What is a Healthy Workplace Program?
A Healthy Workplace Program is a project that aims to support and increase the health of employees. The workplace health program goes from being a basic project of providing fruit for the staff, to being more complex, like setting up a company policy for healthy catering.
A Healthy Workplace Program is different than workplace health and safety arrangements and it doesn’t change the requirements and obligations.
What are the benefits of starting a Healthy Workplace Program?
The most important assets of each organisation lie not on a balance sheet, branding or marketing strategy but in the people. The people are the ones that make or break the experience of dealing with the organisation. They can provide a remarkable experience or a hard one.
Was the other person on the phone answering promptly? Was a transfer made to someone who cared and who was competent to answer the questions? Did the promised things get done?
If the people can make a difference in today’s workplaces, then it makes sense to invest in their health, well-being, culture and training.
Starting a workplace health program bring benefits for both employers and employees.
Employers can obtain:
- Increased productivity and performance
- Less absent and sick leave days
- Less days attending work while sick
- Decreased frequency and cost of workers’ compensation
- Increased motivation of staff
- Better organisation image and attractiveness of employees
- Better return on investment for training and development
- Improved staff engagement and relationships
- Increased health knowledge and information
- Increased physical and mental-emotional health
- Better morale and motivation
- Access to a healthier lifestyle
- Financial savings by having access to a health program at work
Also here is some data about the difference that a healthier workplace makes:
- A study from Medibank in 2005 found that the healthiest Australian employees are 3 times more productive at work than the rest of their colleagues
- Same study found that workplace absence or disruption is caused by preventable disease and workplace injury resulted from unhealthy living
- Smoking, excessive drinking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and excess body weight contribute to time away from work
- Absenteeism caused by obesity, coming sick to work and premature death are estimated to cost $6.4 billion per year
What are the important aspects of most healthy workplaces?
Promoting better health and well-being at work means focusing on diet, exercise, weight, non-smoking habits, reduced alcohol and mental and emotional health. Therefore when creating a program for workplace health you could target one or more of these aspects. Most of the times you and your team will have a clear sense of what is the main goal, especially if you are a small or medium size organisation.
How to create your organisation program?
A program can be a simple change at work or can be something complex. But no matter the size of the changes you want to implement, the program must evolve continuously to be the most successful it can be.
The 4 stages of any program are planning, executing, reviewing and improving. Therefore it is important to consider how the program can be sustained in the long term.
Start your planning by assessing the current needs of your organisation. Depending on the size and complexity of your workplace you may choose a simple approach or a more detailed one. Choose as much level of details as you consider suitable for your situation.
Some ideas about how to asses the needs of your team are:
- Ask the employees what they consider needs to be changed and what are the priorities. You can do this at a team meeting or by conducting surveys. The answers might differ as different employees may consider different risk factors for their health.
- Visit the physical workplace and note ways to improve the most important health aspects.
- Review the number of sick days, employee illness, injuries
Choose one or more issues with the biggest impact on overall employee health. You could ask the staff to prioritize the most important issue to start with by using meetings, emails or suggestion boxes.
Then create a to-do list that will generate the desired outcome for the program. Use simple web based task management software (like Todoist.com) to share and delegate some of the work. Take in consideration how, when and where the program will operate.
Your action plan should consider risk management solutions, responsibilities, resources and promotional ideas.
The most successful programs are the ones with support from the senior management team. If your workplace is a large organisation try to obtain the support of the CEO or the most senior managers. If your organisation is small or you are just at the beginning of the initiative, it’s good to approach a team leader or small business owner.
Show the management how the workplace would benefit from a health program and if you can show the return of investment. Describe the benefits for employers, such as staff motivation and loyalty, reduced sick days or attending work while sick.
Then for the program to work at full capacity you need as much engagement possible from the employees. Start by finding one person to lead this program by example and to set the tone for the entire team. And get many employees to talk about the health needs, to increase both awareness and motivation. Set up communication methods for everyone to have access to the program information. A regular newsletter can be very effective, so create the list, create the templates, hit the send button.
Make sure the rest of the tasks get done in a timely manner. GTD technique is popular and easy to implement, so use it for all the operational aspects of the Healthy Workplace Program. If your planning was done properly then this can work as a breeze, having the strategy, timing and locations in place.
“What gets measured gets managed” said Peter Drucker, so measure the results on a regular basis. This will bring new ideas to the surface and will emphasise aspects that need re-thinking. The outcomes of the review can also be used to further promote the healthy workplace program inside the organisation. Any feedback will be useful to help you understand what worked and what can be improved.
Asking for feedback regularly will make the team aware of the consistency in any health related program. Ask the team whether the the execution and implementation can be improved. Also check the records on absentee rates and sick days.
The review should be planned before commencing the program. Be sure to identify the purpose of the review and the indicators you will use for measuring the success of the health program.
Check the workplace situation before the program was implemented versus after each week, month or agreed time-frame. Measure the participation and the perception of the participating employees. Find the reasons behind the decision of not to participate of some members of the staff, if any. And most important measure the achieved results versus the goals of the program. Think about indicators like productivity, motivation, illness absences.
The review and evaluation process should have been generating aspects to be improved. Plan tackling and implementing this newly discovered aspects in the next phase of the implementation.
Keep in mind that exponential results will appear only on the long term. The organisations that will sustain this initiative will see returns on their investment.
We would love to see examples of successful programs from Sydney organisations. Share your results in the comments for others to be inspired by specific programs. Also we look forward to start talking about ideas to transform all workplaces in healthy spaces.