The benefits of a healthy team and workplace

By Daniel Angelini

"People are not just one of the reasons we succeed, rather they are the reason we succeed" - Radek Sali, former CEO, Swisse Wellness

Two of Australia's most iconic brands, Swisse Wellness and Medibank are leading the way in employee health and wellness with a strong dedication to a health-focused culture and they've been doing it for a long time.

Both brands are committed to a vision, culture and workplace design that underpins the health of their team recognising the contribution these have on staff happiness, motivation and health. 

Swisse: A Strong Culture

The team goes about sharing their vision of “health and happiness” with the world by working to the tune of their mantra, “Celebrate Life Every Day”. This mantra isn’t just tucked into an on-boarding handbook, it’s present in many aspects including a huge 'CLED' sign in the aptly named CLED café at the Collingwood Support office, so you’re reminded of it every day.

Their culture is built on 4 principles known as the 4 Ps; People, Principles, and Passion before Profit. Swisse's culture is always championed by the executive leadership team. 

Medibank: Healthy Workplace Design

Medibank’s purpose is ‘For Better Health’, and it’s clear how this vision manifests itself in the company’s head office building in Melbourne. They set out to create ‘one of the healthiest workplaces in the world’ and have picked up seven awards for their building (for workplace interior design, office design and sustainability). They have designed the building so staff have every possible facility available to be active and healthy, both mentally and physically.

The overall benefits of offering a 'healthy' workplace:

Improved Health = Reduced Sick Leave

Proactively improving employee health can help to reduce absenteeism.

In Australia, a study by Medibank Australia found that unhealthy employees take up to 9 times more sick days than their healthy colleagues. Unhealthy employees average 18 sick days annually while healthy employees average 2 sick days annually (4). As a result, poor employee health is costing Australian businesses $7 billion annually.

In America, a similar story can be seen where healthy employees take an average of 4 sick days annually. But employees of poor health or those who have a chronic health condition, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, take an average of 12 sick days per year. (8)

Addressing Stress = Less Time Off

While mental health is often less visible than physical health, it is just as important.

Controlling stress in the workplace helps to prevent stress-related illness that can impact otherwise healthy employees. Here are three steps to tackle stress:

  1. Reduce job stressors by reducing job demands, improving job control
    or support.

  2. Alter how stress is perceived or responded to help cope with short-term stress.

  3. Seek supportive assistance from your workplace and modify your job responsibilities.

Stress can cause short-term issues such as elevated blood pressure, tenseness, or behavioural changes as ways of coping (e.g. smoking), but these can also lead to more serious long-term issues such as hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, depression, or addiction (12).

The Impacts Of Stress

Below we set out some key reasons as to why it’s so important for employers to address stress in the workplace:

  • 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress
  • 25% of workers take time off each year for stress-related reasons
  • Work pressure accounts for around half of all psychological injury claims
  • Australian businesses lose over $6.5billion annually by failing to provide early intervention / treatment for employees with mental health conditions. (13)
  • The need for addressing job stress has been vocalised in health promotion declarations from the WHO (World Health Organisation), the European Network for Workplace Health Promotion and many other leading world health organisations (12).

In summary, an ‘unhealthy’ work environment can cause considerable stress and contribute to the development of a mental and physical illness in otherwise healthy people. Research has indicated that job stress and other work-related issues are leading contributors to mental health issues (13).

As we are now always connected and often feel an ongoing responsibility to always be on, especially when it comes to fulfilling work duties, it is imperative today more than ever to focus on providing a safe, supportive and healthy work environment to help people stay healthy and active assisting them to perform at their best.