Well-being in business: the Australian context

Safe Work Australia reports that stress costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year. And research suggests the direct financial impact on Australian business of mental health issues is in the vicinity of $11 billion every year due to absenteeism and reduced productivity from unwell workers*. These are hard hitting statistics. 

Our lives are lived amidst the legacy of structures, policies and power that served the institution rather than the human being, and we are racing to catch up, and transform values, culture and practices within organisations, to put people before structures, and create a better working world for us all. 

As more organisations recognise the links between productivity and health, wellbeing is quickly emerging as one of the most urgent workplace imperatives of our time. Many are now subscribing to programs, processes, practices, policies and rituals, that represent a new approach that doesn’t simply look at the issue from the perspective of risk, but as an essential part of a high-performing workforce, with wellness at the centre - mind, body and spirit. 

So what are we doing about well-being in our places of work? 

At the new corporate hub at Sydney’s Barangaroo, a newly opened ‘wellness centre’ created by Fitness First offers workers pilates, yoga, BARRE and relaxation classes, along with treadmills and ellipticals.

At PricewaterhouseCoopers and the new International Convention Centre in Sydney, silent contemplation rooms are also available to employees. Others such as the Happy Body At Work (HBAW) program developed by ABC Commercial aims to ‘start conversations within workplaces that de-stigmatise the disclosure of feelings of fatigue, low mood and anxiety.’

The iCare Foundation is a social venture working to make sure the people of NSW stay safe and healthy at work and on the roads, and have the support they need to recover from injury. In addition to fostering wellness in their own workplace, they invest millions of dollars into other social ventures tackling mental health in the workplace, disability, and education for the health sector on specific well-being practices in diverse workplace settings. 

There has been an upward trend in business to focus on well-being and wellness, many implementing wellness programs. And whilst focusing on physical, mental and emotional well-being is necessary and a step ahead of where we were, wellbeing does not just refer to our personal health. It’s important for business leaders to reflect on the way employees connect with each other, and the wider community outside of the office. 

There is great research out of UC Berkley's Greater Good Science Centre that offers a framework for well-being that rests on four pillars: self, other, awe and interdependence. 

You can learn more about the framework, and the 10 Keys to Well-Being at the Talking Sticks 'Well-Being In Business' full day immersion with Konda Mason in Melbourne and Sydney. 



Melanie Greblo