Health Benefits of Good WorkTM eNewsletter December 2020

A message from the SSG Chair

Chair’s reflections on the past year

As we lead into Christmas 2020, we have an opportunity to reflect on a year that began with the fear and devastation of bushfires ravaging and impacting much of Australia and moved into the unknown of COVID-19 which so disrupted our community and has resulted in the deaths of too many Australians, along with those around the world.  

In a special way, we are invited to reflect on the way that our society, governments and employers have embraced work flexibility, alternative forms of communication and redesign of work; which are all the hallmarks of the Health Benefits of Good WorkTM (HBGW) principles. It was appropriate that after 10 years, the longest running campaign initiated by RACP should be the foundation of our community’s response with a recognition of the value of the RACP and the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFEOM) Fellows also consulting to government advisory panels on response requirements. I begin with my own reflection as Chair of the Signatories Steering Group (SSG), a role which I took over from Suzanne Jones in late 2019. I once again thank Suzanne and her fantastic group of SSG volunteers who worked so hard over several years to build a solid foundation for the HBGW Signatories group. We needed that solid foundation this year, to help with our resilience as normal HBGW SSG activity (such as our forums) were disrupted and so many were forced to work and engage differently. I needed the support and enthusiasm of my SSG Committee Chairs: Simonie Fox, Noni Byron and Tatjana Jokic and their committees to help drive and communicate the HBGW message at a time when our community needed to engage with HBGW. I also have to acknowledge the help of Joanne Goldrick and the rest of the College Administrative Team who made additional time to support our work during a period when College resources were stretched thin.

In this 10-year anniversary of the HBGW campaign, I’m glad that the campaign evolved from being the 'Health Benefits of Work' at its inception to the 'Health Benefits of Good Work' in 2015. The aspects of 'Good Work' was the main feature of our campaign this year as we delivered HBGW professional practice content through newsletters, webinars and an online virtual forum. Our campaign and LinkedIn profile have grown from strength to strength with more signatories (reaching 285 in 2020) and LinkedIn followers (700) joining in to help us spread the message that workplaces could continue to rely on and apply the HBGW principles in the way that they responded to and evolved their workplaces in light of COVID-19.  

We had resounding success with our collaborative Webinar Series and Virtual Forum, which was delivered across the last quarter of 2020. With more than 500 registrations across all offerings, our Committee Chairs, along with College Fellows and guest speakers, unpacked HBGW in a way that resonated with listeners. The feedback from the webinars and forum was overwhelmingly positive and we are currently planning how to replicate this success into 2021.

I would like to take this moment to thank all readers for their ongoing support of the HBGW and I look forward to hearing more amazing stories from you about how HBGW is being adopted into your work practice or industry.  

Wishing all of you a safe and happy festive season. I hope that you all get a fantastic break with friends and family and I look forward to being back with you again in the New Year.

Kind regards,

Mr Keith Govias
HBGW SSG Chair


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The history of the Health Benefits of Good Work (2010-2020)

As we approach the end of the year it is appropriate to look back on the past decade and reflect on the HBGW campaign.  With 2020 hindsight, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives, and particularly our working lives, forever.

Return to the so called 'COVID normal' has enhanced our personal and environmental hygiene, with cessation of handshaking, increased handwashing, and daily wearing of facemasks or respirators for many. Work practices have changed, possibly for ever, with video meetings, online teaching and webinars instead of lectures, instant mobile calls, sequential teleconferences, and working from home for social distancing, as well as the rapid implementation of telemedicine.

We are still in the midst of the pandemic, so many of the beneficial and adverse effects are yet to be determined but will undoubtedly last for many years. There is likely to be continued unemployment and under employment, especially among female workers. The level of anxiety in the community from the risk of infection, as well as the effects of social isolation, will likely exacerbate the adverse effects of insecure work. The availability of modern computers and data collection systems will enable research into the biopsychosocial aspects of this pandemic to a level never previously available and the full effects will be gradually revealed over the decades to come.

However we can expect such research to show those organisations which have embraced and implemented the health benefits of good work will be those which will have best been able to adapt and survive this pandemic. The last decade has laid the groundwork in HBGW and hopefully has enabled these organisations to respond with agility to the pandemic.  Only time will tell. Case histories from organisations who are Signatories to the RACP Consensus Statement on Good Work are awaited with interest to see ­ how they have responded to this pandemic. The effects on their workers and clients are likely to be both fascinating and revealing.

The Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) is now the longest running campaign initiated by the RACP. After 10 years, it is now appropriate to detail the progress and achievements of this campaign. Although initially called the ‘Health Benefits of Work’ (HBOW), it was renamed the ‘Health Benefits of Good Work’ in 2015 because it was recognised that not all workplaces were both physically and psychologically beneficial places to work.

The basic tenets of the campaign have remained unchanged over the decade and are summarised as follows:

  • The medical evidence in the AFOEM ‘Health Benefits of Good Work’ policy confirms that people who are employed in good work, regardless of disabilities, enjoy better health than those who remain as long-term unemployed.
  • Organisations and businesses which promote good work by investing in the welfare and morale of their workers, including those with disabilities, will reap the rewards of increased productivity, reduced unplanned absences, decreased staff turnover and decreased claims for workers compensation.
  • All individuals of working age with a capacity for employment should be actively assisted to participate in good work and both, they and the community, will reap the benefits.
  • Participation in employment sets a good example to children and will help to decrease the intergenerational dependency on welfare, to reduce poverty and to improve long-term health outcomes.

The significant milestones of the campaign are as follows:

  • On 18 May 2010, 'Realising the Health Benefits of Work', a position paper developed by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) was officially launched in Sydney by Dr Robin Chase, AFOEM President (at the time). This was based on UK evidence provided on the health benefits of work by Professor Sir Mansel Aylward and subsequently supported by Professor Dame Carol Black, President of the Royal College of Physicians.
  • The Health Benefits of Good Work campaign has been actively supported by all subsequent presidents of AFOEM, namely Dr James Ross, Dr David Beaumont, Dr Peter Connaughton, Dr Beata Byok and Professor Malcolm Sim AM.
  • On 30 March 2011, the Australian and New Zealand Consensus Statements on the Health Benefits of Work were launched by Professor Dame Carol Black in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Dame Carol was subsequently awarded honorary fellowship of the RACP in 2011.
  • The companion position statements, ‘What is Good Work?’ and ‘Improving Workforce Health and Workplace Productivity’ were released in 2013.
  • These documents and initiatives were promoted at public presentations on 7 May 2014 in Sydney, and on 1 April 2015 in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • These documents and presentations gained wide acceptance among health professionals and health industry stakeholders. Organisations were encouraged to publicly commit to the principles by signing their agreement with the RACP Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Work. These organisations became known as Signatories to the Consensus Statement.
  • In 2015, AFOEM resolved the campaign be renamed to the ‘Health Benefits of Good Work’.
  • A webpage was established on the RACP website in 2016 to act as a repository for resources on the Health Benefits of Good Work.
  • In April 2017, a common Consensus Statement was developed for both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • In 2020, the RACP submitted an application to register the trademark of the Health Benefits of Good Work and logo in both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • There are now around 190,000 websites (excluding the RACP) referring to the Health Benefits of Good Work, and over 300 Signatories to the RACP Consensus Statement.

Creation of the Health Benefits of Work Executive Steering Committee

  • In 2014 the AFOEM established the RACP AFOEM HBGW Stakeholder Executive Group to determine the strategic direction for implementation of the health benefits of work into the industry and health sectors. 
  • This AFOEM-led RACP Health Benefits of Work Executive Steering Committee held its inaugural meeting on 8 July 2014. This committee consisted of Dr Warren Harrex (Chair), Dr Robin Chase (Chair of AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee), Dr David Beaumont (AFOEM President ), Ms Lisa Dive and Ms Claire Celia (RACP Policy & Advocacy Officers) and Ms Suzanne Jones representing external stakeholders.
  • This committee reported to the RACP through the AFOEM Faculty Policy & Advocacy Committee.
  • A Health Steering Group was proposed to communicate the campaign among health professions and a meeting was held on 25 August 2016. This group was subsequently subsumed by the Collaborative Partnership.

The purpose of this Executive Committee was to:

  • oversee the College’s interface with industry for the purpose of promoting the HBGW initiative
  • act as custodian to the vision of HBGW to ensure the appropriate intent and usage of this policy
  • set a framework that benefits workers and not just the College and insurers/industry
  • provide oversight and strategic direction to this ongoing initiative in line with College processes
  • protect the College intellectual property and facilitate education in this area
  • recruit signatories to the Consensus Statement and place greater onus on signatories to 'walk the talk'
  • oversee the Industry Steering Group (later named the Signatory Steering Group).

The question was raised as to how to measure progress/outcome. A number of suggestions were made with the acknowledgement that outcomes in this area are complex and multifactorial, and accordingly not straightforward to measure.

On 20 August 2018, the composition of the Executive Group was expanded to include the AFOEM Representative on the Collaborative Partnership and the AFOEM Immediate Past President.

Formation of the Signatory Steering Group (SSG)

On the recommendation of the Executive Group, the SSG was created to assist with the implementation of HBGW among industry, and to provide a formal feedback process to the Executive Committee through the Chair of the SSG.

  • An Expression of Interest was released on 22 October 2014 to members of the SSG and 21 responses were received.  
  • Members of the SSG were selected on 8 January 2015 based on their ability to represent areas of industry and the first meeting was held on 29 January 2015, with Ms Suzanne Jones as chair. 
  • The RACGP became a standing member of the SSG and was represented by Dr Amy Ho.
  • In April 2015, a meeting was held in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington with Dame Carol Black and this led to the formation of the Aotearoa New Zealand SSG.   

The SSG was established to: 

  • implement strategy set by the RACP AFOEM/Stakeholder Executive Group 
  • progress integration of the health benefits of work policy agenda across stakeholder groups with a focus on industry sectors and government authorities in their interaction with other relevant sectors
  • facilitate growth of the AFOEM RACP Consensus Statement signatory base
  • contribute to the HBGW evidence base
  • identify exemplar organisations, share information and collaborate on initiatives that enable organisations to implement HBGW programs
  • champion policy improvements within industry
  • work collectively.

Activities of the SSG

The SSG has been highly productive since its formation because of the dedicated, enthusiastic and hard-working members over the years. Particular acknowledgement of the contributions must be made to Ms Suzanne Jones, Mr Robin Shaw, Mr Peter Dewar, Ms Anne Cherry and Ms Morag Fitzsimons in the formative years. The major achievements are as follows:

  • the SSG proposed that a literature review be undertaken to detail the latest evidence and this update was completed by November 2015 
  • the SSG proposed to produce a twice-yearly newsletter to distribute to all Signatories with the first newsletter published in November 2015
  • a Charter of Principles for Health Benefits of Good Work was created for distribution to Signatories on 18 March 2015
  • by 2016, there were over 100 Signatories to the RACP Consensus Statement
  • in 2017, a social media presence was established on LinkedIn and now has over 700 followers 
  • on 5 September 2017, the SSG raised the need for a logo and the current logo was endorsed by the RACP on 15 March 2018
  • revised Terms of Reference for the Australian Signatories Steering Group was ratified on 12 March 2018. The RACP agreed to provide the venue and administrative support for the SSG meetings, but members provide their own travel and accommodation costs
  • Mr Keith Govias succeeded Ms Suzanne Jones as Chair in 2019
  • there are now over 285 Signatories to the RACP Consensus Statement
  • because of the COVID-19 pandemic, webinars were held in 2020 on 16 September, 2 November and 3 December, with the first virtual forum held on 11 November 2020.

SSG initiated HBGW Industry Forums have been held as follows:

  • 20 November 2015, Sydney
  • 24 May 2016, Melbourne
  • 9 November 2016, Adelaide
  • 31 May 2017, Sydney
  • 17 November 2017, Perth 
  • 7 June 2018, Brisbane
  • 8 November 2018, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • 21 June 2019, Darwin
  • 11 November 2020 – first virtual forum.

SSG Feb 2015
HBGW Signatory Steering Group – February 2015

Health Benefits of Good Work webinar series

In the second half of 2020, the Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) Signatory Steering Group (SSG) developed three webinars concentrating on COVID-19 and returning to the workplace. There were 184 attendees, who participated and engaged in this thought-provoking series. 

Webinar one – 16 September 2020

Topic: How to support employees who are vulnerable to COVID-19 return to the workplace. 
 
Speakers:

  • Mr Keith Govias (Chair), Principal Consultant – Workplace Risk, Gallagher 
  • Professor Malcolm Sim AM, AFOEM President 
  • Ms Simonie Fox, Head of Shared Value Partnerships, AIA Australia
  • Ms Lucy Hartley, Claims Service Manager | Vice President | Life & Health Business Management, Swiss Re Life & Health Australia Ltd, Australia Branch

This webinar is available on the Health Benefits of Good Work resources webpage.

Webinar two – 2 November 2020

Topic: Considerations from a mental health WHS and productivity perspective.  
 
Speakers:

  • Mr Keith Govias (Chair), Principal Consultant – Workplace Risk, Gallagher 
  • Ms Noni Byron, Managing Director / Founder and Owner of Prestige Health Services Australia
  • Dr Teri Lillington, Occupational and Environmental Physician
  • Ms Julie MacCormick, Claims Service Manager at Swiss Re Australia and New Zealand

The webinar covered three key areas:

  1. Effective leadership skills – supporting employees mental health and productivity when working from home and returning to the workplace.
  2. Understanding WHS obligations as an employer – both from a work from home (WFH) and return-to-office perspective – with a lens on mental health and COVID-19 WHS considerations.
  3. Silver linings of COVID-19 – helping employers see a new way of recruiting candidates into employment who may previously have been discounted due to injury/illness or disability (i.e. WFH possibilities), job adaptation and job design post COVID-19 – flexible workplaces – promoting productivity, better work/life balance and inclusivity.

This webinar is available on the Health Benefits of Good Work resources webpage

Webinar three – 2 December 2020

Topic: How to support employees with workers compensation injuries with a return back into the workplace (mental health and physical considerations). 

Speakers:
 

  • Mr Keith Govias (Chair) Principal Consultant – Workplace Risk, Gallagher 
  • Ms Corrinne Hutton, Manager Work Injury Prevention Partnerships – SIRA  
  • Dr Robin Chase, Chair AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee
  • Ms Tatjana Jokic, JK Corporate Resourcing and Signatory Engagement Committee 

This webinar will be available on the RACP website in due course. 

Feedback from the webinar series attendees:

“Great speakers – love the practical tips”

“Fantastic, knowledgeable panel. Thank you”


Health Benefits of Good Work Virtual Forum 

Promoting the Health Benefits of Good Work during COVID-19

The first Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) Virtual Forum was held on 11 November 2020. The virtual forum replaced the annual face-to-face forum (due to COVID-19). There were 120 attendees with a highly engaged audience. Due to the volume of questions, some had to be answered out of session. 

Presenters: 

  • Ms Rachael Palmer — Senior Consultant and Organisational Psychologist at Transitioning Well
  • Ms Cathy Oddie — Domestic Violence Survivor Advocate 
  • Dr Sara Pazell — Managing Director at Viva Health at Work
  • Professor Malcolm Sim AM — AFOEM President
  • Dr Warren Harrex —  AFOEM President-Elect and Chair, HBGW Executive
  • Ms Noni Byron —  Managing Director, Prestige Health Services Australia

Presenter 1: Ms Rachel Palmer – Transitioning Well – Promoting the HBGW for younger and ageing workforce and those returning from parental leave during COVID-19. The objective of this session was to provide education to employers around the issues younger, ageing and returning parents may face as a result of COVID-19 and working from home and how we can best promote HBGW for these particular sub groups.
Presenter 2: Ms Cathy Oddie – Domestic Violence Expert Speaker – Domestic violence and the employers WHS obligation for employees working from home. This presentation covered domestic violence statistics in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand: warning signs for employers to be aware of, how to have the conversation with employees where concern is identified and how to support employees who may be at risk/experiencing domestic violence. 
Presenter 3: Dr Sara Pazell – Good Work Design – considerations around work design during COVID-19.

Feedback from the Forum:

“Great event. Wish to thank presenters on sharing concepts but also making me aware of suitable workplace support measures.”

The Virtual Forum is available on the Health Benefits of Good Work resources webpage



Work as clinical outcome

WellnessIn 172 AD, Galen of Pergamon, a Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher said, "Employment is Nature’s physician, and is essential to human happiness".  Some 2,000 years later in 2006 Gordon Waddell and Kim Burton conducted a comprehensive systematic review of the research evidence and published it in Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? From their examinations Waddell and Burton determined, "placement in work improves health and psychosocial status". Galen it seems was on the money!

Return to work is a key clinical outcome

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK (RCPUK) in their article Work is a key clinical outcome also concur with Galen, Waddell and Burton. The article states, “A return to work is, for most patients, a positive clinical outcome, and sometimes, an intervention in its own right”. As we would all know beside the material rewards, through work we get a sense of identity and connection with others in our society.  Work also provides opportunities for personal achievement; it is a means of structuring and occupying our time and helps us to develop mental, social and physical skills. 

Health benefits of good work

The current affirmation, ‘the health benefits of work’ has been updated to specify it must be good work. A culture of bullying and harassment for example can have a negative impact on workers as well as the workplace culture. There is also the notion of work/life balance being important to our wellbeing. Even so as the RCPUK’s article points out, “research studies have found that unemployed people do not exploit the extra time on their hands to follow leisure and social pursuits”. Instead it was noted, “unemployment is associated with increased apathy, a shrinking social circle and decreased motivation”. 

Keeping people off work makes them sicker

Make it happenBasically, keeping people off work makes them sicker. Joe Marrone and Ed Golowka from the Institute for Community Inclusion in Portland Oregon wrote a paper titled If Work Makes People with Mental Illness Sick, What Do Unemployment, Poverty, and Social Isolation Cause? that probably says it all.  

According to the RCPUK, “no one is intrinsically unemployable” and the article observes that studies show “given the right conditions and support, the vast majority of people who are out of work and use mental health services want to return to or to start work”. 

Work is beneficial to wellbeing

Waddell and Burton’s findings include that work:

  • meets important psychosocial needs in societies where employment is the norm
  • is central to individual identity, social roles and social status
  • is therapeutic and helps to promote recovery and rehabilitation
  • reduces the risk of long-term incapacity.

Conversely Waddell and Burton note there is strong association between worklessness and poor health.  They conclude, “overall the beneficial effects of work outweigh the risks of work” and “are greater than the harmful effects of … prolonged sickness absence”.

Good employee health is good for business

The RCPUK propose good employee health is good for business. They also propose there is a strong case for developing good policies and practices to support your employees to remain productive at work.  Likewise, SIRA in the NSW workers’ compensation sphere promote the concept of ‘Recover at Work’ as this is fundamental to an early, safe and sustained return to work and reduced workers’ compensation premiums.

The overhaul of the NSW Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Scheme in 2016 was aimed at reducing premiums that were skyrocketing. An integral part of those changes was the CTP Recover at Work Assist Program that recognised the human, community, business and financial value of getting people to work wherever possible after an accident.

Life insurers too increasingly recognise the benefit of exploring return to work as a goal with their members; and engaging employers in this process. This approach is positive for the wellbeing of the member, the operations of their employer and the viability of the sector.  

Take-away for employers

Managing all injuries and illnesses regardless of the cause is best practice. It creates a safe place for workers and contributes to wellbeing that contributes directly to the bottom line.

Employers 'good policies and practices' should encompass an approach to injury/illness management for all employees where work is a key clinical outcome and this is a critical message that should be conveyed to the treating doctors.

Read Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing?.

Read Work is a key clinical outcome.

Author:
Kerry Foster graduated with a B. Social Work in 1980 and since 1995 has been the Director of Active OHS a Workplace Rehabilitation Provider skilled in the injury management and recover-at-work space. Active OHS also offers RTW and WHS Training and Consulting, Ergonomic and Fit for Work Assessments as well as Outsourced RTW Coordinators.

Work-connected interventions for people with psychological injuries

In 2019, Monash University was commissioned by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority of NSW (SIRA) to conduct multi-phased research into interventions for people with psychological injuries, impacting their ability to work.

The research aimed to:

  1. synthesise the current evidence and knowledge surrounding claims management, recovery and return to work of people with psychological injury claims 
  2. work with stakeholders, to identify and document opportunities for programs, services and supports that can improve outcomes
  3. identify gaps in knowledge and propose methods for improving knowledge generation, translation and uptake.

Key findings: Phase one

While there was some evidence found to support psychological services in the treatment of non-traumatic stress, effective workplace interventions for psychological injury were not clearly identified in the academic evidence base, or in the grey literature (information available on the internet).
The common theme identified from the key expert interviews and the grey literature (government and industry reports) is the need for an individualised approach to the management of psychological injuries. This type of approach requires a tailored plan, along with high level of skill of those managing the injury.

Next steps

These findings can be used to support better outcomes through a focus on tailored planning and highly skilled support. During the next phase researchers aim to collect insights around three key focus areas: interventions commonly applied in practice, industry stakeholders’ priority areas for change and key challenges for implementing different approaches for the management of psychological injuries.

Read the full report from Monash University Work-connected interventions for people with psychological injuries – PDF 
Or you can download a summary of the Literature review Work-connected interventions for people with psychological injuries – PDF

Get involved and spread the word

If you would like to share your organisation’s experience with the Health Benefits of Good Work initiative in future editions of this eNewsletter, contact the Health Benefits of Good Work at HBGW@racp.edu.au.

We are committed to spreading the word on HBGW and growing the Consensus Statement signatory base so please forward this newsletter to any organisations which may be interested. 

Organisations can find more information and become a signatory to the HBGW Consensus Statement on the How to become a signatory page.

We look forward to hearing from you. 

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