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.’

A healthy workplace is one where workers and managers collaborate to use a continuous improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers and the sustainability of the workplace.

While it is difficult to control what people do, eat, drink or smoke in their own time, and how they are dealing with issues away from the workplace, it is now widely accepted that these issues are directly related to work health and safety.

The costs of sick leave and replacing those workers who are forced to leave due to psychological and physical health problems can be a hidden productivity issue with potential business impacts.

If workers are making unhealthy dietary and lifestyle choices, this can contribute to fatigue and impact on fitness for work. Those who aren’t looking after their health and wellbeing are also less productive and more likely to be involved in workplace incidents.

There are also associated risks such as obesity and long-term chronic disease (e.g. diabetes) impacting on the wellbeing of workers.

And when you consider that workers could potentially be exposed to workplace hazards such as paints, chemicals, fumes and dusts, this can heighten the potential risks of developing chronic health issues.

Well designed and managed workplaces can play a role in promoting worker health and wellbeing, as well as minimising ill health and facilitating recovery and return to work after injury or illness

A mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes psychological health by preventing common psychosocial hazards such as fatigue, bullying, discrimination and stressful working conditions. Use the Wellbeing, Psych and Physical Safety Scan to determine how your business is managing these hazards and other hazards.

Workplaces are increasingly a setting for physical health promotion and preventative activities (e.g. smoking, obesity, drug and alcohol use) to assess and improve people’s overall health as well as reduce work-related injury.

Taking personal care

You are responsible for taking reasonable care of your own safety, health and wellbeing as well as that of others around you. 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.

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

It also makes good sense to include health and wellbeing as a key part of running any successful business. 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.

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.

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

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 looking at the savings on sick leave and replacement staff that can be made by implementing 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
  • obesity-related poor health costs South Australian businesses an estimated $273 million per year.

Further information


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

SafeWork SA is a SA Health Public Health Partner Authority.

Public Health Partner Authorities are agencies which:

  • contribute to key priority areas within the State Public Health Plan, and those emerging through regional public health planning
  • operate or impact at a state-wide or regional population level, and/or
  • are a key stakeholder for addressing significant public policy issues that impact on population level health and wellbeing.