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How to create a culture of workplace wellness

Alexandria Joy - Thursday, May 09, 2013

Are you that person who drags themselves out of bed and sniffles and coughs their way through the day just so you can be seen to be putting in the hours? As a leader, are you fostering a culture that values work output over the health of your staff?

All too often the culture of a workplace is all about putting your head down and working hard. A culture that overlooks employee health can have staggering effects on business output.

Employee health can impact your business bottom line

The number one health issue in Australian workplaces is stress, the second is workplace safety and the third is depression and anxiety.

Research published by the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that presenteeism (when employees continue turning up for work but their productivity and effectiveness is reduced due to illness) is eating away at company profits and costs Australian businesses almost $6 billion in lost productivity each year. 

Isn’t it time we changed our workplace culture and started to value the health of our employees as much as we value profit and productivity?

Create a culture of workplace wellness

Think about how you feel when you have a cold. You brain is muddled and stuffy, and you are sniffling and sneezing (which doesn’t exactly project a professional image) so it’s no wonder that everyday tasks seem more taxing than usual. No one does their best work when they’re sick.

Unhealthy high-pressure cultures are detrimental to workplace wellness and leave employees feeling stressed. Stress can manifest itself in a number of ways, most of which can lead to employees needing extra time off work, reduced productivity, low morale, and high staff turnover.

Build a “healthy” workplace culture and encourage staff to maintain a reasonable work/life balance.  How do you build a healthy workplace culture? Here are a just a few ideas:

  • Recognise when employees are low on energy or stressed. Speak with them; listen to them. Reinforce that they’re health is a top priority and that they are entitled to use their sick leave for legitimate bouts of dreaded bugs.
  • Engage your HR Department to develop employee programs that promote health and wellness. This may include a corporate fitness program, mental health program and ongoing support channels, access to health and wellbeing information, provision of corporate discounts for services such as physio or remedial massage or consultations with a nutritionist, or implement ongoing communication campaigns about workplace health.
  • Lead by example. Make your body your number one priority. (This means staying at home with that cold or flu!).  Encourage staff to take time out to care their body.
  • Incorporate physical activity into team building exercises or company social outings. Make prioritising health and wellness the norm.
  • Start a walking group. Get a bunch of people together to get out of the office at lunch, before work, or after hours. Make it fun and social for extra motivation.

To truly let your company’s UQ Power shine through, your employees need to be in tip top physical shape. If they’re not feeling fully in tune, how can you expect them to perform at their best? As Buddha said: “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”



Post a Comment

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Sue Painter commented on 09-May-2013 10:59 PM
I've never heard that term "presenteeism" and it's priceless. I so agree with all your points, we reward illness in the workplace, truly.
Bill Painter commented on 11-May-2013 01:48 AM
Yes we reward sick employees coming in to work even though they may infect the whole group. Where I used to work people would call in sick so they could take a "mental health" day. Unfortunately they had to have some other excuse to be considered legitimate.
The Greenlight Coach commented on 11-May-2013 10:11 AM
I'm with Buddah! I'm also with you... stress does terrible things to the body and workplace stress can be managed when employees feel valued by the people at the top. So trickle down the wellness values!
Mitch Tublin commented on 13-May-2013 11:49 AM
Agree this remains an issue. When everything is driven by the bottom line and results the expectation is set to show up even if you throw up.
Mira commented on 13-May-2013 10:41 PM
This is so true. Sadly many companies don't see that a small amount of attention to workplace wellness can reap huge rewards in term of productivity and attitude not to mention overall wellness.
Terry Monaghan commented on 14-May-2013 02:43 AM
Such an important message. I remember years ago working at a start-up where even though I told everyone who was sick to stay home while sick, their idea of taking time off was to ONLY work 8 hours. Until the day one employee came in so sick I had to take him to the doctor. Everyone else came down with what he had brought into the office, and it virtually shut the company down for two weeks before a very important launch. That was the LAST time anyone came into the office sick!
Jennifer Bourn commented on 17-May-2013 12:19 AM
Heidi - Healthy employees are happier, less stressed, more enjoyable to be around, more productive ... need I say more? This is such an important concept for business owners to understand.
Mary Ellen Miller commented on 18-May-2013 03:47 AM
Heidi, this post really strikes a chord with me! I completely agree that it is completely disgusting when employees come to work sick and spread their germs to everyone else. But I think that here in the U.S. there is often a fear associated with not going to work. I also agree with Buddha about staying healthy!
Tamika commented on 26-Jun-2013 12:52 AM
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