Why investing in the health of your employees is the right move.

Many managers do not realise that the health and wellbeing of all their employees is an important precursor for the successful running of their business. Think about this: you would not operate under-serviced machines or ones with faults that could cause them to collapse or crack at critical times would you? So why do some businesses operate their people in the same condition?

Why do many companies not have a rigid maintenance regime for their people as we do for their equipment?

To be fair, the petroleum distribution and petrol convenience industry has put strategies in place to improve driver health in recent years and that is understandable – the benefit can be spelled out in six letters: S-A-F-E-T-Y.

But what about the rest of your organisation; do you put the same effort into health checks for other people?

Why health is important

While some health issues are hereditary a number of diseases and illnesses are preventable. Lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are the four biggest contributors to mortality and disease.

“In Australia, every day approximately 275 people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and one dies of heart disease every ten minutes,” said Grant Stillman, Principal broker at OAMPS Insurance Brokers.

“Most cancers are on the rise and mental health issues are fast becoming commonplace.”

In 2005, statistics indicated that more than 50 per cent of adults aged over 25 years had high blood cholesterol and 30 per cent had high blood pressure. Both these health issues are major contributors to cardiovascular disease, with one quarter of deaths attributed to high blood pressure and one fifth to high cholesterol.

Similarly, a report by Access Economics on the growing cost of obesity published in 2008, estimated 55,871 Australians were not in the workforce due to cardiovascular disease, ultimately impacting on the productivity of Australian businesses.

There is also strong data collated by Safe Work Australia in 2010. This report highlighted that from 2007 to 2008 there were approximately 131,100 serious workers compensation claims attributed to physical injury or disease. The same report revealed that mental disorders accounted for five per cent of all serious claims.

“Your workers mental wellbeing and workplace stress is also important and should not be ignored,” said Mr Stillman

“A report by Medibank Private on workplace stress indicated that a total of 3.2 days per worker per year in leave.”

The same report, titled The Cost of Workplace Stress in Australia, explained that stress-related presenteeism (when an employee is at work but not working to their full ability due to illness or a medical condition) and absenteeism was estimated to cost the Australian economy $14.8 billion during 2008.

Minimising risk

Health is an area that we at OAMPS have paid increasing attention to in recent years as the company works with their clients to manage workplace risks.

“We help them with insurance; that is our business. However, more than this OAMPS uses the knowledge we have gained working with our clients and the industry to help our customers minimise risk and maximise returns,” said Mr Stillman.

“To this end we work with a number of organisations that specialise in improving the health and wellbeing of employees.”

One such company is R&R Corporate Health, who’s Director, Matthew Beechey has worked with drivers within the petroleum distribution industry. Mr Beechey, during his studies, has made some observations about driver’s overall health using this knowledge to develop some simple techniques a driver and their employer can implement into their work schedule.

“Drivers need education on how to make healthier, more energy boosting food choices at roadhouses, cafes and service stations,” said Mr Beechey.

“They can benefit greatly from learning simple, effective warm up exercises prior to manual handling. There are also opportunities throughout shifts for stretching, in safe areas.

“Other changes, such as choosing water over soft drinks in the pursuit of fatigue prevention are also worth exploring.”

Small changes, big benefits

According to Comcare, the Australian Government Department that works in partnership with employees and employers to reduce the human and financial costs of workplace injuries and disease, healthy workers equals healthy organisations which leads to healthy business performance.

Healthy active workplaces result in obvious health benefits as well as economic benefits.

Numerous studies of workplace health programs have all reported a range of economic and business related outcomes as potential benefits, these can include:

  • Improved workplace morale and workplace culture
  • Reduced injuries and or work-related accidents
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved staff recruitment/retention
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved external image

Subsidised gym memberships, healthy workplace policies, offering bicycle racks, healthy food options at meetings and/or cafeteria and providing educational seminars are all examples of activities and initiatives that can be implemented at different levels.

Mr Stillman agrees with these points and believes that “promoting initiatives amongst colleagues such as weight loss challenges, stop smoking programs and other group health and fitness programs can encourage and motivate employees that may lack the motivation to do so on their own.”

“In turn employees can then take their lessons home and spread their knowledge amongst their family and friends, which assists the whole community.

“You may need to develop a business plan with targets and objectives, develop or amend existing policies, create awareness, offer a supportive environment and then implement the initiatives and programs required.”

“Checking on and maintaining the health of employees only requires small changes to make a big difference. The benefits will be your employee’s health and your businesses wellbeing.”