“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

Over ten million Australians spend an average of eight hours a day at their workplace. A study by Medibank Private found a healthy workforce makes a healthy business with healthy workers taking far lesser sick days off and being a staggering three times more productive than their unhealthy colleagues.

Unhealthy Healthy
18 days annual sick leave 2 days annual sick leave
49 hours worked per month 143 hours worked per month
Work performance of 3.7 out of 10 Work performance of 8.5 out of 10


While this may seem to be a grim situation, it also presents a serious opportunity for business owners.

Factors Contributing to Poor Health of Workers

Lack of Exercise: While Australia is famous for being a sport-loving country, the truth is most Australians do not exercise enough to meet the minimum daily recommendation for exercise. The National Australian Activity Guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity on most days, which can help ward off various diseases and help overcome stress.

Poor Dietary Habits: Today, food is a rushed activity. Fresh foods have been replaced by processed foods, sit down meals by on the go snacks. Everything around us is instant. Less than 10% of Australians eat the recommended 5 or more serves of fruits and vegetables per day.

Weight: Poor dietary habits combined with the lack of exercise results in weight gain and obesity. Almost 60% of Australian workers are overweight. A massive global study found that obesity had doubled during this period. What was of particular concern was that Australia was amongst the top three countries showing the greatest increase of obesity amongst both men and women.

The adverse effects of obesity in the workplace are daunting. From reduced productivity due to increased absenteeism to higher compensation claims, obesity takes its toll on the workplace

Stress: Long work hours, uncertain employment conditions, interpersonal factors, failure to achieve targets can cause stress at the workplace. Whatever be the cause, chronic stress puts health at risk.

Indulging in medium to high risk behaviours: Behaviours such as smoking, chronic drinking, drugs are known causes of various health problems from stomach ailments to cancer.

Lack of adequate sleep: This leads to accidents on the road or at the job causing injuries and losses. These people are also likely to take more sick leaves than those who get a good night’s sleep.

Lack of adequate hygiene: At the workplace, this can cause the spread of diseases such as influenza and various others. It is vital that proper hygiene and air quality is maintained at the workplace for optimum productivity by employees.

So What Can Employers Do?

With improved employee health resulting in direct benefit for employers and employees alike, a workplace health program is clearly a necessity in every workplace. Such programs and policies create a supportive culture and physical environment that encourages healthy lifestyles. These health and wellness programs are characterised by employers and employees working together to support and promote the health and well being of people.

Step 1 Identify Areas for your health program to focus on:

  • Nutrition: Nutrition programs educate employees about food choices and equip them to make healthier ones. Organisations can ensure healthy foods are available in staff rooms, vending machines or even office functions. 42 experts reveal the top 5 healthy office snacks include fruits and nuts.
  • Physical Activity: Workplace health programs can offer employees opportunities to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives as well as provide an environment and to the extent possible, infrastructure, that supports physical activity and exercise.
  • Quitting High Risk Behaviours: Education about services that help users to quit behaviours such as smoking or compulsive drinking, allowing time to meet doctors are some of the ways in which organisations can support employees to get rid of such habits.
  • Improving Hygiene: Adopting quality hand hygiene products such as those supplied by a professional, premier washroom rental company such as Fresh & Clean and educating employees on their proper use could be the difference between a healthy workplace and an unhealthy one.

Step 2 Identify Needs

For a program to be successful, it is essential that it meets the needs of the people it is being designed for. It is equally important to know and identify the requirement of

  • Specialised People – such as nutritionists, fitness instructors,
  • Infrastructure – nutritious food in vending machines, fitness centres, bicycle racks etc, sanitisers in the washroom etc.

Step 3 Build Programs:

Employee wellness programs should have clear goals with SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) objective(s). If the goal of your program is to provide access to healthier food options to employees, an objective could be to replace 50% of all food provided within the organisation with healthier options.

An action plan to achieve this objective would include tasks such as liaising with local vendors to provide boxes of salads, fresh fruits. Provide whole wheat or multi-grain options instead of regular bread in sandwiches etc.

Step 4 Implement Programs:

It is important to promote the program to raise awareness and generate interest in participating. Regular motivation alongside rewards and incentives for employees are important aspects.

Step 5 Evaluate and improve:

Finally, it is important to evaluate the program viz. Goals and objectives set out in the beginning. Learning best practices, ideas and tips via blogs such as the Greenroom and adopting them helps in building better health and wellness programs.

Remember, Alsco can help you achieve your health objective with its cost-effective workplace washroom and hand hygiene solutions. So get cracking on your health program today and call your nearest Alsco branch to help you implement it!

WorkDesign Magazine Logo


This article has originally appeared in Work Design Magazine, a digital publishing group that is dedicated to exploring the evolution of workplace research, culture and design. For tips, ideas, trends and workplace designs, visit workdesign.com.