Making our employees and clients healthier

5 minutes  
Date: 20 September 2017
Take outs:
  • Workplace health and wellbeing programs are growing in number, with significant benefits for employers, and for advisers who must factor in their clients’ health when considering their insurance needs.
  • The benefits of a workplace health and wellbeing program include higher morale, greater engagement, more productivity and lower levels of presenteeism.
  • Establishing a workplace health and wellbeing program requires management support, a champion, a plan, promotion and review.

Health and wellbeing programs are fast being accepted in Australia as an effective way to improve our national disease statistics as well as our productivity, with great benefits for advisers who also worry about the underinsurance problem in Australia.

According to AIA Vitality Australia’s Vitality Coach, Sasha Carey, in her Netwealth webinar titled ‘Healthy is the new wealthy’ as much as 97% of Australia’s most successful companies, now have a health and wellbeing program in their workplace.1

These programs are designed to address statistics such as those from the World Health Organisation, NCD Country Profiles 2014, which show one in four Australians are obese, one in five have raised blood pressure, one in five are still smoking and per capita, we drink 12.2 litres of pure alcohol per year.2

She refers to Rice Warner data which estimates the $1,811 billion under-insurance gap between the insurance levels Australians have ($2,700 billion) and the insurance level needed ($4,581 billion).3

At a macroeconomic level, health and wellbeing issues manifest themselves in absenteeism and presenteeism statistics.

According to the HBF Whitepaper and PWC Whitepaper 2011, absenteeism costs Australia $7 billion per year, meanwhile presenteeism costs Australia $35 billion per year (Absenteeism and Presenteeism survey).4

Presenteeism is when an employee comes to work, but doesn't complete much work because of illness or other medical conditions. Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism isn’t always apparent. You know when someone doesn’t show up for work, but you often can’t tell when—or how much—illness or a medical condition hinders someone’s performance.5

These health, presenteeism and absenteeism statistics demonstrate the costly outcomes of poor health and wellbeing, while the benefits of trying to improve and possibly reverse these lifestyle choices and their impacts on our health are impressive.

Carey said healthy workers are three times more productive than unhealthy workers and they’re less at risk of disease like heart disease, type two diabetes and cancer.1

These diseases combined with respiratory disease are responsible for 63% of deaths worldwide.6

“Even more concerning than that, is that in Australia that number is high as 90%,” said Carey.6  “These behaviours also are a really direct impact to us as an insurer, AIA, and other insurers out there, and for yourselves as advisers seeing claims come through.”

Source: AIA, 2017

Source: AIA, 2017

Some other statistics worth noting:

  • If a workplace does not have a healthy lobbying initiative in place, they are four times more likely to lose talented staff within the next year.
  • Unhealthy workers are nine times more likely to take sick days than healthy workers.

Carey said healthy workers have less sick days, are more productive, have higher energy levels and motivation, get jobs done in a timelier manner, are more alert, have greater job satisfaction and a better balance in life.

For employers, this can translate to increased rates of productivity, a reduction in staff turnover, a reduction in sick leave and a reduction in worker’s compensation claims.


How hard is it to establish a health and wellbeing program in an office?

Carey said management support, a champion of the program, a plan, promotion and review in 4- 6 weeks are the key ingredients.

Keep it simple. Ideas include:

  • Walking meetings
  • Stand up meetings
  • Detox the office kitchen - swap biscuits for fruit
  • Standing desks
  • Team activity other than Fri night drinks – bowling, park soccer etc.
  • Healthy lunchbox competition
  • Make casual Friday, leisure wear Friday

Results will take time, but they will come. The first noticeable difference will be the lift in morale, said Carey, which usually occurs after a couple of months.

 “When people start talking about improving health and wellbeing and the workplace shows an interest in how people are feeling the morale and engagement just goes through the roof.”


Benefits of workplace health and wellbeing programs (source: AIA)
Within a few months Within 1-2 years Within 3 -5 years
Increased worker morale and engagement  Increased individual work performance and productivity Decreased workplace injuries and associated expenses
Increased team cohesion Increased attraction and retention of workers Decreased absenteeism and sick leave
  Improved corporate and recruitment image Decreased incidence of attending work when sick
  Increased individual health knowledge Increased return on training and development investment
  Increased job satisfaction   


Over three to five years, the benefits can be more bottom line, such as a decrease in workplace injuries and associated expenses.

“Particularly worker’s compensation claims or people off for mental health issues that coincides with the decreased absenteeism and sick leave.”

Decreased levels of presenteeism and an increased return on training and development investments are also gains.

“[You] can’t deny, healthy, happy staff are pretty good for the business and if you’re not investing in your workplace, are you really doing the right thing for the bottom dollar?”

To watch or hear the full presentation, ‘Healthy is the new wealthy’ click here



Health and Productivity of Australia 2010 Best Practice Guidelines – Workplace Health in Australia, HAPIA


3 Rice Warner, Underinsurance in Australia 2015



6 World Health Organisation – NCD Country Profiles, 2014

The Health of Australia’s Workforce, Medibank Private Australia, Medibank Private 2005