REFRESH

This Online Tool Tackles Health And Wellbeing In The Workplace

It's time to 'Tune Up'.

16/01/2017 10:03 AM AEDT | Updated 30/03/2017 6:32 PM AEDT

When it comes to addressing issues surrounding both our mental and physical health, more and more experts are telling us the workplace is an ideal place to start.

But as the nature of work changes ever so rapidly, it can also be a place where health -- particularly mental health -- creeps down the priority ladder.

"Whilst we are talking more these days about health and wellbeing issues, what we are finding is that this awareness is not being translated into action -- particularly from the top," CEO of Australian men's health organisation OzHelp Tony Holland told The Huffington Post Australia.

"There's a massive gap in how these issues are being addressed."

OzHelp is taking steps to change this.

We don't wait for people to come to us... We have always tried to find innovative ways to build connections with people first.

With suicide prevention, particularly among men, at its core, the organisation has launched 'Workplace Tune Up' -- an online program designed to help Australian employers and their staff identify their physical and mental health needs -- and keep them in check.

Developed through collaboration with the University of Wollongong's School of Medicine, 'Workplace Tune Up' follows a string of programs that the organisation has delivered over 14 years to "seek people out".

"One of our key principles is that we don't wait for people to come to us," Holland said. "We have always tried to find innovative ways to build connections with people first, because in turn, they feel safe to come to you to talk.This is what works."

Take 'Tradies Tune Up', a successful program launched eight years ago that sees a purpose-built van deliver 20-minute physical and mental health checks by trained professionals to work site employees.

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With tough, physical work and a macho work culture, Aussie tradies can face a high risk of breakdown and suicide.

"We have delivered it to about 4,000 people face-to-face each year. But then we started thinking about all the towns and workplaces we weren't reaching. This is our solution to engage with more workplaces and more people."

How does it work?

According to Holland, the program has three main aims: to tackle health literacy, improve health setting behaviours and to encourage access to quality referral pathways.

The web-based program provides an online survey of questions sourced from standardised clinical and population measures to provide employees with up-to-date, personalised information about the state of their health.

Around 16 percent of people who have gone through our previous 'Tune Up' programs have identified a high risk of suicide or a likely poor mental health outcome. These people are our big focus.

The survey comprises various components: 'my health' (smoking status, alcohol, blood pressure, diabetes), a comprehensive mental health assessment and 'your work' (bullying and workplace culture).

"Around 16 percent of people who have gone through our previous 'Tune Up' programs have identified a high risk of suicide or a likely poor mental health outcome. These people are our big focus," Holland said.

Getty Images/iStockphoto
How much do you ACTUALLY know about your health?

Once employees have completed the survey, they will receive their results along with a series of recommendations and any information they had requested through the process.

A progress report summarising bulk data is then sent back to the organisation.

If 47 percent of employees indicate that they have been bullied in the last 12 months, that becomes something the workplace needs to get on top of.

"The workplace doesn't get any personal data back from the employees -- it is all confidential. But if there is a high incidence of stress levels or diabetes in the office, we identify this as a risk factor for that workplace to address -- and ways to go about it," Holland said.

"Similarly, when it comes to bullying, we want to help a workplace to understand -- confidentially -- whether or not their culture is sound. If, for example, there are 47 percent of employees who indicate that they have been bullied in the last 12 months, that becomes something they need to get on top of."

Attached to this is a 12-month support program with 3-month and 9-month follow ups from trained professsionals.

Whilst it is a paid program, Holland says it it can be delivered with 12 months of support for just over half the cost of relative doctor visits.

"It's cost effective and we believe it can deliver powerful results."

Diane Collins and Jordan Hollender
If a workplace isn't prepared, any program is set up for failure.

What are the benefits?

According to Holland, 'Workplace Tune Up' can deliver a range of benefits -- from improved health literacy to increased productivity, reduced sick leave and presenteeism.

Evidence-based programs will work. But there needs to be ownership at both a senior leadership and an operational level to see them embraced correctly.

A trial of the program in 2016 found 60 percent of respondents over 35 years had waist circumferences that placed them at risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 55 percent were not consuming the minimum recommendation of fruits and vegetables and 25 percent had not visited a GP in the last year.

38 percent of trial respondents reported an increase in health literacy, with 46 percent reporting that they had seen a GP since completing the program.

"Evidence-based programs will work. But there needs to be ownership at both a senior leadership and an operational level to see them embraced correctly. Otherwise they can be counter-productive," Holland said.

"By increasing our delivery from 4,000 (through 'Tradies Tune Up') to up to 140,000, we think that we can help a lot more people. And save a lot more lives."

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