Worker wellbeing in your medium or large business

How to implement meaningful wellbeing initiatives in your medium or large business.



How this helps your business

Workplace health and wellbeing is more than just about an employee’s health. The World Economic Forum (2010) defined 'wellness' as "a state of being that is shaped by engagement and other workplace factors as much as by physical and psychological health".

Unfortunately in Australia there has been an increase in workers leading inactive lifestyles. When you include an ageing workforce, high employee stress levels, unhealthy diets and a culture of alcohol misuse you can begin to understand the importance of addressing general health and wellbeing in your workplace.

By developing healthy wellbeing initiatives across your workplace you can drive employee engagement, build a culture of inclusiveness and innovation and create an environment of psychological as well as physical safety.

Key stats and facts

Step 1: Learn more on this topic

Wellbeing is a state in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. WHO, August 2014

Wellbeing is the health of the whole person, physical, mental, social, and emotional. It is where our capacity to counteract the physical, psychological and social challenges we face are matched by the physical, psychological and social resources that we have at our disposal. A person's wellbeing can be influenced by what's happening in a specific moment and can change at any time.

A person's level of wellbeing can depend on a combination of different drivers:

  • inner life - personality and how they think about life, ie motivations, psychological needs
  • outer life - factors outside of work, ie family, financial, health
  • work- life - impacts, ie workplace relationships, work culture, job demands.

Wellbeing will flourish in a workplace that provides a supportive and inclusive environment, resulting in a positive impact on staff retention, attendance, job satisfaction, productivity and performance outcomes.

Resilience refers to how quickly an individual can bounce back from difficulties. Providing workers with the right workplace initiatives will not only enhance their wellbeing but provide them with the tools to build their own resilience.

In later steps you will learn about different initiatives you can put in place to support wellbeing in your workplace, but first let's hear what others are doing in the video below.

WorkSafe Awards Finalist - Albert Park Preschool - Commitment to Health and Wellbeing

Step 2: Consult your staff

When planning and developing new wellbeing initiatives, it's important that you identify initiatives that are suitable for and relevant to your workplace and workers.

This can be achieved by taking the following steps:

  1. Identify a key leader/leaders- This can be someone from HR, a People Leader or even an enthusiastic worker who will drive the program and encourage Management and others to get on board.
  2. Ensure commitment from Management- It is important to have the buy in and approval from Management. This will create a firm foundation to get it up and running and can greatly influence and promote the program, creating a positive culture throughout the organisation.
  3. Encourage staff to be involved- create a committee, do a survey, ask your employees what they want at a staff meeting. This will ensure the program developed meets the needs of your employees and will maximise participation. Try to ensure that your program includes activities in all areas of wellbeing: physical; psychological; career and intellectual; social and community; and financial wellbeing.

Do not underestimate the benefits of starting health and wellbeing initiatives in your workplace, whatever their size or scope.

Step 3: Start implementing

Once you have consulted with your employees you can now start looking at tailoring a program to meet the needs of your employees to achieve optimal results.

Below are some suggested strategies, broken down into physical, emotional, financial, career and intellectual, and social and community wellbeing. We suggest choosing 2 or 3 strategies, to provide some variety and to cater for individuals different interests and needs.

Health and wellbeing strategies:

Physical wellbeing

  • Promote local recreation opportunities e.g walking/cycling tracks, parks.
  • Encourage work station stretches, put up stretching posters around the office.
  • Encourage active transport to and from work, promote walk to work day.
  • Encourage ‘walk and talk’ meetings to keep employees moving during the day.
  • Offer onsite fitness opportunities, group classes or personal training.
  • Provide sponsorship for recreation teams, e.g. work netball or basketball teams.
  • Partner with a local gym/leisure centre and offer discounted memberships.
  • Start employee activity groups, walking or running groups
  • Consider organising flu vaccination clinics, employee health checks, skin check clinics etc.
  • Guest speakers could be invited for lunchtime seminars on sleep health and nutritional topics.

There are many benefits of physical activity including better sleep, reduction of chronic illness, reduced risk of anxiety and depression and improved mood and self-esteem.

Emotional wellbeing

  • Promote your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  • Offer a range of training programs with external providers, focusing on mental health awareness, conflict management and programs that develop emotional intelligence and enhance communication skills to support emotional wellbeing.
  • Provide information that promotes positive mental health (brochures, posters, fact sheets).
  • Invite guest speakers with lived experience with mental health challenges to normalise conversations around mental health within your workplace.
  • Consider starting a peer support program if you do not already have one in place.
  • Promote local recreation groups, e.g. meditation, yoga classes.
  • Provide brochures on support services like beyondblue, lifeline, headspace.
  • Offer specialised training, e.g. metal health first aid, culture and diversity.
  • Review and update your policies and procedures to ensure they support health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Feeling emotionally fit optimises your sense of vitality and allows you to manage day to day stress effectively.

Financial wellbeing

  • Arrange for your superannuation provider to run seminars and provide advice on how to maximise super contributions and tax benefits. Offer 1:1 general advice sessions.
  • Offer financial wellbeing webinars.
  • Offer workshops on transition to retirement.
  • Set up a financial wellbeing page on your company intranet with links to resources to financial counsellors; your superannuation providers; MoneySmart website, Retirement calculators etc.

It is well known that when people experience financial challenges it can impact many aspects of life and have social, emotional as well as economic impacts for the person and their family.

Career and intellectual wellbeing

  • Mentoring Programs.
  • Professional Development Programs.
  • Providing online learning modules.
  • Study Assistance, support employees wanting to take a formal course relevant to their area of work.

Having a growth mindset, maintaining curiosity, valuing life long learning and sharing your knowledge and skills can help keep employees intellectually fulfilled inside and outside of the workplace.

Social and community wellbeing

  • Start a social club and celebrate major holidays and milestones, e.g. Christmas parties, years of service ceremonies.
  • Promote health & wellbeing days and run team/workplace activities and fund raising events e.g. dry July, Steptember, FebFast, Movember, Jeans for Genes
  • Consider a volunteering program to provide services to the local community, this could be set up individually or as a group to form a team building activity.

Connecting with others is highly correlated with wellbeing; it gives us perspective, distracts us from our own problems and exposes us to different viewpoints. It can also reduce the risk of depression.

Step 4: Promote mindfulness

Mindfulness is an evidence based practice which is proven to improve focus, memory and emotional regulation, and assist with stress management.

Our mind plays an important role in our everyday lives. We spend much of our time existing within our thoughts about the future, memories from the past and judgements, moving us further away from being able to experience life in the present moment.

When we are feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or angry we get caught in negative thoughts. Mindfulness helps bring us into the present moment, it strengthens our ability to perceive things and react with greater clarity, openness and awareness and will improve our ability in areas such as dealing with stress, making decisions, regulating emotions, creating positive relationships and displaying resilience in the face of adversity. 

Mindfulness has now become a regular practice in many organisations, with schools now practising mindfulness frequently utilising the smiling minds app. Teachers have reported the following benefits:

  • improvements in sleep quality
  • improved concentration
  • enhanced wellbeing
  • enhanced ability to manage and describe emotions, and
  • significant reductions in distress and tension

Smiling Mind offers a free app for individuals to practice mindfulness in the comfort of their home.

Step 5: Free advice, tailored to your business

The Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program is a way to really make health and wellbeing a part of how you do things.

It's a free program that provides you with the tools, resources and support in creating a healthy workplace, and you will even receive recognition by the Victorian Government as a health promoting workplace!

Even if you're already doing great things to promote and encourage health and wellbeing at work, the Achievement Program helps you build on this and get the best results for your business.

The Achievement Program is based on a whole of organisation approach.

Step 6: Review and keep improving

It is important to evaluate your progress along the way to see how your wellbeing initiatives are going, this can be as simple as capturing data on participation, issuing evaluation forms and having discussions with staff.

To gather more specific feedback tailored to your particular initiative you can conduct an employee survey. This is a great way to identify if your initiative has been successful, what's working well and suggested areas for improvement.

Below is an example of a short survey that you can use or tailor to suit your workplace and initiative.

Workplace wellbeing programs can take time to influence change; however well-planned and relative wellbeing initiatives will have long term benefits for both employees and the organisation.

More resources

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.