With more than ten million Australians at work for eight or more hours a day and over seven million working or volunteering with NFPs, our workplaces are a vital arena for improving community health.
Areas of focus for workplace health programs can include nutrition, physical activity, smoking, mental health and stress management. Sometimes there is a crossover with workplace sustainability programs as well.
Other benefits to organisations include increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, decreased WorkCover claims, higher staff morale and a positive workplace culture that attracts and keeps people in your organisation.
The good news is that the community sector has always looked after its people in recognition that it is often the non-salary benefits of NFPs that attract the best, brightest and the most passionate.
The level of support provided to staff is a vital part of this non-salary package, so what are you waiting for?
Where to start?
Success or failure in changing any organisation is often determined by the level of support from the CEO and senior managers. If they are championing your cause your chances are good. If not, you might do well to prepare for an uphill battle.
The typical example is where HR or another management area proposes an initiative and gets the go-ahead, but not a sense of ownership from the management group. Without every level of your organisation promoting workplace health you will struggle to make any real difference to staff behaviour – which is the hardest thing to change.
To get this high level ownership, you need to make a compelling case for why a workplace health program is more than an exercise in warm fuzzies, persuading the decision makers that it will help your organisation better achieve its objectives and core work.
Ideally you will have both your leadership group on board and a member of the executive group owning the program and taking responsibility for its success.
When making the case, try to document some of the costs of not doing anything – particularly the hidden ones. Your HR team might be able to help document some of the costs of lost time from low staff retention, absenteeism and workplace injury claims.
Case studies are also great, particularly if they are from NFPs in your sector and you can report positive outcomes. Many NFPs are more than happy to share experiences and data to support good work in their sector. You’ll never know if you never ask!
Develop workplace health literacy
Again, a bit of ground work will make things easier down the track. Identify the most relevant workplace health areas for your organisation through a needs assessment.
Think about tools like staff focus groups or surveys and external workhealth checks, which may be available for nothing depending on which part of the country you’re in.
Key concepts include:
- The key areas you’ll be targeting;
- The health consequences of doing nothing for individuals and your organisation; and
- The connections between certain behaviours in the workplace and positive outcomes in these areas.
Foster engagement and support from staff
Begin to create conversations about these areas and concepts with staff at all levels. Make the connections with OH&S, WorkCover, risk, sustainability and staff satisfaction.
Set aside some time in team meetings, site noticeboards/kitchens, use your staff newsletter, include some funny or light-hearted contributions and, most importantly, get staff putting in their ideas and suggestions – and use them if you can!
Keep it regular and claim space within your organisation for health. Make sure other things don’t push your health program off the agenda. It’s important to communicate why the program exists and how it is relevant to your organisation’s core work.
Once you’ve won the argument for why workplace health matters, designing and implementing your plan becomes a much easier proposition.
Next week: Creating your plan
More information: Read the full report, “Ten steps to implementing a workplace health program”