What really improves employee health and wellbeing: Findings from regional Australian workplaces Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose – Factors for successful workplace health promotion (WHP) are well described in the literature, but often sourced from evaluations of wellness programmes. Less well understood are the features of an organisation that contribute to employee health which are not part of a health promotion programme. The purpose of this paper is to inform policy on best practice principles and provide real life examples of health promotion in regional Victorian workplaces. Design/methodology/approach – Individual case studies were conducted on three organisations, each with a health and wellbeing programme in place. In total, 42 employers and employees participated in a face to face interview. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and the qualitative data were thematically coded. Findings – Employers and senior management had a greater focus on occupational health and safety than employees, who felt that mental/emotional health and happiness were the areas most benefited by a health promoting workplace. An organisational culture which supported the psychosocial needs of the employees emerged as a significant factor in employee's overall wellbeing. Respectful personal relationships, flexible work, supportive management and good communication were some of the key factors identified as creating a health promoting working environment. Practical implications – Currently in Australia, the main focus of WHP programmes is physical health. Government workplace health policy and funding must expand to include psychosocial factors. Employers will require assistance to understand the benefits to their business of creating environments which support employee's mental and emotional health. Originality/value – This study took a qualitative approach to an area dominated by quantitative biomedical programme evaluations. It revealed new information about what employees really feel is impacting their health at work.

publication date

  • 2014