As businesses begin to wind down (or in some cases, ramp up!) for Christmas, many festivities and distractions can take our focus away from work. It is also a time when many of us are feeling the effects of a busy year, and counting down the days to a well-earned break.
Here’s a quick refresher on what it means to be “fit for work” – plus some strategies for helping people to stay safe, productive and “work-ready” this Christmas.
What is fitness for work?
“Work fitness” is our ability to safely and effectively perform a specific job or task. This includes: 
  • Staying focused and alert at all times
  • Maintaining a healthy body (including specific fitness required to perform individual roles)
  •  Maintaining a healthy mind (including the focus and resilience we need to perform our work).
Taking responsibility
Both employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure fitness for work. 
  • Workers are responsible for managing their own safety and wellbeing – for example, not attending work whilst fatigued or affected by drugs and alcohol.
  • Employees must take care not to negatively impact the safety and health of others around them too – for example, through risky behaviour or poor decision making.
  • To support fitness for work, as employers we must also provide a safe and healthy work environment and prevent unnecessary exposure to hazards. Read more on the benefits of creating healthy workplaces.
Strategies for maintaining fitness for work
By definition “fitness for work” sounds simple, but there are many factors that can affect our ability to stay fit  – especially during months like December, when we are juggling the heat, fatigue and many end of year festivities.
Managing stress and fatigue
Fatigue and stress can have a considerably negative impact on our mental health, and prevent fitness for work. Long working hours have been linked to fatigue; sleep issues; and increasing levels of anxiety and depression – with a long-term impact on our health and performance at work. Stress alone is thought to cost Australian businesses more than $10 billion a year in lost productivity and sick days.
Some strategies for creating physically and mentally healthy workplaces include:
  • To prevent unnecessary stress and fatigue, be mindful of the impact that rosters and working hours can have on mental health. (Codes of practice govern acceptable working hours in Australia).
  • Set achievable workloads and deadlines for employees
  • Proactively and quickly resolve workplace conflict
  • Proactively and positively manage organisational change
  • Ensure good internal communication
  • Provide access for all staff to human resources support services
As individuals we must also make good choices at home and at work to care for our mental health and minimise stress and fatigue.
Risk assessment and hazard mitigation
Employers are required by law to establish appropriate risk management to protect the safety and wellbeing of employees and visitors. Risk management processes typically include:
1.         The identification of workplace hazards
2.         A risk assessment or the harm or injury that can result from each hazard
3.         Implementing hazard mitigation and control measures to keep people safe.
To improve your team’s fitness for work, ensure adequate risk assessment processes are in place in your business and find ways to reduce ongoing exposure to workplace hazards – like noise, hazardous substances and excessive physical job requirements.
Health assessments
Many industries require employees to complete formal health assessments on commencing work, returning to work after injury and periodically throughout employment. The benefits of these assessments include:
  • Creating safer working environments
  • Reducing the likelihood of workplace injury
  • Reducing downtime from injury
  • Aligning roles with the employee fitness for work, to minimise risk and improve productivity.
Zero Tolerance
Communicating and enforcing a zero tolerance approach may be necessary to manage some organisational risks and hazards. One example includes Coates Hire’s zero tolerance policy for being under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work. Another example is taking a zero tolerance approach to managing bullying, displays of aggression and occupational violence.
What responsibility do you take for the health and wellbeing of your workforce? How do you invest in fitness for work? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn.

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