Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Workplace Wellness & Person Centred Approaches

March 4, 2011 by Linda  
Filed under Articles

“Workplace wellness” has become a buzz word in recent times, earning a significant injection of state and federal dollars.  A plethora of health and wellbeing consultants have hung out their shingle, and The Health and Productivity Institute of Australia has recently released its Guidelines for Best Practice in corporate wellness.  Read more… 

It has become a topic which affects both the bottom line of individual businesses and the economic prosperity of the nation.  According to the Business Council of Australia (2008), healthy employees are essential for Australia’s future economic prosperity.

Whilst the health promotion approach and emphasis on employee wellness is to be commended, what happens when an employee suffers with a chronic illness or is diagnosed with a life threatening illness such as cancer?  Each year nearly 27,000 Victorians are diagnosed with cancer, including a significant number who are of working age.

Workplace health programs are focussed elsewhere; in fact the Health and Productivity Institute of Australia Guidelines for Best Practice cite “illness orientation” among “common problems which can undermine workplace wellness program sustainability” and advises that programs should be preventative in nature as opposed to focussing on chronic disease management. 

Focussing on promoting health has unquestionable benefits, yet surely the way we support employees with life threatening or chronic illnesses must impact on business productivity as well.

Whilst many working people diagnosed with a significant illness such as cancer choose to take time off as a result of their illness, a proportion of people choose to continue working whilst receiving treatment and throughout their journey.

For people with a chronic illness, it is more common than not to just struggle along and not say anything, for a myriad of reasons.  Perhaps out of pride, not wanting to be a burden, not wanting special consideration, feeling like they are letting the team down, or even fears that they may lose their job.

It can be equally difficult to know how to approach and /or support a fellow colleague when they are diagnosed with a significant illness.  People often struggle to know what to say, they may try to ‘overhelp’ or protect the person, or avoid them altogether for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. The person who is unwell, may end up feeling smothered or patronised, or ignored and isolated, rather than well supported to make their very best contribution in spite of their illness.

Think About Your Life is a free website specifically designed to support people with cancer or chronic illness and the people who are supporting them.   Initially developed by Helen Sanderson Associates to help people with cancer and long term health conditions through the difficult journey, the site also offers much to employers.

With a host of practical tools, this free website offers a person centred approach to supporting employees in a respectful, empowering way – for the positive benefit of the employee and business bottom line.

If you have ever struggled with not knowing how to approach someone who is ill, or been ill yourself and not known how to communicate what you need from others, these tools can help alleviate embarrassment, sort through feelings, clarify thoughts, problem solve and move toward action.

Even if you aren’t dealing with illness in the workplace, person centred tools, such as the one page profile can be helpful for managing change, and increasing the productivity of your staff by getting to know more about the individuals you have working for you.

The person centred thinking tools used in Think About Your Life are  being used in the workplace with a number of approaches designed to improve communication between staff, supervision processes, and ensure meetings are consistently more positive and productive

The tools are free to access.  You can log on to the Think About Your Life website at to download.

For more information contact: Deb Watson, Helen Sanderson Associates on or Linda Rowley  on 

Authors: Linda Rowley & Deb Watson

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