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Wellness is a global concept with no borders or boundaries and is culturally expressed and experienced.

All international articles posted after April 2019 will be posted on our Wellness News You Can Use blog. Articles posted before April 2019 are archived here.

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Transforming Negative Impressions to Improve Wellness: My Australian Journey to Date

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Originally Posted By NWI, Tuesday, March 7, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member
 HERE >>

Kailani Marlow
PhD Candidate at Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane, Australia

All of my life I have been exposed to people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Those ongoing experiences fueled my desire to live in different places and led me to cultivate an interest in living overseas. I dreamed of being an international person living abroad and immersing myself in a new language and culture that was far away and foreign to everything I had ever known. I moved from Oahu, Hawaii to Sunshine Coast, Australia almost 4.5 years ago. The weather is similar enough as is the language, for the most part. Although living in Australia is comfortably similar to the United States, my lifestyle now includes more frequent international travel. Like many Aussies, extended surf trips allow me to experience immersion in other cultures where I enjoy practicing conversational Bahasa or exploring untamed Fijian landscapes alongside a briskly walking guide old enough to be my grandfather.

Living in Australia has been a life changing experience, however less foreign than I had anticipated. In the coastal suburb where I live beaches are easily accessible, the population is small but growing, people earn a reasonable wage for a high standard of living, accrue a descent amount of vacation time and generally enjoy a good quality of life. It truly is a great place to live and a seemingly safe place to raise children. I live in a regional area that easily affords local residents a lifestyle that is conducive to wellness. Our quaint beach pocket community is situated between a river mouth that fills into a small lake with the changing tides, a small creek, a coastline with a variety of surf – able beach breaks and a well maintained pathway that winds through protected national park bushland along the coast.

Nature based-physical activity is a major component of my life in Australia. There are only a few major cities and even those areas of dense urban development often feature natural landscapes, botanical gardens, harbor views and river footpaths that help to break up the intensity of city life. It appears that activity in nature is a central component of daily life that helps Aussies on the Sunshine Coast enhance their longevity and remain active as they transition across their lifespan. When I have the time, I particularly enjoy surfing with a group of mostly retiree’s who meet every morning at the beach access on my street. This group of people is representative of the active aging population that is encouraged and supported in Australia. People in these regional areas seem to remain more active because city councils maintain infrastructure for accessing beaches and national parks, participating in active recreation, and provide daily upkeep of outdoor entertainment and rest area amenities that permit people of all ages to enjoy the health enhancing features of restorative coastal landscapes.

Being a resident in Australia has helped me to live a wellness induced lifestyle. Although a train route has yet to be built connecting the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane where I attend University, my full or partial commute to the city is predominantly a tree lined highway that makes the drive much more relaxing. Oddly enough the thing that has most benefited my wellness journey is probably not what you would expect. Within the context of innumerable positive lifestyle components the thing that I feel has contributed most to improving my wellness has by far been the social impact. I am a woman of color. And whatever color my skin actually happens to be, in Australia, friends and strangers alike bring up my color as an issue or unsolicited topic of conversation. People here are probably not any different from people in the United States or any other westernized country but prior to moving here I personally had little to no experience with people who did not communicate in a reasonably politically correct manner.

In Australia, for some in all levels of society and for many in some levels, there is no such thing as political correctness; some might even say that the idea of being politically correct is laughable. For example pumpkin, cookies and cheese are openly advertised using terms that would in no way be considered politically correct in the USA. Similarly, roads and places still carry the names of historical laws and events that can be a reminder of past tragedy. While I am not suggesting support for these things, I must admit that my personal wellness has profoundly improved as a result of the Aussie way of “taking the p..s” and generally making light of, well of everything.

Initially these aspects of life in Australia were probably detrimental to my health and wellness. In recounting my experiences there are still things I have heard and experienced that I would be reluctant to repeat, but through these experiences I have connected with others and acquired more self responsibility in my wellness journey.

Admittedly I grew up a bit sheltered in a multi-ethnic family which allowed me to believe that Western societies had left certain beliefs and ideas in the past. For anyone who might have thought that was our history, I’m sure media and elections in the past decade have brought to light some surprising realities. However, I cannot speak for Australia’s Indigenous people, immigrants, refugees or various populations in Australia who might also be considered “other” like myself. Though fundamentally this speaks to an important yet neglected aspect of wellness, in western societies such as Australia or the United States the law provides a reasonable amount of protection within which individuals can explore ways to develop more wellness and specifically to break free of potentially limiting generational cultural and/or socioeconomic patterns.

Being born as a woman of color I will sometimes, maybe always, be placed in a certain social context. Beyond my lived experience there might always be a larger context that in some way pervades all aspect of my life. In recent decades such impacts have been enhanced as technology increasingly innervates life and continues to shrink our world as we establish global connectivity. As a result, our social and emotional experiences can be affected by those of others and not necessarily our own. By living in Australia where little is off limits I have gone beyond what had mostly been internalizing negative experiences of others. Aussie culture has created opportunities for me to experience what some people think and feel. Without rules about what is politically acceptable I sometimes find myself in conversations that reveal what might otherwise be obscured and provides an opportunity for me to better understand how people define and experience individuals or cultures they find different. 

This has been the most health enhancing aspect of my experience in Australia because I have been presented with beliefs and ideas that I sometimes cannot comprehend yet they exist alongside my life and in my relationships with the people who hold these beliefs. My ability to live in a place where there is little to no ethnic diversity is evidence of the luxury of exploring self-identity and self-responsibility from within a somewhat protected space and this process demonstrates how dynamic adaptation can enhance our wellness journey. For example, someone who I have developed a friendship with recently said in matter of fact way that I was of an inferior race. He then revealed that it was said as a joke, and though believed by some, not actually true. This might sound horrendous, and it is actually the second time someone in Australia has said this to me though the other person was not making a joke. In no way do I intend to offend anyone in sharing this nor am I condoning such words. In sharing this I would like to express the transformation I have been through while living in Australia. I have heard enough to understand how some people have come to hold or even just consider such ideas.

As he said those words I had the most interesting experience. I felt this energy move through my body. It was some combination of appall and other unpleasant feelings. This was not a one on one experience either; he said it in a room full of people with whom I had no emotional connection. With pause he defined me as the only person in the room who was not part of the ethnic/racial mainstream as they saw it.

As he spoke my emotions were raised, and because I have heard such things so many times, I immediately processed his comment. I had actually previously heard enough of his ideas and words that I recognized those are his ideas and might even be a consensus in the room. Though I have never had any extreme obstacles due to being a woman of color, I grew up inspired by change makers and have been affected by the inspirational words of people like Viktor E. Frankl and Nelson Mandela. Inspired by others I’ve strengthened my self-identity and I have cultivated more self-responsibility as a direct result of experiences like this that are an example of the Aussie way of “taking the p..s” or giving people a hard time.

One of the many proposed models explains wellness as the functional or dysfunctional transformation of incoming and outgoing energy. I believe that my wellness has improved because I have nature all around me and submerge myself in it regularly. Being a resident in Australia has shown me that unrestricted communication in combination with the ongoing exposure to psychologically restorative landscapes that I experience when surfing helps me to process and transform energy in ways that continually improve my overall wellness and helps me to enhance my life in each composite domain.

I hope that sharing my personal wellness journey can help others explore unconventional opportunities to cultivate a more wellness enhancing lifestyle.

Kailani Marlow is a PhD candidate at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Her thesis is an examination of the health effects of natural and built environments. She is passionate about helping people discover ways to have more vitality inducing experiences in their daily lives. In pursuit of this goal she has worked in various capacities with adults and children of all ages including infants, seniors, at risk youth, and children diagnosed with autism. Kailani is currently serving as student liaison officer for the NWI Australia. Kailani is currently a member of the National Wellness Institute of Australia Management Committee in the role of Student Liaison Officer.

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International Connections – More Important Than Ever

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Originally Posted By NWI, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member
 HERE >>

Dr. John Munson
Past President, NWI Board of Directors, United States

In my avocation as an international group trip leader for the past 35 years, I have had the opportunity to visit over 30 countries around the world. This role has given me the opportunity to observe the different ways wellness has been introduced and implemented across the globe. It confirms my belief that wellness is an international language understood by all. Yet, it promotes personal lifestyle improvement activities in many forms.

NWI Six Dimensions of WellnessMore than 42 years have passed since the concept of a six-dimensional model of wellness was created by Dr. Bill Hettler. During that time, my personal journeys have allowed me to view the growth of the wellness concept in many cultures and countries. It has been an interesting and exciting journey. Wellness continues to unfold and morph in diverse formats and processes. In thinking about wellness connections to people around the world it occurs to me that now is a time where sharing our thoughts and expertise is positioned to bring great rewards. We must continue to learn from each other.

Wellness language in different cultures provides a good insight into how common themes are viewed. In the United States of America “stress management” is an accepted term while in the United Kingdom the term “resiliency training” is seen as a positive term and stress management as having a negative connotation. The terms, wellness, well-being, and health promotion may be terms more acceptable in one culture than in another. Professionals need to be aware of accepted terms in their local culture. The question becomes, should one term be replaced with another based upon shared understandings?

Climate change, natural disasters, political upheaval, and economic challenges are driving millions of people from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures to move. Finding safe havens and a place to lead productive lives and raise healthy families bring new challenges to wellness professionals who encounter these people. Wellness professionals must understand cultural norms and taboos to begin to work with people who appear at their doorsteps. Even within individual countries, people escaping natural disasters that force them to move bring with them the belief structures common in their local communities. When people move from one compass point to another, especially over long distances and perhaps across many borders, they find themselves in a community with quite different understanding about food, family planning, religious belief, and basic relationship standards, etc. This challenges wellness professionals to understand a client’s cultural differences. Engaging with people from other countries and backgrounds requires broader and in-depth knowledge and understanding. Wellness professionals gain this by experiencing face-to-face dealings with people from other countries. Building international friendships provides great rewards both on a personal and professional level.  

flags of the worldThe advent of Multi-National Corporations that have dealings in countries around the world also requires wellness professionals to carefully analyze their wellness outreach programs. It is not unusual for a wellness professional to be located in one country and be responsible for corporate wellness programs in another country where the workforce consists of both out-of-country and in-country workers. Failure to understand in-country workforce perceptions of wellness often leads to ineffective wellness programs. The challenge is being able to deliver effective programs to all workers no matter where they “grew up.”

The rapid advance of technology and its implementation into different cultures from music to video games to teaching strategies are reflective of the cultural norms within the countries in which they abide. Failure to understand the impact of this immense new way of delivering information can lead to disastrous results. It is easy to fall into our own views and bubbles of reality. Learning about other cultures by traveling globally, or mixing locally with people from other countries will enable us as wellness professionals to be able to take advantage of the vast potential of rapidly expanding technology delivery systems. We need to be able to see, feel and understand as they see, feel and understand.

Polarization of views and beliefs provides new challenges for wellness professionals. Media often drives messages that are adopted by large segments of any given society. When these messages become main-stream and when wrong information goes unchallenged, societies harden to outside systems and beliefs. Through travel, friendship and relationship building, mutual appreciation and understandings are built. It behooves all wellness professionals to get out of their own silos, put on the shoes of other cultures and grow in their understandings.

Perhaps, on a personal level, maintaining one's international wellness connections pays back with friendships that last a lifetime. Getting to know people from other cultures broadens and deepens one's understandings of the world and enriches personal life. As such, actively expanding and growing international wellness connections have never been more important than now. One way to do this is by engaging yearly with the international speakers and attendees at the National Wellness Conference who are facilitated through the NWI International Wellness Group. NWI members are also able to access the 56 (including this one) archived International Wellness Connections articles which have appeared in the NWI monthly newsletter since January 2012, as authored by 46 wellness professionals from 17 different countries.

Dr. John W. MunsonDr. John W. Munson, Professor Emeritus of Health Promotion/Wellness – University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point currently serves as the Past President of the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute. John has over 40 years of active involvement in the wellness field. He and his colleague Anne Abbott created the nation’s first academic program to educate wellness specialists. Additionally, he helped NWI create the first process to accredit undergraduate academic health promotion and wellness programs. In addition to his roles in NWI he was recognized as a Fellow in the former Association for Fitness and Business and is currently a Distinguished Ambassador for the Medical Wellness Association. His love for travel continues to drive his knowledge about international wellness. John is also a founding member and strong supporter of the NWI International Wellness Group.

Tags:  International Wellness  United States 

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Workplace Stress: A Real Organizational Risk

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen  (Johannesburg 2017) 

 It is imperative that the impact of work-related stress and the negative impact of distress be incorporated into the organization’s enterprise-wide risk management framework. A Bloomberg study conducted in 2013 revealed that South Africa is the second-most “stressed‟ country out of a study of 74 countries.  This is hardly surprising given the high prevalence of political instability, economic uncertainty, high unemployment and growing crime rates in South Africa.  A 2017 cabinet reshuffle and the decision of Standard & Poor’s (S&P), including Fitch rating agencies to downgrade the country’s credit rating below investment grade to BB+ further exacerbates the political and economic uncertainty in South Africa.   

In the longer term, South Africa’s downgrade to “junk status” will have a number of dire consequences that directly affect the country’s future investment, interest rates, business growth, debt repayment and employment. When considering the volatility of corporations, globalization, political activism, greater BBBEE compliance, corporate restructuring and retrenchments; all these factors add to the stress among workers, be it directly or indirectly.  Notwithstanding the fact that there are mounting socio-economic pressures being placed upon employers and employees alike, employees are still expected to produce optimal results. These expectations contribute to workplace stress. 


Growing employer demands 

High-pressure work environments increasingly demand employees to be more innovative, creative, effective and productive.  With the fast pace and competitive environment in which we live today, employees are scrutinized to ensure they provide maximum productivity and their „survival‟ in the workplace depends upon whether they have exceeded the expectations of their employer.  Most organizations -- if not all -- are built on the premise that all employees are capable of handling the stresses associated with the workplace and economy, and that employees are all natural problem solvers.  But in reality, this is not the case.  Such expectation only adds to the employee‟s stress levels as they try to appease their employers.   

In the case of workplace stress, the primary duty of employers is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health of employees is not put at risk.  This duty extends to protect employees particularly from the risk of harm from stressors that negatively impact or erode their physical and psychological health.  This means that if the nature and judgment of an organization’s human capital management are tested, the Labour Court will consider the conduct of the organization in deciding whether it is are liable to employees for any harm or loss. 

In addition to workplace stress, work-life balance has become quite blurred, to the point where it is becoming more difficult to clearly delineate when work actually starts and when it ends.  As most employees tend to perform work-related duties after “normal work hours‟, both the organization and their employees are negatively affected with the stress of work-life conflict.  Incompatible demands between the work and family roles of employees make participation in both roles difficult and sometimes this may lead to substance abuse, relationship problems, divorce, single parenting and/or financial difficulty. 

“Unfortunately, many people are only conscious that a harmful stress level has been reached once its negative effects have affected their work, health and wellness.  Making employers and workers aware, informed and competent to address these new risks creates a safe and healthy working environment, builds a positive and constructive preventive culture in the organization, boosts engagement and effectiveness, protects the health and wellness of workers, and increases productivity.” (Report - Workplace Stress: A Collective Challenge (ILO) (April 2016)) 

Workplace wellness is further taxed when employees fall victim to violent crimes.  Sexual harassment, car hijackings, house break-ins and kidnappings compound the physical and psychological ill health of employees.   

Whether workplace stress transpires from work or home-life experiences, it always has some effect on the work performance of employees.  This means that the human (psychological) capital of an organization can depreciate overnight, if stress and post-traumatic stress is mistreated, leading to more managerial problems, labour disputes and downstream costs.  The financial costs associated with workplace stress can be extremely high, especially when one considers matters such as absenteeism, presenteeism, medical aid expenses, death and disability claims, including management intervention costs.  Indeed, the costs are not complete without considering the fees associated with labour-related legal and court proceedings which are typically the end result of most distressed employment relationships

Dr. Dicky ElsDr Dicky Els is a Lead Independent Consultant in CGF.  He specializes in Workplace Wellness and focuses predominantly on strategy development, program design and evaluation of outcome-based health promotion programs.  For more information on our Employee Wellness program Evaluation or Wellness and Disease Management Audits, contact Dr Els directly on 082 4967960 or email dicky@bewell.org.za or go to www.wellnessprogramevaluation.com

Terrance M. BooysenTerrance M. Booysen, the CEO of CGF has presented numerous interventions to public and private audiences in and out of South Africa and has received many accolades directly linked with corporate governance.  He is a regular podium presenter and is considered knowledgeable in the practice, having produced many governance, risk and compliance reports and articles over the years.  More information regarding CGF can be found at www.cgf.co.za

Tags:  International Wellness  Stress  workplace wellness 

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NWC First-Timer Reports On Post-Conference Progress in Teacher Wellness Influenced by Her Conference Experience

Posted By NWI, Monday, January 29, 2018

Originally Posted By NWI, Tuesday, January 10, 2017
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member

Tabatha Kellett, Australia
Master of Teaching, BEd, IT Grad Cert, Reg Fitness Leader

My husband Gavin attended his first National Wellness Conference in 2014. For two years I listened to stories about the people he met, the presentations he engaged with, and places he visited. When he talked about going back in 2016 I was disappointed to realize the conference was during term time and I would once again need to stay behind; teachers don’t take time off to travel during term time! Then my husband suggested that I apply to present on teacher wellness at the conference; I did and my proposal was accepted to present as one of the six international invited speakers during the three international breakout sessions. My school principal granted me paid professional learning leave to attend as well as some financial assistance towards the cost of travel. Before I left I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to speak with the senior executive in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Education Directorate about teacher wellness on my return. This affirmed my research and experience that teacher wellness needs to be high on the list of priorities to ensure quality teachers are attracted to and remain in the profession.


Teacher Wellness has been identified as an important focus in recent times as research links Teacher Wellness to Student Wellness that leads to improved student outcomes. This link has influenced change in Initial Teacher Education Programs, as well as Induction and ongoing Mentoring and Coaching of teachers at all stages of their career.


One of the advantages of presenting at the National Wellness Institute Conference in 2016 was that I needed to organize my research and practice in teacher wellness into presentation structure. I focused on education in the Western world with a particular spotlight on practice in my home city of Canberra, Australia.



This report includes some of the current issues around Teacher Wellness and changes I have observed since attending the 2016 National Wellness Conference:


Teachers usually enter Initial Teacher Education Programs with a strong commitment to, ”make a difference.”  Teachers stay in the profession of teaching because they can see the value of what they do; students grow physically, socially/emotionally, and academically and teachers do make a difference which makes teaching a rewarding and meaningful career. However, in Australia many teachers are leaving the profession. The issue of teacher retention is a concern throughout the Western world with the rates of teacher burnout being similar in the US, the UK and Australia. Between 25% and 50% of teachers leave the profession during their first 3-5 years. The reasons teachers give are that although their motives for entering the teaching profession remain, they feel undervalued, overwhelmed, unsupported and unheard. Somewhere the teacher’s self-efficacy is lost.


As well as the financial costs (i.e. in educating and recruiting teachers to replace those exiting the profession) this attrition has personal costs for the teacher as well as for the students who have developed a learning relationship with their teacher(s). In addition, the student’s family, staff members and the wider community are affected whenever a teacher leaves a school due to workplace stress.


Experienced teachers who stay in the profession struggle with low perceived autonomy. They may feel that they are “mice in a wheel,” with directives being imposed by policy makers rather than feeling supported and valued in their teaching practice. 


So, why are some teachers experiencing such poor self-efficacy? Teaching is a job with high ‘emotional labor’ and very high levels of occupational stress which often leads to job dissatisfaction and mental health related problems. The prevalence of stress in teaching is recognized with reports of high levels of occupational stress in Australia, similar to that in the UK and the US.


In the Australian context the Australian Council of Educational Research claim that one of the causes of teacher stress is the new Australian Curriculum which has too much content to cover in the time available. The same research also claims that overall there is more administration for teachers to complete and access to email at home means teachers now more than ever continue to work outside the physical school building. The “Report of the Expert Panel on students with complex needs and challenging behaviours” identifies the complexity of the classrooms in Australia. Teachers need to individualize the curriculum to meet a wide range of student needs.


In Australia, local and federal governments measure student outcomes, and their Return on Investment, using high stakes testing such as the Australian National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, the Programme for International Student Assessment and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. There is inequity around funding students with the highest needs with some state governments reluctance to adjusting funding to the requirements outlined in the Gonski report.


A meme on Facebook recently stated “If you ever want to know what a teacher’s mind is like, imagine a browser with 1,324 tabs open. All. The. Time.” A teacher has multiple interactions with staff, students and members of the wider community each day. Many of these interactions require real time decision making that have an impact on student achievement and social/emotional development. Unfortunately, more often than not, the teacher will leave the physical school building and keep all 1,324 browser tabs open to mull over while engaging in the numerous other activities in their personal life. These tabs are still open well into the night causing disrupted sleep patterns leading to the physical and mental health issues caused by lack of sleep.


One of the game changers in Teacher Wellness came through the need to understand how to improve student outcomes. Researchers examined the relationship between the teacher and student and the impact this relationship has on student outcomes. Not surprisingly the research shows that this relationship is important. In 2009, educational researcher John Hattie found that beyond the student themselves, teachers have the greatest impact on student outcomes.


For example research into the link between Teacher and Student Wellness, found that when a teacher feels good about themselves and what they do “they have a high self-efficacy…[and] student cognitive outcomes are higher” (Scheerens 2010). In 2014 research conducted by Vesely, Saklofske and Nordstokke concluded that teacher wellbeing directly impacts the educational, personal, social, and emotional outcomes of their students.


In the past decade there has been a positive change in approach to Wellness in Australia and an increasing awareness of the need to promote wellness in the workplace. Most recently, at the National Workplace Wellness Symposium in Canberra, May 2016, Dr Kerryn Phelps called for businesses to ‘embrace a “wellness culture.”


In the ACT there are two positive, practical resources that schools can utilize to promote Teacher Wellness.


The ACT Department of Health has designed a proactive approach to wellness through its ‘HealthierWork’ program. This is available to organizations in the ACT that employ more than 50 staff. The service provides a free online survey to identify the unique needs of each workplace and support to design a 12 month plan.


Financial assistance to promote a Wellness Program is available through the MindMatters program.  MindMatters is a health initiative for secondary schools that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people and their community. As a framework MindMatters provides structure, guidance and support while enabling schools to build their own mental health strategy to suit their unique setting. Schools that complete the online course receive government funding to support their Wellness Program. The school I teach at provides a unique program for staff developed from data and feedback through HealthierWork and MindMatters. This includes free massages for staff, a student recognition program, community events, guest presenters and a healthy eating program. All of this is designed not only to help staff look after themselves, but to let them know that their dedication to meeting the needs of each individual student is recognized.


At the end of the 2016 National Wellness Conference I had a clear goal: to promote Teacher Wellness. I was inspired by the practitioners I spoke to and researchers I listened to and was optimistic that I could ‘make a difference’. I mentioned to one of my new conference friends that I would like to return to the US in 2018 to present on what I believe would happen in the next two years. I have optimistically called my 2018 presentation “Riding the Winds of Change”. Below is a summary of what has happened since the end of the NWC 2016 conference:

  • In July 2016 I met with senior managers within the ACT Education Directorate to talk about my presentation and what I learned while I was in the USA. This affirmed some of the information they had gathered and provided some context on a wider scale on how to promote Teacher Wellness.
  • In October 2016 I sat on an Occupational Violence (OV) reference group to analyze possible causes, impact and how to avoid OV (OV is student and/or parental violence towards teachers). This led to the design of a Risk Register to be implemented in 2017 on minimizing the risk of OV.
  • As part of that reference group I was paired with a non-teaching manager; the manager of Health, Safety and Wellbeing. We examined the Education Directorate’s current Wellbeing Framework, and noted that it was reactive, with a focus on supporting teachers who had been affected by workplace injury, stress or violence. The need for a proactive approach to Wellbeing was obvious and I was asked to participate in the design of the framework.

Our staff is currently writing the school’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan and has placed Staff Wellbeing as one of the four priorities over the next four years.


What an amazing opportunity awaits me in 2017; to complete the ACT Education Directorate Wellbeing Framework and put it into practice! I look forward to measuring improvements in teacher wellness and retention rates, as well as improved student wellness and student outcomes, and presenting updates at NWC 2018.

Tabatha Kellett is an educator with over 20 years’ experience. She has taught ESL, mainstream and special needs students from pre-school to Year 12 as well as lecturing in teacher education at the University of Canberra (Australia). Tabatha has a passion for mentoring early career teachers, working with experienced teachers to develop a sustainable approach to teaching. Her experience in the fitness industry and work with social/emotional literacy provides a balanced approach to wellness. Tabatha led her workplace to becoming the first government school in Canberra recognized as a ‘Healthier Work’ environment. Tabatha is currently the Year 11 and 12 Executive Teacher at a special needs school in Canberra, Australia. 

Tags:  Australia  International Wellness 

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A Coordinator of a Long Term Award-Winning Staff Wellness Program Reminisces

Posted By Michelle Stone, BApSc (Human Movement Studies) Brisbane, Australia, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Originally Posted By NWI, Monday, December 5, 2016
To access the current and 60 plus members only archived International Wellness Connection articles, become a member

Early Days

Greenslopes Private HospitalWorking for a well-recognized company renowned for its achievements in the health and wellness field had to be one of my all-time career goals. So you can imagine my excitement when I got the call to say I was successful in my bid in becoming the next Wellness Coordinator for Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane. I had initially heard of and admired this program back in my university days. While my focus was more about personal training and musculoskeletal rehabilitation in those days, little did I know then that I would eventually become the coordinator of this program, and working in a role that made me far more satisfied and happier than ever before. It felt as though my career up until that point had only ‘prepped’ me for such a role.  

On the outside, the Greenslopes Staff Wellness program was an impressive award-winning program (Best Health and Wellbeing Strategy twice and runner up once) achieved by the implementation of a diverse range of health and wellness activities that took influence from the Hewitt 7 dimensions of wellness model. A program that grew from its initiation by a 4th year student from the QUT School of Human Movement Studies as her 4th year, 12-week final practicum (internship) in the early 2000s.

On the inside was a busy little team of Exercise Physiologists and Health Promotion officers, working tirelessly and frantically to make an indent in the staff culture and encourage any sort of engagement from the busy hospital workforce. 

The diversity of the program extended far beyond what I originally knew about the program; and yet, we were still able to add further depth to the program across my five years with the company.

The resultant program consisted of:

  • Pay for service onsite gym equipped with a full range of cardio equipment, free weights, and pin-loaded resistance equipment (all uniquely fitted with the innovative My Wellness system from Technogym), as well as plyometric, abdominal and stretching equipment
  • Onsite yoga, Pilates, meditation, and fitness group classes
  • Injury prevention education and activity sessions
  • Pre-work warm up education and activity sessions
  • Team unity and building sessions that promoted movement and social connection
  • Onsite Exercise Physiology service, delivering rehabilitation and work strengthening of injured workers, and oncology patients
  • Onsite Cooking classes and Nutrition and Dietetic service
  • Onsite Physiotherapy service
  • Offsite and confidential access to free 24/7 counselling service
  • Lifestyle recreational courses
  • First aid and CPR workshops
  • Onsite Corporate chair massage reward sessions, and in-house massage service
  • Onsite Financial planning, mortgage brokering, bank @ work, health insurance, and superannuation services
  • Facilitation of the corporate team for various Community fitness events i.e. Gold Coast Marathon, Bridge to Brisbane, Triathlon Pink, Kokoda Challenge, Colour Run
  • Promotion and delivery of community health initiatives (i.e. R U Ok Day, Breast Cancer Awareness, Movember, Diabetes week, Stroke week, Quit Smoking campaigns)
  • Delivery of wellness program promotion at monthly new staff orientation sessions
  • Annual step/pedometer and bi-annual weight loss challenges
  •  Weekly educational and promotional wellness newsletters
  • Facilitation of the Annual onsite wellness expo
  • Development and production of Staff Wellness Guide publications
  • Management and upkeep of our own intranet site for hospital staff.
My early days in the Greenslopes Wellness program seemed fruitful. A busy and dedicated five-person wellness team engaging with a 2500+ workforce. The majority of the workforce were aware of and utilized the wellness program regularly, particularly the wellness education modules of injury prevention, nutrition, body awareness workshops. We were constantly busy juggling the facilitation of the above-mentioned list of activities. We had aprominent and supportive voice at the top executive table. This assisted us in remaining engaged by the workforce via top-down influence, and we were trusted and strongly supported in our attempts to try new initiatives. Little did I know then, that in fact this influential executive member was the lynchpin of the entire program.


As I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, that there is a recent unfortunate conclusion (of sorts) for this program (or at least a disassembly of its former great framework). 

Reflecting back on this impressive list of services and activities (mentioned above), it’s hard to believe that any top executive would want to downsize such a program, particularly in a period where other organisations are expanding their staff wellness commitments, and particularly considering the program having the reputation of being leaders in this field. The frustrating thing is being aware that the program (even in its final days in its former 

framework) still surpassed the majority of programs currently being run by large businesses by means of innovation, diversity, and engagement. But corporate Wellness 101is proving a measurable return on investment, and in this particular case it came down to bottom line 

financials. And I get that. We all need to ensure we are moving forward and are maintaining a profitable bottom line. However for a program with an initial goal to be a service for staff and not a revenue stream is really a tough challenge. Deciding to disassemble a program based on financial outcomes and excluding the value of the indirect return on investment, the creation and transformation of healthy workers from unhealthy workers, and the flow on effect thathas on their co-workers, family, community, the reductions to sick leave, worksite injuries, staff morale, staff productivity, staff turnover (or what I prefer staff retainment) etc… what chance does a wellness program have?

Executive support is critical

Well the chances are high and in your favor, when you have an executive and leadership team who understand these associations, and are willing to model a wellness culture in their own immediate work environments, which in turn inspire their colleagues and workforce to foster this among their respective work departments too. 

Whereby yoga, meditation, and stretching sessions and the presentation of wellness program statistics were regular agenda items at leadership team meetings; wellness representatives were committee members in a number of hospital committees, and executive team members were regular attendees at a standalone wellness committee meetings; whereby wellness program induction sessions were typical items on a new managers orientation schedule; whereby a hospital wide staff health risk assessment was costed into strategic planning budgets and business plans and actioned to ensure the wellness program was maintaining relevance and direction in addressing identified staff health issues; where 

executive leaders were regular attending members of onsite fitness services, who participated in community team events alongside their workers… How could an organisational wellness culture not be fostered from this? This was once a reality for Greenslopes Private Hospital.

From my recent experience, I liken the impact of an executive turnover event on a wellness program to a perpetual hand-me-down jigsaw puzzle. A piece always seems to get lost in hand over.

Losing our ‘lynchpin’ or our greatest wellness ambassador from the executive team, an executive leader who understood the benefits of investing in wellness strategies, who could educate their fellow executive peers about these investments, and help ensure that future strategic planning and operations maintained a wellness representation, and the inability to fill those shoes in their replacement, left a substantial hole in the wellness sphere, and subsequently altered the wellness culture of the hospital from there onwards. 

The wellness program became more about checking boxes than maintaining the innovator and industry leader title we had so proudly claimed. Wellness activities began to disappear and be discussed less from leadership meetings, and eventually the workplace culture began to change, seeing less investment in staff development and wellness initiatives. Wellness orientations were dropped from new manager inductions, and team leaders/managers became too busy to investigate how wellness could work for their teams, let alone afford the staff hours to put towards wellness in-service sessions. Wellness became an onsite gym, corporate chair massage rewards, and a corporate fun run team; well at least that’s how the program became to be perceived by the majority of staff. 

Greenslopes Private HospitalDespite the wellness team being downsized (to just 2.2FTE), the change in strategic direction of the hospital, and the diminishing executive support to invest in the program, the wellness team’s enthusiasm for making an impact on hospital wellness culture and connecting with staff, remained unwavering. We found ourselves continually remodelling our programs’ approach to become less intrusive be trustingly just as effective in an effort to appeal to more managers and encourage more engagement.

Ordinarily a team that is downsized is encouraged to also downsize their scope of practice. We were that’s for sure. But with a disappearing wellness culture that could potentially (and evidently did in the end) threaten our future, I was determined to hang on to all facets of the program. The reputation of the wellness program and the depth of diversity it had achieved was something to proudly hang on to. Our (the wellness team) philosophy was that if we could make genuine connections with even one member of staff in whatever avenue of the program, then we would be returned with patronage in other dimensions of the business. This rang true for us. New gym memberships, greater participation in corporate chair massage services, and even greater participation in team fun run events, all eventuated from initial hallway conversations, post wellness education session conversations, casual customer patronage, free meditation sessions and return to work initial rehabilitation consultations. 

And so, this returns us to the ongoing debate of Wellness return on investment. Yes, Participation statistics are direct proof of engagement. And yes you can report on how many people you get to a meditation class, how many people participated in a step challenge, how many members used the gym today. However, how do you report on the thousands of hallway conversations you have with staff; where those conversations might actually be relating to that staff member seeking help and advice for a family member, and who in turn can now worry less and focus more on their work because their problem that clouded their every thought has been heard and even solved? And now that employee decides to stay in their job, their morale improves, they take the brave step to start exercising at home, all because they feel that the hospital values them enough to provide such a service, and friendly fellow staff members (wellness staff) who genuinely care about their wellbeing? Is that not an indirect impact which consequently provides financial gain for the business? Is that not Value on Investment?

/resource/resmgr/blog-nwi-international/GPH_img3b.jpgThe Greenslopes Wellness program engagement statistics (on paper) actually seemed to improve over the course of my five years, fluctuating between 40% and 80%. We certainly had significant growth in uptake of some activities like step challenges (300+ participants), fun run events, massage services. And while we (the wellness team) believed that every engagement statistic in any of the wellness programs or services was positive indicator that staff were taking action in becoming more well, it was the diminishing uptake of injury prevention education and work strengthening interventions by the departments that seemed to impact us the most. This I believe to be a direct consequence of the changing work environment instigated by a change in corporate strategic direction.

Greenslopes Private HospitalA wellness program is evidently only a small snippet in the big picture of an organisation, and although I believe is integral in the success of worker productivity and eventual financial gains for the business (as outlined above), in my experience it is often viewed as an expendable item and seems to take the hits first. Its sustainability security relies heavily on the right executive support. One who understands that that small snippet is essential to the big picture. One who values their own total wellness and understands how each dimension can influence another and one who with this knowledge sees a place for it in their work environment for the betterment of their workforce and evidently their business’s bottom line. And one who is willing to be the iconic stone that starts the ripple.

Sadly the program has now been disassembled to just a shadow of its former glory. An unsupervised onsite gym with restricted access, community health campaigning (R U OK Day and Movember initiatives) and team fun run events, all added to a select few employee’s existing work portfolios instead of the dedicated wellness team/staff that formerly promoted and facilitated these operations. 

This case study demonstrates the impact that executive leadership has on the successes and downfalls of their worksite wellness program and ultimately its bottom line.

To this day I’m very proud of the program we and the previous wellness staff helped create. The accolades we received for the program are trivial in comparison to the satisfaction and reward received in witnessing someone overhaul their life (instigated by a simple conversation with you or your team), and who now have essentially become a new wellness ambassador creating their own ripples in their own world, is second to none, and one that I will profoundly miss.

Michelle StoneGraduating with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science (Human Movement Studies) in 2001 from QUT, Michelle initiated her health, wellness, and fitness career in personal training and group fitness instruction at a local gym before becoming an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and subcontracted by KINNECT rehabilitation for the delivery of return to work and work strengthening musculoskeletal rehabilitation for WorkCover Qld. She then worked in health promotion and lifestyle education with Health By Design, before accepting a role with UQ Sport at the University of Queensland that saw her become the assistant manager for the UQ Sport & Fitness centre. Five years ago she became the Wellness Coordinator for the Greenslopes Private Hospital Staff Wellness Program. At present she is stay-at-home mum to a 10-month-old and has a passionate interest in nutritional medicine around which she is looking to pursue further study in this area. 

Tags:  fitness  Greenslopes Private Hospital  hospital  Michelle Stone  wellness program  worksite 

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