16 September 2021

3 Reasons Why You Can’t Afford Not To Have Workplace Wellness Programs

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3 Reasons Why You Can't Afford Not To Have Workplace Wellness Programs

Did you know the average working Australian spends more time with their colleagues than they do with their own family and friends? Yet almost 40% of Australian workers are unsatisfied with their current job, and 44% are actively looking for a new job. So what’s the secret to attracting and retaining good staff? You guessed it…workplace wellness.

What is a workplace wellness program?

Workplace wellness programs, or workplace wellbeing programs refer to the strategies and efforts implemented by an organisation to improve the overall health and wellbeing of its employees. Often, wellness programs include advice and resources to increase physical activity, reduce stress, enhance mental health, improve nutrition, prevent disease and reduce risk and/or injury through better design of the work environment. An effective workplace wellness program has been shown to reduce staff turnover, increase productivity and create a positive corporate culture. The wellness program should also be evidence based and designed in a way that can be measured against specific objectives. This will help in identifying what’s working and what needs to be changed, as well assessing if the investment (time, money and resources) is worth the benefits attained.

Why you can't afford not to have a workplace wellness program

Reason 1 – The cost of absenteeism in Australia is estimated at $44 billion dollars each year [4]

According to a report published in 2015 by the Australian Industry Group, the cost of absenteeism in Australia is estimated at $44 billion dollars each year. When calculated on a per person basis, this equals 8.8 unscheduled days off annually, costing an employer approximately $578 for each day away from work a staff member is away. Keeping in mind absenteeism is defined as ‘the practice of regularly staying away from work or school without good reason’, these statistics do not include days off work for legitimate reasons like sickness, emergencies or carer responsibilities – leaving us begging the question, why are Australians taking so much time off?

According to the Australian Government’s Public Service Commission, one of the major reasons is motivation. Generally a lack of motivation due to low job satisfaction, non-commitment, workplace tension or low work ethic. The Commission also estimated 40-50% of absences to be avoidable with a large proportion of these associated with factors such as poor lifestyle habits like smoking, alcohol and drug use, poor general health, low levels of physical activity, and work-related stress or pressure. Workplace factors like organisational culture, an employee’s role in the organisation, team dynamic, organisational change and job uncertainty were also found to weigh heavily on an employee’s psychological wellbeing, with psychological injury reported as a significant driver of compensation costs.

"40-50% of absences are believed to be avoidable largely due to factors such as poor lifestyle habits, poor general health and work-related stress."

Good workplace wellbeing programs will not only assist in minimising the above issues but have been shown to decrease absenteeism by more than 25% while decreasing workers compensation by 40%.For every $1 invested into employee health and wellbeing, a $5.81 saving has been reported, with employees now recognising it as a key factor in evaluating job satisfaction and ongoing commitment to an organisation.

Reason 2 – More Australian workers (91%) believe mental health in the workplace is more important than physical safety (88%)

An essential part of any workplace wellness program is the promotion of good mental health through strategies such as:

  • Effective stress management and coping mechanisms
  • Open and direct communication between management and staff
  • Resilience building techniques
  • Counselling initiatives where employees can seek help or guidance from a trusted member of the organisation
  • A workplace bullying policy
  • A healthy corporate culture where employees feel appreciated, engaged and an essential part of the team
  • An ergonomically designed working space that minimises risk of injury while enhancing productivity

The above play a pivotal role in improving the mental health and contentment of workers who today see mental health as the key issue when assessing workplace safety. Only half of Australia’s workforce believe their workplace is mentally safe and good for their wellness, with one in five indicating they have taken time off in the past year because they’ve felt stressed, anxious or depressed. Organisations whose leaders focus on wellness, mental health and have created a culture of support have been found to foster a respect amongst employees while improving productivity and reducing absenteeism and “presenteeism”; the problem of employees who are at work, but not fully functioning.

Reason 3 – You’ll lose good employees to your competitors who do have a workplace wellness program, or spend more money trying to retain them

According to the Black Dog Institute, businesses that invest in healthy workplaces and workplace wellness programs are more likely to attract and retain the best talent. Furthermore, a study published by Snack Nation on employee happiness statistics in February 2020, showed that 36% of employees would give up $5000 per year to be happier at work. What this tells us is that to a certain degree, an investment in staff wellbeing could save businesses a significant amount of money in trying to retain employees as opposed to just offering financial incentives. With a growing shortage of critical skills and low unemployment in Australia, experts are predicting a war for talent, that’s only going to increase in the years ahead.

"Companies with happy employees outperform their competition by 20% with happy salespeople in particular producing 37% more sales"

Attracting and retaining good staff has a significant impact on the success and performance of organisations. Workplaces with happy employees are reported to outperform their competition by 20%, with happy salespeople in particular producing 37% more sales. The happier the employee, the better their performance, which in-turn means less costs, greater output and the reduced likelihood of losing good staff members to competitors. An effective workplace wellness program places employee health, wellness and happiness at the forefront with a focus on holistic determinants to job satisfaction like a welcoming and invigorating environment, flexible hours, access to specialist services like fitness classes, nutrition seminars and motivational speakers, as well career pathway opportunities, an approachable management team and a system for dealing with and addressing employee concerns like mental health, workplace wellness, stress and bullying.

References & Resources
Black Dog Institute Australia | The Australia Pay Experience Report 2019 | Dr Charles Bens, Corporate Wellness Magazine | AIG Absenteeism & Presenteeism Survey Report 2015 | Cambridge English Dictionary 2020 | ANAO 2003 | What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs, Harvard Business Review | What are the benefits of Wellbeing at work? Peter Bolton, 2017 | State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia, Beyond Blue 2014 | John Hilton, Human Resources Director, Australia | 11 Shocking Employee Happiness Statistics in 2020 That Will Blow Your Mind, Emil Shour, 2020

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