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Healthy workers & workplaces

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your looking after your physical health and wellbeing.


The World Health Organization’s constitution defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

If you work full-time, about half your waking hours are at work. If you own or run a business, it’s probably even more.

From a personal perspective, taking good care of your health and wellbeing can help you face life’s inevitable stressors and keep you feeling positive and well while you are at work or managing your business. And in the process you’ll have more energy for building a life of purpose at work, home and play.

It also makes good sense to include health and wellbeing as a key part of running any successful business. Research has shown that healthy workers are almost 3 times more productive than unhealthy workers and record fewer injuries, sick days and work-related injury claims.
 

Under our work health and safety laws, everyone is responsible for health and safety in the workforce. This legislation also defines health to include both physical and psychological health, and outlines the duty of care responsibilities for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs).

The legislated position in Australian workplaces has traditionally emphasised the physical health and safety of workers rather than their overall health and wellbeing. However, the benefits of workplace health and wellbeing programs are now being recognised and gaining in momentum.

Any consideration of health and wellbeing should include the full range of potential risk factors, including:

Taking personal care

While our laws outline PCBU responsibilities for your health and safety at work, as a worker you must also take reasonable care of your own safety, health and wellbeing as well as that of others around you.

Effective health and wellbeing promotion can be a shared responsibility between workers and PCBUs. The most effective programs are those where workers feel engaged in the process of identifying problems and developing and reviewing solutions.

If you are given or see an opportunity to help make improvements, provide input and contribute to paving the way to better health and wellbeing at your workplace.

Taking action at work

Work health and safety cultures are led from the top where a PCBU’s actions and attitudes send a message to the people who work for you that you are serious about their safety, health and wellbeing.

Effective work health promotion is also a shared responsibility between PCBUs and workers. The most effective programs follow the same steps as successful safety programs, so any efforts are best done as part of an integrated approach

Improving workers’ health and wellbeing can positively impact on your business profitability, productivity and safety. Research tells us that every $1 spent creating a mentally healthy workplace can, on average, result in a positive return on investment of $2.30.

If you have a team of workers, you need to consider the costs of sick leave and replacing workers who are forced to leave due to health issues. The graphic below shows how implementing a successful workplace health program you can achieve significant cost savings, as well as:

  • decrease staff absenteeism/sick leave by an average of 30%
  • decrease staff turnover by an average of 10%.

graphic implement a workplace health program
graphic implement a workplace health program

Having a healthy workforce makes even more sense when you also consider that:

  • poor worker health and absenteeism costs Australian businesses $7 billion annually, or an estimated $2700 per worker
  • unhealthy workers take up to 9 times more sick leave than their healthy colleagues
  • not functioning fully while at work due to poor health (called presenteeism) costs Australian business an estimated $26 billion per year in lost productivity (2005/06)
  • obesity-related poor health costs South Australian businesses an estimated $273 million per year (2008). 

There’s are many resources available to help you develop health and wellbeing programs in your workplace or industry sector.

Resources: workplaces

Resources: agriculture sector and regional workplaces

Resources: automotive

Resources: health care and social assistance

Resources: manufacturing sector

Resources: transport sector

Resources: youth

Resources: mental health and wellbeing

There is also a wide range of resources and support services <<link to ‘Mental health resources and services page>> that focus specifically on mental health, including information of who can help in an emergency.