organizations measure the return of their initiatives?
Organizations need to think broadly and measure the financial return on their health and wellbeing strategies through the following:
- ⦁ ROI: Return on Investment, the amount of money that an investment gains the organization.
- ⦁ VOI: Value of Investment represents the ROI of health in addition to “soft returns,” such as boosted productivity.
Organizations must be able to compare their expenses and income before their initiatives and after their initiatives. Often, they may need an expert partner to analyze their data and show where their cost savings are. As an example:
- ⦁ An organization may see employees taking less time off following health initiatives. Their cost savings will be relative to the amount of money otherwise spent on absentee employees.
- ⦁ An organization may see fewer employees leaving after they engage with health and wellness programs. The cost savings will include the amount of money it would cost to train new employees.
- ⦁ An organization may see its medical costs dropping because employees are healthier overall. These cost savings would be relative to the number of medical costs in the past, compared to the current amount of medical costs.
Thus, measuring the return on your health and wellness initiatives is involved in and of itself. A trustworthy partner will be able to collect and compile data regarding the appropriate metrics, so you can see how well your programs are performing, as well as identify anything that may need to be changed.
- ⦁ Absenteeism. A common issue for modern employers, absenteeism occurs when employees frequently call out absent because they need to recover, whether physically or emotionally. A high absenteeism could be like to poor culture or team morale, high stress and/or low immunity / health and can equate to decreased productivity and have a major impact on a company’s finances and profitability.
- ⦁ Health assessments. An assessment that determines the baseline health for an employee or employees, often useful to gauge current employee health and wellbeing.
- ⦁ Mental health. An individual’s mental and emotional state, whether positive or negative. It should not be confused with mental illness.
- ⦁ Presenteeism. Presenteeism occurs when employees are stressed, fatigued, anxious, or otherwise disengaged. They may show up and put in hours, but they aren’t getting work done.
- ⦁ Wellness. The state-of-mind for an employee, as well as their physical health. Better wellness leads to better cognitive function and focus.
- ⦁ Productivity. How effective employees are at actually doing their job; how much work they get done in a given amount of time and how high the quality of that work is.
- ⦁ Morale. How employees feel about their work environment and the work they do; positive morale is inspiring, while negative morale can cause people to feel defeated.