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Eight ways to create a healthier workplace

Ashleigh Went

How healthy is your workplace?

With so many issues affecting our health—from sedentary lifestyles to unhealthy diets, poor mental health and smoking—it can be difficult to know where to start making changes.

Healthier Work is a service offered by the ACT Government which was established to help employers develop health and wellbeing initiatives within their workplace. They support workplaces develop and implement programs, policies, and practices that lead to healthier workplaces, which in turn means healthier, happy staff.

Nexus Human Services is a Healthier Work recognised workplace who’ve previously participated in the Whole of Canberra Workplace Challenge. We caught up with CEO Lisa McPherson to get her top tips on creating a healthy workplace.


If you work in an office environment, you’ll know just how challenging it is to maintain a healthy diet when there’s a constant influx of slices, cakes, and tasty treats. The fact is, morning teas–or any other work function–can quickly add up, and before we know it, our consumption of sugary, processed food can skyrocket.

“One of our favourite ways to get healthy at work is to have lots of fruit and vegetables in the kitchen for snacks,” says Lisa.

With two out of three Australians not eating the daily recommended amount of vegetables, having some crunchy vegetables to snack on is a great way to keep excessive calories low and topping up fibre and nutrients.


How many of us drive to work, sit at our desk all day, drive home and then spend the night on the couch watching Netflix? The fact is that it’s very easy to be sedentary, and the hours that we spend sitting, quickly accumulate.

Nexus Human Services encourage movement activities during the day, including having meetings outside, stretching and exploring the use of standing desks.

The Healthier Work Whole of Canberra Workplace Challenge presented by the Physical Activity Foundation is a great way to start. There are plenty of creative ways to get moving at work, and with a new challenge starting on Monday 18 June, now is the perfect time to start.


Making a healthy lifestyle change is hard–and it can be much harder when you cop flak from colleagues about your healthy lunch or new fitness regime. It can also be easier to cave in or give up when you’re on your own.

Having many or all team members participating creates a culture where everyone feels supported and encouraged. Furthermore, when we see other people making healthy choices, it can remind us of our own goals.

“We are lucky that we have a great workplace where everyone has come on board,” says Lisa.


When it comes to overall health, our mental state is just as important as how we feel physically.

“Nexus supports people with mental health issues and disabilities to find job options and supports people while working, so we are well aware of the supports that are needed for people in the workplace,” says Lisa.

“We have a local Employee Assistance Program provider we use and also have very open and supportive workplace managers who are available to regularly debrief staff on any issues that may occur.”

Creating an environment where people are free to discuss and seek treatment for their mental health is essential, especially when you consider that a recent survey found 40% of women had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety.


Being a leader is more than just issuing orders to staff. It’s one thing to set a new healthy workplace policy, but quite another to see a team leader actively participating and leading by example.

“We ensure that all staff is involved, including myself as CEO,” says Lisa. “We lead from the top.”


Eat more vegetables. Move more. Drink more water. This kind of advice is one hundred per cent true but isn’t particularly inspiring.

Getting creative with how you go about achieving health goals can make the process a lot more fun, and generate greater participation from your team.

“We have always had a work environment where we create fun with monthly activities, including lunches and morning teas, activities to support charities, Multicultural Day, outside meetings, and more,” says Lisa.

Nexus also attend Healthier Work champion mentoring lunches featuring guest speakers, which helps to inspire fresh ideas around health activities.


Have you ever heard that expression ‘failing to plan is planning to fail?’ It might be the kind of cheesy sentiment you’d see plastered on a motivational poster, but it holds a lot of truth. You can have the very best of intentions, but without putting pen to paper and scheduling it in, it can be easy to lose momentum.

“We have a plan” explains Lisa, “which is comprised of our fun activities and Healthier Work activities.”

The plan features a calendar that’s packed full of inventive ideas like an Easter fruit hunt, family-friendly Pitch & Putt, and a spooky healthy Halloween lunch. In amongst the fun are practical activities, like flu shots and fundraising events and challenges.


On an individual basis, we know that health advice is left to the experts. If we need to tighten up our fitness regimes, we consult a personal trainer. If it’s diet, we visit a nutritionist or dietician. Why should it be any different when it comes to workplace health?

Not only are Healthier Work the experts in—well, exactly that—but they also have a network of service providers. One of the ways that they help workplaces is by inviting experts to speak at events, but also by putting employers in touch with professionals who can offer assistance in all fields of health.

If you need help creating a healthier workplace, contact Healthier Work or sign up your team for the Healthier Work Whole of Canberra Workplace Challenge presented by the Physical Activity Foundation. By entering before the 15th of June, you could go in the running to win a $300 Trek Bikes voucher, as well as a voucher for you an your team to enjoy a day of bouldering at Bloc Haus. To enter, simply register online and complete the Healthier Work Workplace Scorecard.

The essentials

What: The Healthier Work Whole of Canberra Workplace Challenge
When: 18-29 June 2018
Register: Register online.

This is a sponsored editorial. For more information about sponsored editorials, click here


Ashleigh Went

HerCanberra ACTIVE Editor Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. As someone who loves champagne and cheese almost as she loves a sweaty workout, she's all about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She can usually be found with her nose in a book, planning her next adventure, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue. More about the Author