According to a 2012 Healthier Work report in the ACT, Australian workers are leading increasingly inactive lifestyles. A growing number of employees are experiencing high stress levels, reduced productivity, frequent illness, low engagement, and poor job satisfaction. Australian workplaces are feeling the impact — and daily cost — of a largely unhealthy workforce.  To combat this issue, employers need to implement health and wellbeing education in the workplace to boost their team’s productivity levels.

Across every industry, leaders and employees alike understand that personal and professional factors are inseparably interlinked.

As much as people try to compartmentalise work life and home life, work–life balance is not a fictional concept. Ideally, work life and home life need to exist as a harmonious whole.

Teaching staff about good self-care, health, nutrition, and exercise routines empowers people to take charge of both their personal and professional lives. Health and wellbeing education is a strategic tool for equipping staff with new self-care skills and knowledge, while fostering a nurturing and supportive workplace culture.

It’s largely up to leaders to develop a shared sense of purpose in the workplace, passionately following through on that sense of purpose every day. Likewise, educating staff about key health issues and offering holistic solutions fosters a sense of purpose within them: a purpose that extends beyond just day-to-day tasks, and addresses the unique needs of individuals.

Health goals and career goals exist hand-in-hand, with health-conscious staff typically more engaged and productive at work. According to a 2016 study by Gallup, just 13% of employees globally are deeply engaged in their jobs, meaning very few workers are actively involved, enthusiastic, and committed to their job, colleagues, and workplace. The remaining 87% of employees are either not engaged or indifferent.

To close the gap between highly engaged and disengaged workers in Australia and globally, leaders need to leverage the benefits of health and wellbeing education. Time and time again, across almost any marketplace, we see that people-focused strategies and programs create change. By prioritising the health and wellbeing of your people, you can drive higher employee engagement and productivity in the long-term.

Health and wellbeing education comes in many shapes and sizes, and can be tailored to the specific needs of your organisation and employees. Accessibility and scheduling are significant factors in this. For example, in busy corporate environments, hosting health seminars during lunch or immediately before / after hours means that staff can easily incorporate these seminars into their day.

3 steps for integrating health and wellbeing education into any workplace

1. Talk to your staff about their health concerns 

Communication is the catalyst for change. Before implementing any type of health and wellbeing education, talk to your staff individually and find out what their main health concerns are. Ask them what types of programs would benefit them most, whether it be a nutrition toolkit, a good sleep guide, a team workshop on mental health, or a seminar on stress management.

2. Deliver on your promises

To be a true changemaker, you need to deliver on your promises. After talking with your staff about their key health concerns, keep up the communication. Let your staff know that you have taken their concerns and suggestions on board, and are doing your best to address them in the health and wellness programs. Employees understand that planning and implementing new programs takes time, but it’s important to keep them up to date throughout the process. Be accountable for getting them off the ground yourself, and make your staff accountable for the programs themselves.

3. Drive lasting change

When introducing new programs, plenty of workplaces fall into the trap of short-lived success. The initial stages of health and wellbeing programs are often the most exciting, when new ideas are flowing, and people are eager to learn more. However, whether it’s improving diet, creating a new exercise routine or practicing mindfulness mediation, breaking old habits doesn’t happen overnight. Staff may be initially enthusiastic, and quickly lose interest, finding the program too hard or the expectations too high. Don’t give up. With patience, perseverance, encouragement and ease of accessibility, most employees will see the benefits of health and wellness programs. Equally, they will recognise the value that such programs add to a healthy and productive workplace culture.