Wellness Programs in Higher Education: An Australian Case

Wellness Programs in Higher Education: An Australian Case

Ambika Zutshi (Deakin University, Australia), Marina Pogrebnaya (Independent Researcher, Australia) and Jan Fermelis (Deakin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6198-1.ch017
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Abstract

Employee wellness has become a growing concern for many organisations, which are now allocating increased resources to provide Wellness Programs (WPs) with the intention of positive outcomes for both stakeholders. Nonetheless, not all employees actively participate in these programs. In order to develop greater qualitative insights into employees' awareness of WPs and their reasons for (non)participation, semi-structured interviews were conducted with managers and employees from two non-teaching divisions in a higher education institution. Interviews revealed that many employees were unaware of the programs available to them, and that awareness, participation, and the positive outcomes were confounded by a lack of effective communication between managers and employees. The findings of this study will assist managers to acknowledge the needs of their staff in constructing appropriate and effective WPs and in utilising the communication methods most likely to be effective in facilitating employee awareness and encouraging their participation in WPs.
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Introduction

Aim of Study

The aim of this exploratory study was to identify the extent of awareness of Wellness Programs (WPs) amongst employees at an Australian university. This university employs more than 2,600 full-time and fractional staff and is recognised as Australia's fastest growing research institution. Qualitative data had been used to develop insights into the wellness coping strategies of educational leaders within one recent study, which also called for reviews of WPs in order to assist in developing WPs which could help educational leaders to improve their health and deal with workplace stress (Hawk & Martin, 2011). However, the WP research to date has predominantly been conducted within the health discipline using quantitative methodology (Keller, Lehmann & Milligan, 2009; Rifkin & Kangere, 2002). The objectives of the current study were two-fold: (1) to identify the employees’ awareness of WPs and reasons for (non)participation; and (2) to identify the communication channels used by managers to increase employee awareness of, and participation in, available WPs. The qualitative findings of this study, therefore, make a valuable contribution to the literature by providing in-depth insights into the perceptions and experiences of employees and their managers within the context of higher education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Wellness Program: An on- or off-site service or activity, sponsored by an organisation in the attempt to promote good health or to modify health related problems.

Communication: The transmission of meaning between at least two parties.

Communication Channel: The means or technique by which a message is transmitted.

Participation: Attendance or active involvement.

Awareness: Knowledge that something exists.

Benefit: Positive outcome of a wellness program to an individual or organization.

Communication Barrier: Anything which impedes the successful transmission of meaning between parties.

Marketing Strategy: Determining the needs and wants of a target audience.

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