A supportive workplace environment uses occupational health and safety, voluntary health practices, and organizational change to improve employee health and wellness, increase productivity, creativity, and profit for the workplace.
Overview of Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion
Workplace health often refers to efforts to assist employees (and sometimes their families) to make voluntary lifestyle changes, such as increasing their physical activity or making healthier food choices. Comprehensive workplace health is a term used to describe a series of interrelated categories that impact the health of employees, as follows:
1. Occupational Health and Safety
This component includes the efforts to reduce the physical and chemical hazards in a work
environment with the goal of reducing work related injury, illness and disability. Significant
improvements have been made in these areas over the past 25 years. New health and safety issues have arisen in recent years. For example, problems related to video display terminals, violence in the workplace and “sick-building syndrome”. Thus, health and safety may look
at things like ergonomics, injury prevention, hazard identification and control, emergency response, disability case management and medical services.
2. Voluntary Health Practices
The workplace is an important setting in which almost any lifestyle behaviour can be addressed. These may include nutrition, physical activity, tobacco, sun safety, immunization, and drug and alcohol use. It may be a complement of health promotion strategies that are being used, such as policy change, creation of a supportive environment, or education. Workplaces are a good setting in which to support health promotion as most Ontario adults spend close to two-thirds of their waking hours at work.
3. Organizational Change
Recent research has shown that many of the factors that impact productivity also impact health. For example, job control and workplace stress play a role in job satisfaction, which is related to productivity. Job satisfaction has also been shown to play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Job satisfaction is strongly influenced by workplace culture. A poor organizational culture can induce stress, which in turn affects both health and
Examining an organization’s culture and how it supports employees in the areas of job satisfaction, job control, flexible work environments and stress management is an important part of a comprehensive workplace health program.
Cardiovascular disease, often addressed by lifestyles, has been found to be related to job control. Cancer, often addressed by lifestyles, is also a health and safety issue because many workplace chemicals and other hazards may contribute to cancer. Stress is one of the most common workplace ailments and it crosses all categories of employee health. Increased physical activity may help reduce stress. However, if a hazardous work environment or an unwieldy workload is the cause of stress it also needs to be remedied. Shift work may make it difficult for workers to get adequate sleep, eat regular meals or be physically active.
Key Elements of Successful Workplace Health Promotion Programs
Workplace health programs must recognize the complex nature of today’s workplaces. There are 12 key elements of successful workplace health programs that you will need to keep in mind as you work through this guide.
1. Management Support and Participation is Required
An organization’s Workplace Health Program and Committee need visible support from business owners, senior, and middle management. There needs to be a willingness to commit time, energy, and resources to the program.
2. The Program Should be Voluntary
Encourage, but don’t require employees or co-workers to participate in workplace health activities.
3. Continually Market the Program
The Program must be continuously marketed to make sure employees are aware of the Program, its benefits, and opportunities to participate. Marketing is an important part of “selling”
the idea of workplace health to employees and management.
4. Ensure Involvement and Collaboration From all Levels
It is important that the workplace “be on board” and endorses the Workplace Health Program.
The Program and the Committee need the involvement and support not just of senior
management, but also of employees, unions, and other key stakeholders in order to be successful. These groups all need to be working together toward the same goal.
5. Requires a Long-Term Commitment
Research tells us that it takes 5 to 10 years to see significant pay-offs from workplace health
programs. It is also important to remember that when it comes to making lifestyle changes,
employees will all be at various stages of readiness. Successful programs recognize that
change is a process that takes time and that there needs to be a good match between the activity and the stage of readiness for change. (See Appendix A: Stages of Change p.43 of the Healthy Workplace Guide for more information).
6. Ensure Initiatives are Employee-Driven
The chances of success increase the more employees become involved in the process. This will also help to ensure the buy-in and commitment of all employees.
7. Customize the Program to Meet the Needs, Interests, and Concerns of Employees
Different people have different needs. It is important to assess needs and interests of employees before developing and implementing your activities. Diverse programs are needed
to meet the needs of all employees within the organization. Be sensitive to age and body limitations, as well as cultural differences.
8. Programs Should be Open to All Employees
Everyone within the organization can benefit from the Workplace Health Program. It should
be designed to meet the needs of all employees regardless of their current level of physical
health and wellness.
9. Adapt to the Special Features of the Workplace
Each workplace has a unique environment and employee culture. Programs must recognize this and be customized to fit the workplace. Make programs as flexible as possible.
10. Strategies Need to be Comprehensive
Research tells us that successful workplace health initiatives must complete three tasks in order to be successful. Initiatives need to: Create employee awareness, Build employee skills, Create a supportive work environment and policies.
11. Provide Incentives and Recognition to Support Involvement
It is important to recognize and reward those individuals that organize and participate in these
initiatives. Incentives encourage participation and demonstrate to employees that participation
is valued by the organization.
12. Include Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation
It is important for Workplace Health Programs to collect information to keep track of progress
and to determine if their goals have been met. Evaluating the impact of the Program on the
organization and employees is important.
Steps in this Guide
Six steps are outlined in this guide.
These steps provide a framework to help you to plan, implement, and evaluate your Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion Program. They are designed to allow management and employees in your workplace to work together, follow a process, and make it your own program tailored to your workplace.
These steps do not necessarily need to be implemented in the order they appear. Your organization may have already completed one or more of these steps or you may wish to progress in a different order.
Each step includes strategies, a checklist to ensure the completion of each step and an outline of the ways Public Health can assist you in reaching your goals.
Comprehensive Workplace Health Model
Click here for a PDF version of our Comprehensive Workplace Health Model.
View the complete Healthy Workplace Guide
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