How Health and Wellness Programs Can Prevent Sickness

Physical Health

A health and wellness program being conducted at a workplace
Sick employees aren’t only a financial burden on your business, but also a burden on colleagues trying to complete the work of an unwell employee. Businesses are discovering ways to reduce the amount of sick leave employees take by implementing change to prevent illness and reap the benefits.

Find out how you can start implementing health and wellness programs in your workplace today. 

What Are Health & Wellness Programs in the Workplace? 

A workplace health and wellness program is an intervention put in place by employers to improve lifestyle choices and the overall health of employees. In return these programs can prevent chronic illnesses, improve productivity and performance in the workplace. Some examples of programs include: 

Lifestyle Programs 

With so many chronic illnesses blamed on poor lifestyle choices, employers are using lifestyle programs to improve the way employees live their lives.

Lifestyle programs cover a wide range of health-related choices including health, exercise and nutrition.      

Free Flu Injections

For years, organisations across Australia have been offering employees free flu injections at the start of the flu season. People who contract the flu usually need a week off work to recover from the debilitating illness. Employees can be contagious before showing any flu-like symptoms and without realising it, have spread the virus to their colleagues. 

Health Checks

Employee health screening can be simple, involving one or two tests. There are more complex options to choose from which can involve a range of tests and physical examinations. Employee health checks allow staff to take a step away from their busy schedule and have important medical checkups.

Usually an allied health professional conducts health screening which can include amongst others; BMI, waist measurement, cholesterol, alcohol and other drugs and mental health screens. Results are usually designed to be provided on the spot. They may recommend lifestyle changes and identify health issues that require follow-up or specialist attention. Some offer health coaching as the next step on the journey to optimum wellness.


We need a healthy diet and ideal body weight for good general health and a strong immune system. Some companies are removing soft drink and snack food vending machines from lunchrooms and offering employees free fruit instead. A popular team-building event in recent years is an offsite cooking class on preparing quick and healthy work meals. Quality, Employee Assistance Providers (EAP) are also including nutritional assessments, advice and improvement programs as part of their offering to employees. It would be worth finding out if you have this available to you.    

Exercise Programs

Many studies have shown the immune-boosting benefits of exercise. If workplaces can encourage employees to do some exercise at work, they may fight off the dreaded coughs and colds and help keep off the extra kilos. Maintaining a healthy body weight can protect you from some cancers, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Exercising in the middle of a workday reduces stress levels and releases feel-good endorphins to help combat anxiety and depression.

Companies are offering lunchtime yoga, pilates, walking groups, access to a gym, relaxation classes and neck massages. Employees are also being encouraged to ride, walk or run to work; with provision for bike racks in the car park and a warm shower when you arrive in the morning. Even if your workplace doesn’t have a structured exercise program, you can still build exercise into your day. Set your watch or computer timer to go of every hour and make sure you get up and do 2-3 minutes of walking and 1 minute of stretching; such as neck stretches, shoulder rolls. 

Organisational Culture Programs

It’s not just an employees’ physical health that organisations need to be concerned about; it’s their psychological health too. It takes employees longer to recover and return to work from a psychological injury than it does a physical one.

Organisational culture programs look at the way work is organised and how it’s impacting on the psychological health of employees. Cultural programs should involve all team members. Many start with a questionnaire to find out the baseline of the current culture, what employees would like to see changed within the workplace, how they rate management, flexible work arrangements, morale and performance. Once the main concerns are identified, a program can be designed to address them.

Educating staff about how people work differently can reduce the incidence of:

  • Poor staff morale
  • Bullying and harassment 
  • Poor behaviour and work performance

A good cultural program can also improve the:

  • Organisation’s management and leadership skills
  • Reward and recognition program
  • Flexibility of the organisation
  • Health and safety of workers
  •  Engagement, productivity, loyalty and absenteeism of workers

Education Programs & Career Development 

Life doesn’t come with an operator’s manual. We learn as we go through the different stages of our lives. Organisations are offering their employees a helping hand with talks and seminars that educate them on a range of topics. The personal lives of employees impact their work life, so it makes sense to help workers navigate new or difficult stages in their lives. Workers are learning tips on parenting, relationships, finance, nutrition, coping with stress, quitting smoking and ageing. For staff who need one-on-one support, the Employee Assistance Program can provide counselling.

Health and wellbeing can encompass so many aspects of the work and personal lives of staff. Often it’s difficult for a company to know what to include and what to leave out but asking workers what’s important to them can be an excellent start.

If you need any help designing a health and wellness program that’s right for your organisation, contact PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or (08) 9388 9000, or contact us online.

Category: Physical Health