The 40-hour working week has become a standard in Australia; five days a week, nine in the morning to five in the evening. It's become such a common idea that people often forget just how much time this is, particularly in regards to how it affects their health. Mankind never evolved to be sat at a desk for eight hours a day, after all. For 13 per cent of the population, that 40-hour week stretches to 50 or more, according to the OECD.
"It's far more effective to promote fun and interesting activities that actually appeal."
This is a huge amount of time that your employees are spending either being sedentary or potentially engaging in unhealthy workplace practices. With Men's Health Week now here, the question is what your business can do to help alleviate the health concerns of half of the Australian population. A robust business health insurance policy is a good place to start, but surely just a couple of those 40 hours a week your employees spend at the workplace could be spent promoting a healthy lifestyle? As Professor John Macdonald, Director of the Men's Health Information and Resource Centre says,
"Instead of simply telling men to be more healthy, it's far more effective to promote fun and interesting activities that actually appeal, and use these events and networks to bring men closer to essential life-supporting services."
1) Daily stretching time
Stretching isn't just for athletes. According to a 2013 SafeWork Australia study, sprains and strains to joints and muscles were far and away the most common injuries in the workplace, with 'body stressing' being the most frequent cause. This could include anything from pulling your back by lifting a box in the wrong way, to straining your wrist from typing on a computer for too long without a break.
While employers can certainly help mitigate the damage of these injuries by providing corporate health insurance that allows for massage therapy, but it is far better to be proactive as well as reactive. Simply gathering your employees together for five minutes a day to go through a full-body stretch could be enough to alleviate these kinds of conditions.
2) Promote standing desks
Even simple workplace changes can make a big difference to the health of your employees. Sitting for long periods of time is not a natural position, and can cause a great deal of problems – back issues, joint pain, even obesity – creating a strain not only on their bodies, but on their health insurance. Thankfully, standing desks offer an easy solution, and studies have shown that even a short amount of time spent standing can improve your overall health.
For example, the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study found that simply standing for a quarter of the time at work can reduce rates of obesity. Considering that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that almost two in three Australian adults are overweight or obese, having a few standing desks could do wonders for the healthiness of your employees.
3) Provide health education
The first steps towards defeating workplace unhealthiness is knowing your enemy, and that is something that the men of Australia are particularly bad at, it seems. According to the Australian Men's Health Forum (AMHF), almost two-thirds of Australian males have serious gaps in their health knowledge. As a business owner, you can help fill them in.
There's no need to book a lecture hall: Even a short morning tea with a focus on workplace health is enough. Get your workers involved themselves too, working in teams to help promote good practices. These kind of social activities also have other benefits. Isolation is considered one of the key factors for poor health by the AMHF, and what better way is there to reduce this than promoting inclusive teamwork?
These preventative measures could help make your workers happier, healthier and more productive overall. Keep the good times rolling by comparing your current corporate health insurance policy and ensuring it is up to date for the needs of your workplace. Find out more by getting in touch with HICA on 1300 44 22 01.