Developing holistic wellness programs

Developing holistic wellness programs
The Department of Sport and Recreation of Western Australia provides leadership, funding and advice to the state’s sport and recreation industry.   

About the initiatives

The Department of Sport and Recreation of Western Australia provides leadership, funding and advice to the state’s sport and recreation industry. 

For the Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR), the mental wellness of its employees is closely tied to other kinds of wellness – physical, social, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual. Its holistic approach to mental wellness involves a range of activities, workshops and events aimed at improving overall health. Rather than singling out one initiative, DSR cites the combination of multiple initiatives as key to the improved mental health of its workplace.

Key initiatives include:

ABC (Act, Belong, Commit) program - three stages to becoming a mentally healthy workplace


  • Act - be active physically, mentally socially, spiritually, etc.
  • Belong - be a member of groups that strengthen connections with community
  • Commit - the greater your commitment and feelings of involvement in a community or activity, the greater your mental health


  • Actively involve - give employees the chance to be actively involved and reduce barriers
  • Build skills - give opportunities to build and express talents
  • Celebrate achievement, such as acknowledging employees and successful programs at staff meetings
  • Annual staff conference - two days of professional development and team-building activities

Social activities

  • Physical - organised walks at lunchtime, cycling, team sports, National Ride 2 Work Day and National Walk to Work Day, annual staff football match
  • Other activities - DSR social club events, international food days, casual Fridays.
  • Relaxation - yoga, massages, reflexology and meditation
  • Corporate charity events - fundraising events including HBF Run for a Reason, City 2 Surf, Freeway Bike Hike

Educational events

  • Workshops - topics include mental health, equity and diversity management, resilience and stress management, TED talks/videos
  • Mental Health First Aid (a four-week course) presented by Blooming Minds and mental health online assessment (annual corporate health & wellbeing survey)


How the initiatives came about

Wellness initiatives at DSR started about 12 years ago as informal lunchtime activities - running groups - swimming, fitness classes and so on. Physical activity was central to these first activities, meeting the Department's mission of promoting physical health and wellness. Numerous initiatives and activities were added over time and in 2008, the Corporate Executive decided to fund a part-time coordinator position to organise activities, services and programs. This has developed into a permanent position, responsible for organising all sporting, wellness and recreation activities, and equipment.


Benefits and outcomes

Benefits and outcomes include:

  • in 2013, the Department was a top-three finalist (out of 80 applicants) for the Small Workplace Award for Wellness program (National Preventative Health Agency Awards)
  • no absenteeism due to reported mental health issues
  • at its highest, participation in the 2013 CHWP activities and services was 90 per cent, up from 12 per cent in 2008
  • winners of the National Ride 2 Work Day Small Agency Award in 2012
  • finalist 2009 National Workplace Bicycle Program Awards
  • feedback and support from employees is highly positive
  • high employee awareness of the Corporate Health & Wellbeing Program


Recommendations, considerations and lessons learned

Challenge: Motivating management to get behind wellness initiatives


  • Ensure that directors and managers understand and participate in mental health initiatives so it's easier to gain funding for activities and participation from employees
  • People placed in wellness roles should be passionate about mental health, as this passion is key to motivating both management and employees to get involved

Challenge: Integrating all facets of wellness into mental health initiatives


  • Make physical wellness part of mental wellness initiatives
  • Get employees involved in the planning process as it encourages contributions and participation

Challenge: Limited budgets


  • Focus on group activities for mental wellness, which are not only more sociable, but also more cost-efficient

Challenge: Motivating people in a mentally healthy way


  • Motivate employees by praising good work rather than solely criticising mistakes
  • Build in a system of recognition for good work - e.g. for employee of the month
  • Display positive and uplifting promotional material around the office
  • Encourage staff to become involved in social activities.

Previous Story Next Story
Back to stories