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15 Apr 2024

Employee wellbeing is shifting! (for the better!)

Employee wellbeing is shifting! (for the better!)

It is fair to say that there has been a significant shift in employee expectations of their workplaces. One benefit of lockdown was the new life perspective employees gained from working from home with flexible hours. We were able to exercise, prepare our meals, and not commute and as a result, productivity increased. Now this has been tried and tested, it has now become a norm in many workplaces.

According to the workforce report, only 23% are engaged, with 59% "quiet quitting" and the remainder "loud quitting". Employee wellbeing expectations to support employee wellbeing are a huge drawcard to new candidates but also a very strong pull to stay loyal. Retention is a huge issue for any industry in Australia, and health benefits are of great value to the workforce.

If that’s not enough to convince you, the identification and control of psychosocial hazards at work is now a legal obligation. In other words, when the safework inspectors come out to your workplace, they will ask which hazards you have identified and what action plan you have created to mitigate them.

Be aware that companies are making some big mistakes when embarking on a wellbeing program for the first time.  This first one is a beauty, and I hear it often.  I get calls from HR or wellbeing leads asking about a particular wellbeing event, for example, dopamine hits and stress cycles.  I ask why they have chosen that topic, and nine times out of ten, it is because of personal reasons, ie they need it for themselves!  This is a big mistake!  They assume that others will also need it if they need it.  Continually assess, never assume.  Collect employee data in a thorough assessment before customising your program.  When I present data back to the decision-makers, they are nearly always surprised by the results.  Which tells me assumptions can be wrong.

The other one I see a lot is the “launch it and leave it” approach.  Businesses spend time and resources building a wellbeing program, publishing it in an email or on their intranet, and then ignoring it for the next year.  What happens?  Nobody turns up to any of the events you have organised.  It is a box-ticking exercise that leads to low engagement.  An ongoing communication plan combined with wellbeing champions in each department set up a highly successful ground-up approach that results in high employee engagement and real behaviour change.   

So, what does best practice look like? I have seen this done well by the top 200 companies and small businesses. I have researched key success criteria in my master's and have researched wellbeing for state and federal government. Here are the three steps every business must take to create a highly successful and engaging wellbeing program:

  • Step 1—Assess. Look at your data from multiple sources, such as a wellbeing survey, employee engagement survey, psychosocial risk audit, EAP reports, exit interviews, and workers comp claims. Then, really understand them with focus groups for each department. Each metric may mean something different to each team, depending on their roles.
  • Step 2Customise. Focus on meeting the unique needs of your workforce. I have never written a corporate wellbeing program that is the same as another organisation's program. The content or wellbeing topics must meet the specific needs you have uncovered in your assessment.
  • Step 3Engage. Your delivery model must make it as easy as possible for all employees to access. So, if they are out on the road all day, running a live webinar is not ideal. On-demand e-learning is ideal for autonomous workers, face-to-face toolbox talks are well received by outdoor workers and live online events are super easy for office-based employees. In other words, to implement effectively, the resources must be taken to the people. This is where wellbeing champions can really give your wellbeing program the boost it needs! Peer-to-peer advocacy from the ground up is a huge motivator. Sharing stories and motivating others to engage is a win-win.

How do you measure the wellbeing program?

Both qualitative and quantitative metrics should be collected. Anecdotes, storytelling, and sharing from employees and managers are highly motivating and help build momentum. They also send a message of giving permission to look after yourselves. Short-term program evaluation via feedback forms can provide both qualitative (in employees’ own words) and quantitative (ratings). I recommend conducting workplace wellbeing assessments annually to re-evaluate employee needs and wants. This allows you to keep the program alive and modify it as required. Longer-term metrics include absenteeism rates, retention rates, productivity rates, workers comp claims, and EAP utilisation percentages.

So, where do psychosocial hazards fit into this picture?  The answer is they sit alongside and complement your wellbeing program. 

First, you'll need to complete your psychosocial hazards audit and assess the risks via focus groups to comprehensively understand the data.  The bottom line of controlling psychosocial risks is that we want employees to feel cared for and feel they belong.  People don’t leave businesses; they leave managers.  Especially when they feel like a number, unheard or unseen, they have a right to work in a physically and mentally safe workplace.  So, what can leaders do to provide this? 

This is where your action plan comes into play. Take your risks and your employee wellbeing data and get a really clear picture of your people's needs. Then, collaborate with HR, WHS, and Wellbeing leads and map out an action plan that includes both top-down and ground-up approaches. For example, policy changes were required when combined with employee upskilling.

Showing genuine care for an employee’s wellbeing by taking time to consider your words before you speak and asking about their health and wellbeing on a regular basis, giving time and patience to conversations, listening carefully without providing answers on the spot, and role-modelling wellbeing by sharing our own vulnerabilities when we are not doing so well is a characteristic that gains a huge amount of trust. 

When leaders create space for safe conversations, together, you can address bullying, harassment or workload pressures.  Finding out exactly how a person feels about these topics, can help to create a solution.  Leadership training in safe conversations, mental health and wellbeing are a critical part of their success. 


Come and join me at the Workplace Health & Safety Show.  This is my 3rd year in a row, across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, presenting a keynote at Workplace Health & Safety Show.  On 22nd May I will be speaking on “3 Gaps in Psychological Safety and how to close them.”  Attendees will see a behind-the-scenes view of wellbeing and psych safety from Carli Phillips, who was the wellbeing lead winning recipient at Johnson and Johnson for “Best Health & Wellbeing Program 2020” at the AHRI awards.  Carli is now the Lead Researcher for government wellbeing research projects and CEO of Corporate Wellbeing Hub. 

  • From wellbeing check-ins to workers comp claims
  • Inside an employee’s & the employer’s journey & surprising view
  • Work & non-work related causes with 3 gaps every business must close! 

Every attendee will be given access to free wellbeing tools:

A Health Dates 2024 Calendar, a Corporate Wellbeing Checklist and a Wellbeing Champion EOI Template for your workplace.


More information, visit Corporate Wellbeing Hub's website:

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