September 15, 2019

The Evolution of Workplace Wellness Programmes

Article by Micah Weeks

Workplace wellness has been an ongoing subject of conversation among human resource specialists, business leaders and staff. Management is seeing the adverse effects in their bottom line when workers are sick and unproductive. This has led them to invest in fitness programmes, collaborate with health organisations and enlist the help of interior design services to create an environment more conducive to work and wellness.

Although corporate wellness is a hot topic, it is not a new concept. In fact, it has a long history and has since changed how organisations take care of their employees.

Early Identifications of Workplace Illness

Workplace wellness started with Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini, who was considered the Father of Occupational Medicine. When he was appointed the chair of the theory of medicine at the University of Modena, he concentrated on preventative measures to decrease diseases among workers.

Half a century after Ramazzini’s death in 1714, the Industrial Revolution brought with it new health problems and injuries with people working in factories and the sharing of communal spaces.

A Shift to Promote Employee Health

During the war, measures were taken to make sure soldiers were fit. Japan broadcasted morning exercises on the radio so soldiers could do 15-minute stretches to energise them for the day. This practice continues to the present day and implemented by schools and companies in the country.

In Western countries, successful companies built gymnasium facilities and fitness instructors to encourage employees to stay in physical shape. These facilities, however, were often limited to the higher levels of the workforce.

Wellness programmes for rank-and-file staff started only in the mid-1970s, prompted by a general culture shift to promote fitness, emerging findings that showed the cost of unhealthy workplace habits and the formation of health promotion groups. In 1979, Johnson & Johnson launched its Live for Life program, which continues to be referenced as a prototype for corporate wellness programmes. Here, organisations conduct a physical assessment on an employee and provide support to control weight, improve nutrition and manage stress.

Taking a Holistic Approach

Office speaker talking about health insurance

Corporate wellness programmes focused mainly on making sure employees are healthy enough to be more productive. It was not until the late 1980s when organisations started taking approaches to promote overall employee health. Comprehensive corporate wellness plans consist of five elements:

  • Health education
  • A supportive social and physical work environment
  • Integration of the program into the work structure
  • Related services (e.g. insurance, therapy, pharmacy services)
  • Screening programmes

Since then, workplace wellness programmes have been providing counselling, health seminars and monetary rewards to incentivise employees to maintain their health.

Throughout history, the concept of employee health has broadened. What started as a focus on physical injuries and illnesses has grown to include other aspects of health. Today, many organisations are implementing a holistic approach to care for their people’s physical, mental and social health.

Boost Employee Wellness Through Interior Design

A well-designed office supports a company’s initiative to promote workplace wellness. Let Zircon Interiors help you create a space that promotes health and motivation to your employees. For over 28 years, we have been offering commercial interior design services to organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.

We have a comprehensive process when designing your office space. We involve you in the planning process, and we conduct a SWOT analysis to make sure the design highlights business strengths and improves on weaknesses. With the use of 3D modelling, 3D rendering, mood boards and rendered finished plans, we test fit plans before we move to the design phase.

Want to update your space for healthier and happier workers? Call us on 1300 947 266.

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