In this section you will learn:
What “workplace health promotion” entails
Why the workplace is a key environment for health promotion
What the biggest workplace health risk factors are
The benefits of health promotion for your business
Why it is so important to gain management support
How to build a business case
Workplace health promotion is about encouraging staff to lead a healthy lifestyle as part of their everyday working life.
Occupational health and safety aims to protect workers from illness and injury happening at work, whereas workplace health promotion looks to create a work environment which helps to reduce the risk of developing chronic disease.
The keys to creating a healthy workplace are:
The World Health Organization recognises the workplace as a priority setting for health promotion.
Workplace health promotion not only benefits workers by reducing their risk of chronic disease, but it’s also great for business.
Click on the table headings to see some of the benefits for organisations and employees.
The key disease risk factors in workplace health are:
Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol, Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour (SNAP)
Healthier Workplace WA focuses on these because they are leading risk factors for chronic diseases and workplaces have the power to influence them. It is important to have a good understanding of the SNAP risk factors and the associated national guidelines, as these should be reflected in, and support your workplace health strategies.
Smoking is a leading cause of death and disease in Australia, resulting in cancers, heart disease, respiratory disease and many other damaging and potentially fatal conditions.
For more information, check out the information on environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the workplace and the National guidance note on the elimination of ETS in the workplace.
Research shows that more people smoke in these industries than any other:
Poor nutrition relates to the poor intake of nutrient rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, as well as the excessive consumption of ‘discretionary’ foods (high in energy or kilojoules, saturated fat, sugar and salt, and low in nutrients).
For more information, check out the Australian Dietary Guidelines
Eating a diet high in nutrient-rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables, and limiting the intake of discretionary foods to only occasionally and in small amounts, will assist in maintaining a healthy weight and help prevent the onset of chronic disease.
Drinking alcohol can significantly affect long term health. There are several chronic diseases associated with alcohol consumption, including cancer (e.g. bowel, breast, throat, mouth, oesophagus, liver), heart disease, liver disease, stroke and mental health problems.
For more information, check out the How much alcohol is safe to drink?
With changes in transportation, technology, many types of work (e.g. office work) and leisure activities becoming increasingly sedentary, there has been a decline in physical activity and an increase in sitting. The ABS (2011 – 12) has reported that “sedentary behaviour is believed to be associated with the rise in overweight and obesity, and has been shown to increase an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease, colon and breast cancers, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis”.
For more information, check out the Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines
All organisations are different and come with their own individual health risks. Factors such as long hours, night shift, how big your organisation is and how long you need to sit for, can all contribute to unhealthy behaviours.
When planning your workplace health and wellbeing program, it’s important to think about these workplace characteristics. It may not always be possible to change how your workplace is run, but strategies could be implemented to improve healthy choices.
How your business can help:
For example, on-the-road workers may have limited access to healthy food. This could be addressed through policy and environment by ensuring a cooler bag is provided. This coupled with healthy eating education may encourage workers to bring healthy foods from home.
|National average (07/08)||Your industry||The difference|
National average (07/08)
|Inadequate fruit & vegetable intake||
National average (07/08)
|Alcohol consumption (More than 2 standard drinks on any day)||National average (07/08)||Your industry||The difference
|Physical inactivity (Based on planned physical activity)||National average (07/08)||Your industry
Information like this can be used to look at your own industry and think about what is influencing these behaviours. It can give you a starting point and enable you to consider what the workplace can do to positively influence these behaviours.
Please note: The data displayed in this table is based on 2007/08 data. More recent non-industry specific national data is available from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report: 2013 and the Australia’s Health 2014 report.
Getting the support of senior managers is especially important as they can commit money and people to the program and help make it a success. If managers lead the change by supporting the program goals and participating, workers will be more enthusiastic and motivated to join in.
A great way to gain management support is to provide evidence of how investing in workplace health and wellbeing will benefit the business.
Recent studies and reports indicate several benefits that effective workplace health and wellbeing programs can produce for both individuals and businesses.
Click the arrows to see some of the potential benefits of workplace health and wellbeing programs.
Overall improvement in worker's health.
Increase in productivity at work.
Reduced likelihood of industrial accidents or injuries.
Reduction in absence due to sickness.
Create a positive work environment, resulting in happier and safer workers.
Decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, breast and colon cancer.
Provide a return-on-investment: Studies show that for every $1 invested in health promotion
over a 3-year period, return-on-investment for employers’ ranges from $1.40 to $4.70.
What goes into your business case will depend on:
You may need to speak with your manager to help you decide on the best approach, and identify existing resources to help you.
The advantage of preparing a business case for management is that it forces you to thoroughly think about your program:
A successful business case would consist of answers to the following questions.
Click the symbols below to reveal more information.
To support your case you should include key workplace statistics and specific information about the health status of your employees to help emphasise your point (e.g. sick leave rates, health survey results, levels of overweight/obesity). Use statistics from our Business Case Brochure to help make your point.
Use examples like increased productivity, improved business reputation, reduced sick leave and staff turnover. Use our Workplace Health Savings Calculator to see the amount your organisation could save by implementing a workplace health program, and add this to your business case.
Workplace health and wellbeing strategies don’t need to cost a lot. There are many free or low cost strategies and these should be included in your business case. Unlock our Quick Wins for some inspiration.
Policy, environment, and education and activities are integral to your health and wellbeing program. The combination of all three can result in a program that is comprehensive and successful. Implementing one without the other can lead to mixed messages and therefore result in limited behaviour change.
A policy is a formal written document setting out an organisation’s intention in relation to managing health and wellbeing.
The physical workplace environment (infrastructure and facilities) should support and reinforce your health-related policies, education and activities in order to make healthy choices the easy choices.
Education provides employees with knowledge on how their behaviours affect their health, which may motivate them to make healthier choices. Activities provide an opportunity for employees to practice new skills in a non-judgemental environment. Education and activities alone, however, is the least likely of the three elements to bring about changes in personal behaviour.
See how Steel Blue used their Healthier Workplace WA grant to create a supportive workplace culture to help their workers get healthier.
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