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How to have a healthier, happier workplace

Thursday 4 May 2017

A lady sits in a desk chair in an office, leaning back and stretching her arms behind her head.
Don't let your healthy habits slide when you're at work.

We don’t always think about promoting health at work, putting more emphasis on the exercise we do and food we eat out of hours. But for most Queenslanders, time spent at work takes up a significant chunk of the week. Just a few changes to our work environment and habits can have a big impact on our overall health, and that of our colleagues. Follow the steps below to make your workplace a healthier, happier place to be.

Identify opportunities for improvement

Ensuring your workplace promotes health and wellbeing can increase productivity, decrease sick days and reduce staff turnover, so finding ways to improve the health of your workplace can be a really worthwhile exercise. Whether you manage an office, work as part of a team, or work for yourself, take some time to look around and find opportunities for healthy change.

Before you make moves to revolutionise the way your workplace runs, decide what changes you want to see and how they could be made. Look through the tips on the Healthier. Happier. Workplaces website, and talk to your managers, staff or colleagues to see what they think could be improved. Remember, the most important first step is to get management support for your health and wellbeing improvements.

Work together

If you already work in a team, you’ll know that success comes more easily when everyone works together. Taking part in a team challenge like 10,000 Steps can help your team stay on track and encourage each other to meet their goals. You could also create your own ‘take the stairs’ challenge, encourage staff to change every second meeting from an indoor sit-down to an outdoor walk-and-talk, or get a group together to participate in a Workplace Quit Smoking Program.  

If you work solo, see if you can link up with others in your field or local area to explore ways that you can support each other to be healthier at work. You might be able to organise an after-work exercise group that doubles as a way to keep fit and grow your professional network, or book an online check-in meeting with a peer or mentor to help keep you accountable to goals like stopping work on time or planning healthy lunches.

A group of office workers sit together at a table smiling and chatting, eating a healthy lunch of salads, sandwiches, fruit and sushi.

Take breaks

In 2012, The Australia Institute conducted research into work-life balance. The results showed that over half of Australian workers weren’t taking their full leave entitlements each year, leading them to feel stressed, anxious and overwhelmed about their work responsibilities.

Taking annual leave, whether you use it for travel or a staycation, is a great way to reduce stress levels and reinvigorate your mind and body. You can also get the benefits of a break without having to take time off: taking your lunch break every day is a good start if you’re looking to add a little relaxation into your day.

If you’re working for yourself or working a casual job, you might not be building up leave entitlements. It’s still important to give yourself an occasional break from work, so budgeting for the time and expenses that will come with taking time off is an essential step in your healthy workplace plan.

Healthy rewards

Instead of staffroom cakes or end-of-week drinking sessions, think about ways you and your colleagues can give yourself pats on the back that won’t turn into unhealthy habits.

You could try active and fun group outings like rock climbing, going for a bushwalk or trying your hand at archery, or learn a new skill as a group with cooking or painting classes. Cultural activities, like visiting a new exhibition at a museum or art gallery, might help spark conversation about topics beyond work.

Mindfulness and meditation

Many Australian businesses are beginning to recognise the positive role mindfulness can play in the workplace. Practising mindfulness can not only help you to focus better and remember more, it can also increase creativity and quality of work while decreasing stress and anxiety.

Practising mindfulness at work could involve encouraging colleagues to cut down on multitasking or beginning each day with a short group mediation session. Programs like Smiling Mind can help you to bring mindfulness into the workplace, with tips and techniques to help build good mental health.

Create a Healthier. Happier. Workplaces plan

If you’re keen to take your workplace to the next level of health and wellbeing, head over to Healthier. Happier. Workplaces for more information and see how easy it is to create your own healthy workplace plan and achieve recognition for your commitment to a healthy workplace.

Last updated: 17 November 2017