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Treating the symptoms of Australia's workforce

22 March 2017 - 10:32am

The Australian workforce is ageing rapidly. In fact, the increasing age of the nation's population is expected to cost state governments an estimated 6 per cent of GDP up to 2060, according to the Productivity Commission.

In general, an ageing population is a positive sign - it means we're living longer. However, when combined with unhealthy lifestyles and a demanding workplace environment it can lead to increases in health problems that are already prevalent in Australia's workforce.

This makes the promotion of health and wellness in the workplace even more important. Employees must be enabled to improve their health and wellbeing in order to reduce costs to state healthcare services, improve workplace productivity and reduce the costs of workplace health problems. What is the employer's role in doing this, and what are the most pressing concerns for employee health in Australia?

Is stress affecting the health of your employees?Is stress affecting the health of your employees?

Chronic health problems

There is a wide range of health problems affecting Australian employees, all of which could have serious implications for productivity and engagement. In terms of chronic health problems, the following are the most prevalent, according to Medibank Private survey data:

  • Back, neck or spinal problems affect 29 per cent of workers.
  • Hayfever, rhinitis or sinusitis affects 22 per cent.
  • Heart disease affects 21 per cent. 
  • Migraine headaches affect 14 per cent.
  • Asthma affects 13 per cent. 

With such a diverse range of illnesses present in the Australian workforce, your strategy for improving employee health must be comprehensive and detailed. The provision of a personalised corporate health insurance plan could be the first step in increasing the care employees take with their health, and reducing the costs of illness in the workplace. 

Mental health issues

Your strategy for improving employee health must be comprehensive and detailed.

The demands of the modern workforce can weigh heavy on your employees' minds, causing or exacerbating mental health issues. Psychological health problems can be difficult to diagnose, are often stigmatised and are sometimes ignored by those afflicted. 

This makes their threat to employee wellbeing and organisational productivity even more severe, as they can go unnoticed and untreated for years. In fact, According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, businesses nationwide lose $6.5 billion each year by failing to provide early intervention/treatment for employees with mental health conditions

Focusing on identifying and treating at-risk workers makes business sense as well. Comcare research shows that for every dollar spent on identifying, supporting and case-managing workers with mental health issues yields close to a 500 per cent return in improved productivity.

Healthier employees are more productive and more engaged at work. Healthier employees are more productive and more engaged at work.

The employer's role in treatment

Treating the root cause of issues is far more effective than treating the symptoms. That's why a focus on employee health and wellness through offering corporate health insurance, promoting awareness and the delivery of a strategic wellness programmes has netted businesses such positive results.

Organisations should aim to develop their own strategies to fit the unique needs of their employees. These should always focus on improving health awareness, physical and mental wellbeing, work enjoyment and fulfilment.

Implementing such a plan is a long and difficult process, but it's undeniable that the benefits to productivity and efficiency far outweigh the costs. Take the first step to caring for your workforce, and your business' bottom line by offering corporate health insurance with HICA.

We understand the changing nature of workplace health better than most, and can tailor a plan to fit your workforce's unique needs.