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Work health and wellbeing toolkit

Use the work health and wellbeing toolkit to embed health and wellbeing into your business systems.

What is work health and wellbeing

Work health and wellbeing focuses on improving work processes to benefit workers’ health and prevent chronic disease risks in the workplace. The work people do can positively or negatively affect the likelihood of them developing an injury or illness. When it comes to work health and wellbeing, the risks factors include physical inactivity and sedentary work, unhealthy eating, harmful alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity and poor mental health1-2.

Why work health and wellbeing is important

Research shows work design can impact the physical and psychological health of a workforce as well as work health, safety and wellbeing outcomes. Workers who suffer from physical or mental health conditions are likely to have higher rates of injury, illness, absenteeism and presentism.

Workers who are regularly exposed to hazardous working conditions, physically demanding tasks, high levels of stress and long working hours are more likely to smoke, consume too much alcohol, and have low levels of physical activity and poor nutrition4-6. These types of behaviours can lead to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and mental health conditions.

Use the Work health and wellbeing toolkit (PDF, 1.76 MB)

Chronic disease rates are expected to increase significantly which will have an impact on workers and workplace productivity4.

The Business Council of Australia has estimated that if chronic diseases were totally eliminated, workforce productivity would increase by 10 per cent. It is estimated that $2.3 billion could be saved through the reduction of the modifiable chronic disease risk factors as a result of improved workforce participation and productivity5.

Considerations3

Before implementing any work health and wellbeing initiatives, it is important to review and consider the work and how it is organised, the organisational culture, the physical environment and the worker.

  • Work organisation – the way work is done. This includes systems, policies, procedures, processes, physical and mental demands, work characteristics and the organisational context.
  • Physical environment – the plant, equipment, materials, vehicles, buildings and structures where the work is performed.
  • Workers – the physical, emotional and mental capacities and behaviours demonstrated.

The first step in implementing work health and wellbeing processes is planning. Before you start, it is important to know what you want to achieve, what resources you have and how you will coordinate them.

Embedding work health and wellbeing in your existing systems, policies and procedures will make the plan sustainable and relevant to the entire organisation.

You will need to:

  • obtain management commitment
  • assess your workplace needs
  • involve workers
  • report on outcomes.

Management commitment

Get support and involve management and organisational leaders. They will play an important part in the success of embedding work health and wellbeing. This will help when:

  • sourcing resources and funding
  • promoting the importance of work health and wellbeing in the workplace
  • ensuring workers participate.

Make a business case

Developing a business case is a good way to encourage management commitment. Managers are more likely to make a long-term commitment to work health and wellbeing if they understand how it supports business goals and objectives. A business case should link to the organisation's goals and values, as well as outlining the benefits and recommendations for work health and wellbeing interventions. The key motivators reporting tool can assist in recording high level information you may want to collect and report to management.

Create a shared vision

Create a work health and wellbeing policy or statement. This is a formal document that sets out your organisation's intentions about work health and wellbeing. The policy or statement can be a separate document, or it can be included in other policies, such as your organisation's health and safety or human resources policy.

The policy can include:

  • the organisation's commitment to work health and wellbeing
  • responsibilities of management, supervisors and workers
  • details of how the policy will be monitored, updated and reviewed
  • approval and sign-off by management.

Worker participation

It is important to engage workers when you develop and implement work health and wellbeing. This can assist you in making better decisions about the approach you take.

Worker engagement and participation can be encouraged by:

  • finding out from workers and managers how they would like to be involved
  • identifying champions from across the workplace to promote the strategy
  • identifying a senior management sponsor to ensure it is an organisational priority
  • asking workers for ongoing feedback and suggestions
  • providing regular updates
  • including information about work health and wellbeing in new worker induction
  • including work health and wellbeing as a standing agenda item in team and management meetings.

Working group

Establishing a working group or committee for work health and wellbeing can also help embed this in your organisation. The working group may be part of other existing committees/groups (e.g. human resources team, health and safety committee or a consultative committee).

Small workplaces might have an informal group of workers that meet to discuss work health and wellbeing issues and interventions.

A working group or committee which includes representatives from across the organisation can be used to:

  • share the workload
  • support the work health and wellbeing coordinator
  • engage workers
  • drive your approach to improving work health and wellbeing.

Champions

Champions can promote and drive positive work health and wellbeing in your organisation. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may have one or more champions. Champions should be passionate about work health and wellbeing, have good communication skills and be respected by others in the organisation.

Evaluation

When you are embedding work health and wellbeing, consider your objectives, what you want to achieve and how you will evaluate success. Think of how you will collect data to evaluate success. Data quality and cost effectiveness should be considered when choosing the data to report on7.

The key motivator reporting tool highlights organisational indicators you may choose to use.

The evaluation section of the toolkit has more information about this.

Identifying and assessing workplace needs

It is important to identify and assess risks in the workplace that have the potential to cause poor physical and mental health conditions including chronic disease risk factors. Knowing the risks will help you plan your approach to work health and wellbeing and ensure your interventions are targeted at the right areas.

Whether you are starting from scratch or building on existing interventions, it is important to consider your workforce, what changes are required and what is already in place to support work health and wellbeing.

The work health and wellbeing risk assessment tools and surveys listed below, will help you identify and assess your risks. They focus on work organisation, work environment, workers and provide information about:

  • your existing organisational structures, systems and processes as well as leadership commitment
  • your organisation's key motivators or priorities for investing in work health and wellbeing
  • your worker's chronic disease risks.

Surveys

Work organisation and environment
  • Healthy workplace audit tool - This is completed by management, work health and wellbeing coordinators or health and safety committees. It assists organisations to identify what they already have in place and what their gaps are.
Worker directed
  • Healthy workers survey - This survey is completed by all workers. It investigates how work is impacting on the physical and mental health of workers. The survey is suitable for organisations with at least 20 workers and requires a staff member to coordinate worker completion. It assists organisations to understand the overall health of their workforce.
  • Small business discussion tool (PDF, 0.7 MB) - This is ideal for small business. It uses a group discussion approach to identify issues and brainstorm solutions.

Now that you have identified your risks and understand where your gaps are, it is important to develop and implement interventions to manage them, in consultation with workers and management.

Develop an action plan

Develop an action plan to help implement the interventions and measure their impact and effectiveness.

Work organisation

  • Investigate how work could be designed differently to improve work health and wellbeing.
  • Look at when tasks are scheduled.
  • Examine if current policies and procedures consider work health and wellbeing and how work impacts on people.

Environment

  • Consider what physical changes to the work environment could improve work health and wellbeing.

Workers

  • Investigate training options for workers to better understand their work health and wellbeing.
  • Develop interventions to promote healthy behaviours.

The work health and wellbeing interventions tool outlines a range of possible solutions to help you create a healthier workplace.

These should be:

  • targeted to the organisation's risks and business outcomes
  • specific to the size, location and culture of your organisation
  • resourced and supported
  • monitored and evaluated
  • continuously improved.

Prioritising interventions that influence the way work is organised and the work environment will have the biggest impact on creating a healthy workplace.

Monitor and review

It is important to monitor the implementation of work health and wellbeing strategies to make sure they are working. If you are not achieving positive results you may need to review them.

Share successes and learnings with management and workers. This can increase engagement, innovation, improve efficiency and contribute to future success.

Consider reviewing your interventions if there is an organisational change, new processes are introduced, a workplace incident occurs or a new risk is identified.

The review intervention tool (PDF, 2.77 MB) will guide you in reviewing the effectiveness and impacts of your interventions.

An evaluation helps you see if your interventions were successful and your goals and objectives were achieved. A good evaluation can highlight the interventions that worked and identify any that need to be changed. An effective evaluation doesn't need to be complex.

Consider how work health and wellbeing will be evaluated in the planning phase by identifying:

  • the changes you want to see. Get input from management about the organisation’s goals and objectives for work health and wellbeing
  • how the changes will be measured. For example, if your goal is to improve stay at work rates, collect data to measure how much time people need off work after an injury
  • how you will collect the data to measure success. For example, worker survey, focus groups, human resources or return to work data sources
  • how continual improvement will be achieved. This could include collecting feedback throughout the process and incorporating new learnings
  • ensuring data is consistent. This will help you to make comparisons over time by collecting consistent data throughout the whole process.

It is important to report back and update management and workers on progress. This can be done through existing reporting mechanisms, or the introduction of a new process.

Transparency and celebrating success can assist with excitement and enthusiasm for the work health and wellbeing strategies.

How to evaluate

Evaluation can be based on data collected from a variety of sources, collected at any phase. The final phase is to collate data and analyse results for future improvements and investments.

An evaluation report provides your audience (e.g. supervisors, senior managers) with an update on how your work health and wellbeing strategy is progressing, what has been delivered, the outcomes achieved and recommendations for the future. Download an evaluation report template (PDF, 0.07 MB), a baseline progress example report (PDF, 0.12 MB) and a long term evaluation example report (PDF, 0.18 MB).

WhenDescription Data sources
Plan Gather baseline data to understand the current situation.
  • organisational data
  • healthy workplaces audit tool
  • healthy worker survey
  • key motivator reporting tool
Implement

Ongoing monitoring of the intervention.

  • participation rates
  • satisfaction surveys
  • observations including changes to the workplace environment or the way work is structured and worker behaviour
  • review intervention tool
Evaluate Review the data collected in the planning phase and make a comparison. Analyse the data and make recommendations for future interventions or improvements.
  • organisational data
  • healthy workplaces audit tool
  • healthy worker survey
  • focus groups to further understand why it did/didn't work
  1. Department of Health, Chronic Conditions. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/chronic-disease
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia's health 2016. Australia's health no. 15. Cat. no. AUS199. Canberra: AIHW
  3. Principles of good work design: A work health and safety handbook. Safe Work Australia, 2015. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/good-work-design-handbook.pdf
  4. Queensland Health. The health of Queenslanders 2018. Report of the Chief Health Officer Queensland. Queensland Government. Brisbane 2018.
  5. Willcox, S. (2014). Chronic diseases in Australia: The case for changing course, Australian Health Policy Collaboration Issues Paper No. 2014-02. Melbourne: Australian Health Policy Collaboration.
  6. Sorensen, G, Landsbergis, P, Hammer, L, Amick, B, Linnan, L, Yancey, A, Welch, L, Goetzel, R, Flannery, K & Pratt, C. (2011). Preventing Chronic Disease in the Workplace: A Workshop Report and recommendations. American Journal of Public Health, V101, no. S1.
  7. O'Neill, S & Wolfe, K, Measuring and reporting on work health & safety, Canberra, Safe Work Australia, 2017.
  8. How to manage work health and safety risks - Code of Practice (PDF, 0.65 MB)