Why employee wellbeing programs are a must have for businesses.

Jason Fairbairn
3 min readAug 12, 2019


The year is 2040, almost every single adult member of the population is overweight, over one third are clinically obese. There have been close to two million obesity related deaths and the population of 20–74 year olds has cumulatively had over 10 million years of potential life lost. Sound farfetched? It isn’t.

Obesity rates in Australia are climbing faster than anywhere else in the world, a quarter of Australian children are overweight as are 63% of adults. In the last 25 years men have put on an average 6.5kgs, women 5.7kg. 9 in 10 people are dying from chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. All of which are illnesses with links to lifestyle, diet and exercise. 25 years ago these statistics would have been unthinkable, yet here we are. Just imagine where we could be in 25 years time if this trend was to continue.

Changes to the working environment have contributed to falling activity rates and an increase in unhealthy behaviour. Workplaces have become increasingly sedentary; workers sit for longer periods of time, have limited access to leisure options and are working longer hours in mentally demanding roles. These demands on our time have left less time for recreation and increased the need for people to turn to fast food, food generally with high sugar and fat contents.

What does this mean for businesses and the economy? Access Economics put the cost at $3.6 billion dollars in lost productivity with a cost to the healthcare system at 2 billion dollars. A study by Medibank Private found that unhealthy workers used 9 times as much sick leave as healthy ones and only contributed 49 effective work hours per month compared to 143 effective hours by healthy workers. Healthy workers were more alert and less stressed.

Health also extends beyond the physical costs, being overweight and inactive has clear links to mental health as well. A number of studies have found that inactivity and being overweight leads to an increase in anxiety and depression. In fact a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that mental health issues alone cost Australian businesses $10.9 billion a year in absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims.

With these facts in mind it’s clear that workplaces have a vital role to play in the health and wellbeing of their workforce. Workplaces that run health promotion strategies can reduce the health risk factors of their workers by more than half and increase business productivity, efficiency and corporate image. Their workers are more productive, feel happier and more valued in the workplace, they are less stressed, use less leave and are more likely to stay with that employer. Their risk factors associated with lifestyle are reduced, their incidence of diabetes, cancer and heart disease is reduced and they are likely to report much higher levels of work satisfaction.

With such a clear relationship between worker wellbeing and workplace productivity it is blatantly obvious that corporate health and wellness programs are vital to business success.