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The 30 year journey of corporate wellness in Australia

This month we celebrate 30 years of Well at Work, our ever-popular corporate wellness newsletter.

When I launched the newsletter in 1986 (under the name of Health Attack), it was the first of its type in Australia. Corporate health was a new concept, and mostly focused on safety, or on fitness for executives at top tier firms.

I remember someone asking me how on earth I’d come up with a new articles on exercise or nutrition or safety every month. That’s never been a problem. Every month my editorial team bursts with ideas on ways to motivate, inform and inspire employees about health and wellness.

Always meticulously researched, and always with the aim of cutting through the hype and giving employees the best, most proactive and positive advice possible.

How Well at Work  began

In 1986 I’d been running the corporate fitness programs for companies such as CSR and The Institute of Administration (now the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM).

Having a fitness program was great, and delivered measurable results, but to me it was only a drop in the ocean. I could see a need to reach all employees and to get the message out about health and wellness.

The newsletter idea was perfect: it was scalable for my business, and cost-effective for my clients.

How it worked

Desktop publishing only just been invented in 1986. The first Apple Macintosh had launched two years before, and IBM had only just released its “personal computer”.

Artwork was actual artwork, drawn by hand, or chosen out of a book. Cutting and pasting meant literally cutting and pasting the paper.

The impact of Well at Work

Companies loved it – suddenly corporate health had become easier and more accessible.

They could ensure their employees had access to expert information, without them having to do the hard work.

Most of all, they loved the ability to brand it with their own company.

Their employees weren’t receiving a Healthworks publication, they were receiving a company newsletter from an employer who cared about their health.

How it’s changed

Of course, these days the design and publication process is much easier! The look and feel of Well at Work blows me away – I could never have envisaged such as high-end look to this magazine back in 1986.

But the real change is the content.

Content reflects maturity of corporate wellness industry

Back in 1986, Occupational Health and Safety was the driving force for health initiatives, and the focus was on safety. Wellbeing wasn’t acknowledged as a business necessity, and health was mostly there as an injury prevention tool.

Since then it’s been an amazing experience to watch corporate health grow and mature into a massive industry.

Wellness and wellbeing is no longer seen as a fluffy HR idea, but as a crucial strategy for productivity, employee engagement and business agility. In fact, it’s essential for any company that wants to remain competitive.

And then there’s mental health.

The normalisation of mental health

While it’s concerning to see psychological injury, stress and mental health become such a major issue, it’s also been gratifying to see mental health come out into the open.

Even five years ago, companies were reluctant to talk about mental health, and employees would rarely admit to a problem. We had to talk about “stress” or “resilience” instead. Now clients come to us wanting solutions to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. It’s become OK to talk about it.

I’d like to think we’re enabling that movement with Well at Work. We’ve been addressing mental health issues for years, and now around half the newsletter focuses on mental health. The rest covers nutrition, physical activity and safety.

The future is digital

While there’s still strong demand for our print magazine, I knew several years ago that the real future for this kind of content is digital.

We already provide digital versions of Well at Work as a PDF and in e-magazine format, but I wanted to make Well at Work more dynamic, to really bring it to life.

So, we’ve gone the whole hog, and created a digital platform that includes gamified, interactive challenges, integration with wearable tech, personal training programs, personal tracker dashboard – and of course, all our awesome content from Well at Work. It’s quite something. Ask us about it!


Author Healthworks

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