Okay here’s a pre-warning… this is going to be one of my rant sessions.

(I fully think a rant is also good for your health… better in than out right!)

This week a study came out from the University of Wollongong around the health of Australian workers.  Now it didn’t tell me anything that 18 years of working in the fast-paced IT industry hadn’t already made abundantly clear.

The story was picked up by media world wide.

But I ask…. is anyone actually listening?

Lets summarise the study to start (overview presentation can be downloaded HERE )

  • The study analysed mental and physical health trends of Australian workers over a five- to 10-year period.
  • It showed 16- to 24-year-olds were by far the most psychologically distressed age group, while 45.5 per cent of females compared to 37 per cent of males reported moderate to high levels of psychological distress, well above national averages.
  • Men were found to have greater rates of high blood pressure, obesity and alcohol risks than women workers.
  • When examining those considered to be drinking alcohol at-risk levels, the greatest proportion were aged between 45 and 54 years (55.3%), followed by 25 to 34 years (24.2%).

unhealthy work

In the few days since the release a flood of organisations have come out with subsequent comments

Employers who fail to provide healthier options in the workplace may be exposing themselves to the risk of future litigation, according to the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce.

Tower Australia has stated that a surge in mental health and disability claims from stressed white-collar workers is hitting the profits of Australian insurers, which paid out nearly $10 billion in claims last year.

‘Your average working Australian is overweight, unfit, has a cholesterol or blood pressure problem and is stressed — that is a bad average,’ said Dr John Lang, CEO of the Workplace Health Association of Australia (WHAA)

 

Now back to my question. Is any one actually listening?

stresss

I am a firm believe that we need to be largely responsible for our own health and well-being.  I also believe (here comes the rant now…) that particularly in today’s modern workforce, employers absolutely have a duty of care and responsibility to provide a workplace that is conducive to happy healthy employees.

If employers want the absolute best out of their employees in terms of productivity, passion and commitment and ultimately results, then the well being of their staff physically and mentally has to be a key concern and they need to hold some degree of responsibility for work life balance.

Fitness programs such as lunch time sports or bootcamps subsidised training or gym memberships, education sessions, turning off weekend mobile access to email (yes i know an IT company who does this!) are just some initiatives a company can look at.

Many companies still expect work to be work, and personal life to be kept entirely seperate and nothing to do with them. In the days of 9 to 5 that was a reasonable expectation.

But the day work life blur became the norm and employers provide workers with the expectation of and the technology to be available at extended hours this attitude should have changed.

If work blurs into “life” than its unreasonable to think it wouldn’t and shouldn’t go the other way. Companies have a duty of care to their employees.

Look at some of the IT companies in the US. They expect long hours but provide amazing workspaces meant to nuture their employees, addressing health, food, leisure and environment.

Obviously this is not applicable in all cases but companies do need to look at their staff policies a little closer. 

Too many companies pay lip service to the work-life balance issue.  They provide a subsidised bootcamp for example that is refunded once you attend a minimum number. (I’ve worked for several organisations that do this) However, actual workloads, employee guilt at taking time out for themselves means that most of the time it’s actually not realistic.

Employee guilt at taking a break or time out is an interesting one.  Often it is a perceived issue not a real situation…but if employees feel that way, a company needs to look at what it is in their culture or environment that causes that perception.

Does your workplace have any health and wellness programs?  Do you have work/life balance?

Would love to hear your thoughts, feel free to share.