MetLife calls for stronger workplace initiatives to improve health and wellbeing of Australians
Sydney October 16, 2018
Dr. Leena Johns, MetLife Vice President of global healthcare strategy and Medical Director, in Sydney this week to deliver workplace health seminars, has called on Australian employers to put more focus on the health of their employees.
With increasing rates of chronic disease in Australia – more than half the population suffer from a chronic disease1 – and people spending upwards of 35 hours a week in the workplace2, or a third of their lives, employers are in an ideal position to support their staff on their health journey. Changes to work patterns, including taking work home and being contactable outside regular work hours, have also extended the ‘workplace’ for many employees, further supporting the need for employers to be invested in the health of their workforce.
Dr. Johns said: “Chronic disease is a major issue for employee productivity, which can lead to significantly increased costs for business and an increased imposition on Australia’s healthcare system and society in general. Absenteeism and presenteeism cost the Australian economy and society millions every year.3
The workplace is the ideal place for encouraging effective and sustainable lifestyle changes that have a positive and lasting impact on physical and mental health. Better health leads to reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, and offering your people easy access to information and resources is an effective way to help them manage their health and wellbeing and increase their engagement with their work.
“From the programs we’ve rolled out with employers across the globe, we’ve seen meaningful reductions in medically-related claims and significant improvements in employee engagement metrics. Healthier people perform better, are happier, and are more likely to stay,” Dr. Johns said.
Dr. Johns also noted that mental health is a frequently overlooked workforce issue. “The reality is that our bodies do not differentiate between a physical threat like being chased in a dark alley, and psychological stress. Mental and physical health are not separate domains – they are fundamentally linked. So when we stress over a problem continuously, our body reacts to it as if it were facing a real life threat, resulting in an outpouring of hormones from our endocrine system that fuels inflammation in our body,” she said.
Dr. Johns’ area of interest is health data analytics, and she is responsible for developing and implementing health and wellbeing strategies globally. She has four tips for engaging employees at work about their health:
- Education and awareness – this is a great place to start, by providing information people need to understand about their health
- Prevention and screening – offering screening programs that help employees take a proactive approach to specific health issues
- Health intervention programs – helping employees take an active step towards better health, such as quit smoking programs
- Behavioural change – initiatives need to be grounded in sustainable behavioural change to ensure real impact.
Dr. Johns’ comments come as MetLife continues to roll out its pilot workplace health initiative, MetLife Health and Wellbeing. This program is designed to shift to a more proactive and preventative approach to health and wellbeing, helping people at all stages of their health journey, from when they are well through to getting back to work after experiencing a physical or mental health event. It’s a holistic, integrated suite of tools, services and resources which includes a digital lifestyle app which draws on positive psychology and behaviour change to help people incorporate health and wellbeing practices into their daily routines. MetLife Health and Wellbeing is being piloted with a major superannuation fund and one of its employer companies, with plans for further rollout in the near future.
- AIG Absenteeism & Presenteeism Survey Report 2015
Sarah Kelly, MetLife Australia
+61 (0)411 893 890