Inbox: Health intervention in the workplace

The high costs of ill health are driving growing investment by New Zealand workplaces in employee health.
A recent survey of 402 upper North Island employers found that nearly 50 percent of employers had formal health and wellness programme in place. Surprisingly, more than half of those had started it in the past three years – time when adverse economic conditions saw belt tightening in many business areas.
The survey, conducted by not-for-profit health insurer Southern Cross Health Society and the Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern, found that 93 percent of all businesses surveyed offered some form of health intervention in the workplace.
Southern Cross Health Society chief executive Peter Tynan said employers realise that during recessionary times it was even more important to ensure employees remained healthy, productive and loyal.
“Reduced sick leave is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of cost savings from these types of programmes. Last year report by Treasury estimated the effect of workers being on the job, but due to ill health, not fully productive, was potentially costing the country up to $8 billion year in lost productivity.”
Reducing absenteeism was seen by 60 percent of employers as key reason to have these health initiatives. And the programmes appear to be highly successful. third of those with formal health and wellness programme in place reported reduced staff absence due to illness in the last year, while nearly half reported reduction in time off work due to injury.
While recognising the business benefits of health interventions, the survey showed that New Zealand employers were equally motivated by more altruistic reasons. Sixty-two percent of employers cited “to encourage work-life balance” as an important reason for having health and wellness programme, while 50 percent cited “social responsibility”.
The survey showed that more than half of employers with health and wellness programme also provided time off for their employees to participate in health-related activities. M

Health intervention/activities offered by % of employers
Flu vaccinations 66%
Workstation assessments and cleaning 57%
Hearing checks 39%
Smoking cessation information and support 37%
Stress management information and support 36%
Team sports 36%
Pandemic planning 35%
General health checks 34%
Nutrition/weight management information
and support 26%
Vision checks 24%
Exercise activities 19%
Responsible alcohol use information/support 19%
Provide fresh fruit 19%
Bike parks 14%
Physical activity information/support 14%
On-site massage 12%
Disease management information 11%
Annual medical check 9%
Skin checks 9%
Rewards for wellness participation 7%
Assistance with personal wellness plan7%
Other 12%
No health interventions/activities 7%

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