Australians operate at a very fast pace, leaving many people frazzled and frayed by the end of the working week. For many striking that elusive work life balance seems an impossible task as more and more demands are placed upon us with overstretched mortgages, longer working hours, kids activities not to mention looking after our own health and wellbeing.
But what if you could create an environment at work that enabled you to thrive with eating, moving, sleeping and smiling better? In an exclusive interview with OHS.com.au, Health Style business development manager Manfred Wolscher discusses why its important to have a healthy workplace and what the key steps are for reaching a happy thriving workforce.
OHS: What are the foundation principals and how do they fit into the framework of health and wellbeing at work?
MW: The HealthStyle Foundation Principles are the “how to” manual when it comes to building, delivering and evaluating a workplace wellness strategy. These principles underpin award winning programs and ensure that wellness is a sustainable, integrated and business as usual human and organization performance strategy. When it comes to implement any kind of wellbeing initiative access and support is an ongoing process that develops strategies so that interventions reach participants at all levels. It identifies drivers (champions) of the program, ensures support at all levels of the organization and fosters top down and bottom up commitment. The Program Advisory Group is a cross sectional representation from across the organization and is responsible for support, influence, implementation and promotion. The Environmental Scan allows us to understand how the workplace environment enables/or disables the desirable health behaviors of its employees. The Data Collection Plan: allows for program evaluation, design & sustainability. It often starts with a Corporate Health Profile, which builds a baseline ensuring the health risk status of the workforce is a known cross-section ally and longitudinally. There after the Intervention Design is the systematic development of strategic, sustainable and measurable corporate health plans. As a result the intervention/programs can be delivered. HealthStyle ensures that all delivered activities are behavior change based strategies and evaluations are ongoing and align with organization objectives.
OHS: Why is it important to create healthy workplaces?
MW: Physically and mentally healthy people seem to be more engaged, less sick and less injured. The aim is to keep healthy people healthy and identify those who need support. The workplace is a platform where people can be reached and behaviors changed more easily. Peer support and pressure can assist to achieve a positive culture change.
OHS: What are the key steps that businesses can take to ensure their workplaces are healthy?
MW: First and foremost, businesses need to ask the question: is wellbeing a vehicle to provide value added activities and entitlements to staff members? Identifying the ‘why’ regarding wellbeing in the workplace would be the most important first step. The ‘why’ could be: to increase engagement, reduce absenteeism/LTI, boost productivity and manage positive mental health in the workplace or become the employer of choice. Once it’s known where wellbeing fits within the organization as a second step it needs to be identified how it looks, feels and will be communicated. There are many contributing factors, which may impact on what steps need to be taken such as: Are there current programs underway where wellbeing could be aligned or incorporated? Who owns it? (safety, HR, Return to work etc.) Budget? Understanding challenges such as readiness of the workforce? Is management ready? Are goalkeepers ready? What are the roadblocks etc? Regarding environment there are also a number of questions, which determine what steps need to be taken. Are there known environmental factors present that are risks for poor health/injury? Are there known environmental factors present that adversely influence healthy choices being the easy choice?
OHS: Is it important to have government support on issues that affect wellbeing in the workplace and are we doing enough in Australia?
MW: It is very important that governments take a lead in preventing ill health and disease. The Federal Government’s spend on disease prevention is unfortunately very low. However, there are good initiatives emerging such as the Department of Health Calendar of Events, which businesses can align with. State government are starting to invest more and more in helping businesses to kick start wellbeing initiatives such as the NSW - Get healthy at work initiative or VicHealth’s - Creating Healthy Workplace Programs.
OHS: Where do you think we will be in the next five years when it comes to workplace health and wellbeing?
MW: Considering that more than 64% of Australian adults are overweight or obese it will be critical to tackle chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the years to come the workplace will become even more the environment to have positive impact when it comes to better lifestyle choices. Larger insurance companies are starting to assist businesses with their insurance premiums (income protection, worker compensation etc) as long as they engage in meaningful and integrated wellbeing programs. This applies also to better positive mental health management in the workplace. Poor physical, emotional and financial health is contributing to these challenges. I can see that state and federal governments will start to legislate compulsory wellbeing programs for larger organizations as seen in the USA and Europe. Overall, I do have a good feeling that more and more companies and businesses will engage in meaningful health and wellbeing initiatives.
Image sourced from Flickr cc: Catrin Austin