With one in two Australians now estimated to have at least one of eight common chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or mental health conditions, supporting the health and wellbeing of employees has never been more important. But does your business create road blocks for employees wanting to improve their physical health or do they enable it?
Think about your current office environment and how your people are using it. Are people encouraged to move around if they’re sitting at desks most of day? Is it easy for team members to eat a healthy meal? Do they have the flexibility they need to exercise at the time that suits? Importantly, are leaders role-modelling the right behaviours – taking time for their own health and wellbeing?
Last year I would have answered ‘no’ to the last one. I was about 10 kilos overweight, I had elevated cholesterol and I wasn’t looking after myself. Following an inspiring presentation from a wonderful colleague, Dr Catherine Keating, I acted immediately. I started a low calorie, ketogenic diet and lost the weight rapidly. My BMI is now normal, my cholesterol dropped from 7.4 to 4.9 and my heart age is now four years less than my actual age.
With the rise of remote teams, flexible hours, contractors, casuals and a 24/7 always on culture, the boundaries between work and home have blurred. As a result, it’s far less clear who’s responsible for people’s health issues.
Companies are now starting to take a proactive and preventative approach to overall health and wellbeing for employees – and they’re seeing the benefits by doing so.
During her time as editor of Women’s Health magazine, Felicity Harley tried everything with her employees – from walking meetings, to standing desks, to fit balls and bowls of fruit – but it was getting in a lunch time personal trainer or yoga instructor once a week which proved the most effective.
Felicity added the focus on ‘balance’ just makes people feel guilty. “Balance implies that work and life are two separate entities and we know that’s never going to happen. Work goes into life and life goes into work, so it’s about being present in the moment.”
Former Olympic swimmer and current AFLW CEO, Nicole Livingstone believes most people realise supporting the health of employees not only improves productivity and contentment, it’s the right thing to do, adding that improving physical health is closely linked to better mental health.
At Medibank, we’re a company with health and wellbeing at our core. Our purpose of Better Health for Better Lives guides our approach for employees as much as it does for our customers. Our employees were the first to trial our new Live Better rewards program which we developed to support people in making better decisions about their health by rewarding healthy choices across the pillars of Eat, Move and Feel. Our team is also working with organisations across Australia to help them create a happier, healthier, more engaged and productive workforce. We’re learning more every day about how to achieve this.
Felicity's Top Tips
Lead by example. Eat fruit in your meetings instead of buying lollies, exercise during lunch, leave work on time to do yoga
Rally your team to do a "fun" run – like the Colour Run or City 2 Surf. Add incentives for fundraising to boost the commitment.
Instead of going to the pub on a Friday, why not take the team for a surfing lesson. And yes, you can go back to the pub the next Friday… baby steps.
Nicole's Top Tips
Small matters. Something is better than nothing. Sometimes I’ll jump on a spin bike two or three times in a day, just for 10 minutes. I’ve got a bike in the corner of my lounge/dining room at home. It all adds up
If you have kids, get involved with their sport on the weekends or after work. You’ll find you’re moving more without noticing. It’s much better than waiting in the car
Log your food. It’s directly related to your physical health. Again, small changes go a long way
Mike's Top Tips
Incidental exercise is your friend. When on calls that don’t need a computer, get up and get moving. I walk the stairs, do laps of the office or go for a walk outside. My favourite is when I’m working from home – I walk around the garden on the phone, pulling out the odd weed or two
Start your team meeting with a wellbeing check-in, asking each person to briefly comment on “What have you done to look after yourself in the past week?”
Meditate – it’s a great way to clear the mind and calm your body