A report from the conference trail

Since our last blog, we’ve been busy presenting at numerous conferences across Australia. This includes the Good Health, Good Business Conference in beautiful Tasmania & the National Workplace Health Conference in Sydney. It’s always refreshing to get out of the office & catch up with the latest trends & developments in the wellness world, not to mention catching up with industry colleagues & clients over a glass of (antioxidant rich!) red wine.

At both these conferences, the same themes kept coming through. Below is our top 5 takeaways:

#1. The cost of ignoring psychological risks in the workplace is now too great

If recent media alone is anything to go by, the tipping point has been reached. With Australian businesses losing $14.81 billion each year to psychological health issues, organisations must take proactive steps towards addressing psychological risk & meeting legislative requirements. The benefits of promoting a psychologically safe & healthy workplace are globally recognised. Recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests an average $2.30 return for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace.1

#2. Organisations are grappling with the ramifications of an ageing workforce

According to a recent study, fifty-six percent of Australian employers believe an ageing workforce will have a large or very large impact on their organisation.2 Furthermore, health & wellbeing is the biggest factor in an employees decision about ‘when’ & ‘if’ to retire.3 Despite these statistics, & the plethora of research, analysis & commentary on this business critical issue in recent years, Australian organisations have been slow to respond.

#3. Sitting down is bad for business

Both of the above conferences included presentations by leading experts regarding the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting for both employees & the workplace. Prolonged sitting has been recognised as a major risk factor for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes & musculoskeletal problems, irrespective of time spent in moderate exercise.4 & if you’ve been nagging your partner to get off the couch it’s a good thing. Recent Australian research suggests that every hour of television viewed by a person over the age of 25 reduces their life expectancy by 22 minutes. So spending 6 hours a day watching TV over the years could knock 5 years off your lifespan. I’m normally one of the only ones standing at the back of the room at such conferences. However as these sessions unfolded with some of these startling statistics, I was shortly joined by many other delegates!

#4. Senior management support continues to be the ‘make or break’

Support by senior management is more important to the success of a workplace wellness strategy than the content itself. At both conferences we presented our Awakening the Wellness Warrior: how to capture senior management support to drive your wellness efforts’ session. This session provides practical & innovative strategies for securing & leveraging management support. We received tremendous feedback regarding the session. As summed up by one delegate Useful information that I can take back & use in my business’. 

#5. Integrated digital health & wellness platforms are critical to demonstrating ROI

If you’re anything like myself you probably find it both challenging & daunting to try & keep up with the latest health gadget & emerging technologies. A recent report by Buck Consultants, Emerging Technology in Health Engagement , suggests this is unlikely to change anytime soon.5  As a wellness professional, one of the most frustrating aspects is trying to demonstrate the business case & subsequent impact of investing in employee wellness. This isn’t helped by the lack of integrated technological health, safety & human resources systems in most organisations. Traditionally these operate very much in silo or are very basic in nature. Extracting any form of meaningful data can be like pulling teeth! From a continuum of care & duty of care perspective, we need proactive systems into the future that can support employee wellbeing through the entire employment life cycle. Whilst we still have a long way to go, it’s encouraging to see this being recognised in new technology hitting the market.

References:

1. Pricewaterhouse Coopers (2014) Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace: return on investment analysis, available: http://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/bl1269-brochure—pwc-roi-analysis.pdf?sfvrsn=4

2. Chandler MacLeod (2014), Coming of Age: the impacts of an ageing workforce on Australian business available: http://www.lonerganresearch.com.au/news/in-the-news/business/australias-ageing-workforce

3. SageCo 2010 Mature Workers Survey, available http://www.sageco.com.au/

4. VicHealth (2012) ‘Reduced Prolonged Sitting in the Workplace’, available www.vichealth.vic.gov.au

5. World at Work & Buck Consultants (2013) Emerging Technology in Health Engagement, Available:http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=71428