Australia was recently named the seventh healthiest country in the world. But national absenteeism statistics tell a different story about the health and wellbeing of our workforce. 
  • Australian absenteeism rates have risen by more than 7% since 2010. 
  • On average we use almost our entire sick leave allocation each year (9.7 days).
  • As much as 5% of the workforce calls in sick on any given day. 
  • Growing absenteeism is costing the Australian economy $44billion annually.
Surprising statistics for an otherwise healthy nation…
Given we spend roughly one third of our lives at work, our workplaces provide a vital and influential platform for health promotion. Here we explore ways for businesses to improve the health and wellness of their workforce, and the many benefits of addressing this important issue. 
Why good health is good for business
There are considerable benefits to creating happier and healthier workplaces:
Benefits to individuals
•           Greater job satisfaction
•           Lower stress levels
•           Better morale
•           Reduced risk of disease and chronic illness
•           Improved cognitive function and energy levels.
Benefits to business
•           Better productivity
•           Less sick leave, absenteeism and presenteeism
•           Better staff engagement, retention and morale
•           Fostering a positive workplace culture
•           Fewer health and safety risks (and therefore fewer workers compensation claims)
•           Enhanced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
•           Stronger employer brand.
Return on investment
Studies also show a strong return on investment for health promotion practices in Australia: 
  • Over a three-year period, for every dollar that employers invest in health promotion, return-on-investment ranges from $1.40 to $4.70.
  • A Medibank Private report states that workplace health promotion strategies can reduce health risk factors by up to 56%; achieve productivity gains of up to 15% and help the average worker to be up to 7% more productive through health risk reduction.
  • Other research demonstrates that workplace health programs can, on average, achieve a 25.3% decrease in sick leave absenteeism, and 40.7% decrease in workers compensation claims.
Let’s get physical
As the second highest lifestyle-related cause of disease and illness in Australia, physical inactivity has an enormous impact on our overall health. With this in mind, exercise is currently an encouraged area of health promotion for Coates Hire – with a particular focus on the importance of integrating physical activity into our daily routines.
Although much construction industry work is already quite physically demanding, many of the jobs supporting this industry are far more sedentary. To help get people moving businesses may consider: 
  • Setting automated computer alerts for workers to stretch or move about.
  • Offering in-house wellness sessions
  • Encouraging lunchtime walking and running groups
  • “Standing” or “walking” meetings
  • Step tracker apps to get people moving.
Mental health matters too
Coates Hire Group Transport Manager, Adam Welch, spoke recently of his personal experience with mental health, as a reminder that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Our mental health affects how we think, feel and act, and impacts all aspects of our lives – including our ability to be “present” and productive at work. 
In Australia and worldwide, mental health is a growing workplace issue and one of the biggest contributors to absenteeism. Did you know that one in every five Australians workers is managing a mental health condition at any given time?
As a proud supporter of the Black Dog Institute, Coates Hire is deeply committed to the mental health and wellbeing of its people.
Making healthier choices
There are many more ways for employers to support healthier behaviours and choices at work:
  • Providing facilities to prepare healthier lunches brought from home
  • Considering healthier food options for event catering
  • Subsidising “quit smoking” programs.
Ultimately we are all responsible for our own health and wellbeing, but there is a lot that employers can do to support a healthier workforce and achieve better business outcomes, too. 
What areas of workplace health and wellbeing do you invest in? What improvements have you seen following your health promotion focus? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn.

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