Research from the Health Benefits of Good Work Campaign is shining the spotlight on how businesses and employees can profit from ‘good work’.
Work used to be considered a means to an end: you turn up, do your job, get paid, go home. Rinse and repeat. While in theory it makes perfect sense, it doesn’t acknowledge the role work plays in our overall quality of life – mentally and physically. The Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) Campaign highlights the important role work has in creating a content, productive and healthy working population.
“We want to encourage employers to put strategies in place that ensure their workplaces are healthy for employees, and that they provide ‘good work’ for their people,” says Suzanne Jones, MTC Australia Board Member and Chair of the Australian HBGW Signatories Steering Group. “Part of this is recognising the link between good work and employee engagement and productivity.”
The HBGW Consensus Statement, developed by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) in 2011, is the foundation of the campaign. The HBGW Campaign was launched a few years later along with the HBGW Signatories Steering Groups (SSG) across Australia and New Zealand.
“The Australian SSG is a collaboration of employers, unions, insurers, government bodies, peak industry associations and workplace health practitioners, all of whom collectively endorse ‘good work’ as a key factor of health and wellbeing,” says Suzanne. “We want to influence all levels of decision makers so that Australians and New Zealanders have full access to good work.”
What is ‘good work’?
It sounds like a simple concept. Good work is a job that pays fairly and where you’re treated fairly. Right? Well, sort of.
Good work means work that has a positive impact on employees’ wellbeing, provides opportunities for personal growth, is fulfilling, gives them independence and has some meaning for them.
Suzanne explains that there’s now more attention on public health interventions at work to improve psychological and physical wellbeing – but there should be more of a focus on the quality of the work performed and workplace.
Research shows that if an employee is injured or ill, rehabilitation can be quicker if they return to work, rather than stay at home. Health benefits include quicker recovery time, less reliance on medication, more financial stability and less disruption to their home life. However, it’s best to return to good work, and view work as part of the recovery process.
“For those already working, and those detached from work, either through unemployment or illness or injury, the workplace is vital in promoting positive mental health. This not only contributes to the prevention of conditions but the care and recovery of people with mental health and addiction challenges,” Suzanne says.
Benefits for employers
Employers also reap benefits of creating ‘good work’ for their employees. Suzanne explains that employers who invest in the wellbeing of their employees enjoy far greater employee engagement, which leads to greater productivity. “It makes business sense to incorporate HBGW principles,” she says.
The good news for employers doesn’t stop there.
“More broadly, workplaces play a crucial role in improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. Good work principles are essential for promoting positive mental health. Creating healthy workplaces is the right, legal and smart thing to do,” says Suzanne.
The campaign is not just trying to help workplaces and employees of the present – it’s trying to set up a new model of working to help protect potentially vulnerable employees and employers. This means looking at the future of the workplace in a larger context so that issues can be addressed before they become an epidemic.
According to Suzanne, anxiety and depression are set to become the leading cause of workplace absence, and most workplaces aren’t prepared for this. Having said that, she believes that increased social awareness is forcing policy makers, clinicians and employees to recognise the health impact of a poor workplace.
“Our world of work is changing at a great rate. We now experience different ways of working, increasing technology, having to do more with less, reduction in availability of funding and an ageing workforce that is having to work longer for economic and social reasons,” Suzanne says. “Increased social awareness on issues such as mental health is key in this changing attitude to the workplace and what should be deemed as acceptable working conditions for employees.
Our commitment to good work
MTC Australia was the first organisation in its sector to become a signatory to the HBGW Consensus Statement. The signatory base currently has almost 300 organisations across Australia and New Zealand.
Joanna Mallon leads MTC’s People & Culture (human resources) team and says that the organisation’s commitment to good work practices is of the highest priority. “Internally, we’re focused on creating a culture that supports the findings of the HBGW Campaign. We ensure there are plenty of opportunities for personal growth, and we aim to give our employees meaning in their daily lives.”
How Warakirri is preparing the next generation for good work
As a social enterprise, MTC Australia reinvests its surplus back into innovative social impact initiatives like Warakirri College, an independent high school for young people completing Year 10 and Higher School Certificate studies.
“We prepare our students for entering the workforce and living independently,” says Warakirri Principal Carolyn Blanden. “Our program supplements the standard academic curriculum with specific training in gaining employment and maintaining a fulfilling, lifelong career.
“Concepts like good work are particularly important for our students because they need to understand that employment has emotional and social benefits in addition to the obvious financial ones. We encourage them to seek employers who demonstrate the practices and policies that create good work.”
Learn more about the Health Benefits of Good Work Campaign.