5 Actionable Ideas to Improve Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace

Mental Health

We spend one-quarter of our week at work, so it’s important that we look closely at employee health and wellbeing.

Small changes in the workplace can make for a happier workforce with better productivity and reduced staff costs.

What is Health & Wellbeing?

Happy employees eating lunch together as part of a health and wellbeing exercise

Health and wellbeing is the combination of being physically healthy and mentally stable. The result is a combination of positive factors in one’s life including social, physical, intellectual and emotional.

Being physically and mentally well in day to day life includes eating and drinking well, being physically active, managing stress, sleeping well and staying in contact with other people. Someone with a mental health issue can struggle to look after their physical health.

In a report, State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia, one in five Australian workers reported they had taken time off work in the past 12 months due to feeling mentally unwell.

Sadly, the survey indicated 86% would think twice before offering to help a colleague whose mental health they were concerned about.

It’s not that colleagues don’t care, it’s more likely that they don’t know enough or feel that they can’t say anything because of the stigma surrounding mental health.


The Impact of Employee Mental Health on Australian Businesses

Untreated mental health conditions are estimated to cost Australian workplaces around $10.9 billion per year. The costs include absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims.

In recent years more focus has been placed on employee health and wellbeing. And for a good reason. An employee with a mental health issue should be given the same level of care as an employee who suffers an injury at work.

Mental health issues can take longer to recover from and be cost more than some workplace injuries. A Report on Psychosocial Safety Climate and Worker Health in Australia stated that workers with severe depression took 20 times more sick days per month than the average worker.   

Mental health is far less taboo than it was a decade ago but there is still a long way to go. The stigma means employees are less likely to report a mental health issue to their employer than other health issues.


Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace Ideas

The following is a guide to things you can do to improve employee mental health and wellbeing in your workplace:


#1 Value your Self Worth for your Mental Health

Employers can help staff by teaching them how to value themselves. People need to be reminded to treat themselves with kindness and avoid self-criticism. Encourage workers to enjoy a hobby and take time to do something they enjoy each day.

Helping other people can make you feel good. Allowing staff to volunteer to a cause of their choice can also improve people’s feeling of wellbeing.


#2 Move Outside for a Change of Scenery

Encourage staff to leave the office during their breaks. By going outside, they are more likely to get some exercise and enjoy a little sunshine to help clear their mind and return to their desk feeling refreshed.

Some workplaces are embracing outdoor walking meetings. Many office workers struggle to do enough steps each day for good health. A half hour walking meeting can allow them to get in a few thousand steps that they wouldn’t usually achieve on a weekday.

If staff are eating lunch indoors or at their desk, think about how you can encourage them to move outside. Make some outdoor furniture available and put up some shade to make the space more inviting.

If possible, make your outdoor space suitable for staff to work for part of the day, if they wish. A change of surroundings can improve productivity and in winter get a little more vitamin D.


#3 Align Workers’ Strengths with their Role

Stress and anxiety are common symptoms in people who work in job roles that don't suit them. It’s easy for employers to assume that just because someone applied for a job they are happy in it.

Completing personality assessments can reveal an employees’ strengths and weaknesses. There is a strong correlation between using your strengths to feel engaged at work and having a better quality of life.

When there is a disconnect, employers can ask their employees if there are parts of their role they would like to change or if there is another role they would prefer to do within the organisation.


#4 Improve Air Quality & Lighting for Good Health

Good indoor air quality, temperature control, lighting and views can all impact on workers’ health and wellbeing. Research has indicated that performance can be hampered if the temperature is too high or low. If staff can change the temperature, they are more likely to be happier with their surrounds.

Offices with windows that offer good exposure to natural light improve employee quality of life and sleep. Less reliance on artificial lighting can have a positive influence on people’s wellbeing. Employers looking to move premises should consider if the building offers temperature control, good levels of daylight and views.      


#5 Start Talking about Mental Health & Wellbeing

The State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia reported that only 44% of respondents said their workplace has policies or processes in place to support employees who disclose they have a mental health condition.

Managers need training, so they are more confident in talking about mental health with employees. If management begins the conversation about mental health, the stigma will dissipate, and employees are more likely to participate in preventive programs and to report their illness. A health and wellbeing program that gives employees access to a high quality EAP counselling service is an important part of improving workplace mental health.



If you would like some assistance with developing a mental health policy and strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of staff, call PeopleSense on (08) 9388 9000 or 1300 307 912.