Workplace health promotion means more than simply meeting the legal requirements on health and safety; it also means employers actively helping their staff improve their own general health and wellbeing. Within this process it’s essential to involve employees and to take into account their needs and views on how to organise work and the workplace.
By making workers feel better and healthier, workplace health promotion leads to many positive consequences like reduced turnover and absenteeism, enhanced motivation and improved productivity, as well as improving the employer’s image as a positive and caring organisation.
Workplace health promotion consists of the combined efforts of employers, workers and society to improve the health and wellbeing of people at work. Developing and sustaining a healthy work environment and workforce has clear benefits for companies and employees, but can also lead to an improvement in social and economic development at local, regional, national and European level.
What is workplace health promotion?
Workplace health promotion generally targets different topics and in practice is often closely related to risk assessment. Some workplace health promotion aspects are:
- Participation of employees in the process of improving work organisation
- Active involvement and consultation of employees in improving their work environment
- All measures aimed at enhancing wellbeing at work, for example enabling flexible working hours or working from home
- Raising the topic of healthy eating at work, giving information on healthy nutrition as well as offering healthy canteen food or facilities to prepare own food
- Tobacco awareness, including the offer of free participation in smoking cessation programmes as well as declaring a comprehensive smoking ban at the whole company site
- Mental health promotion, offering courses for managers on how to deal with stress and tension within their team, providing the opportunity for anonymous psychological consultancy for all employees
- Exercises and physical activity, offering sport courses, encouraging physical activity, promoting an active and healthy culture at work
- Health monitoring, offering checks such as blood pressure or cholesterol level.
Full worker participation is critical to the success of any workplace health promotion. The question that many managers ask is how best to achieve this. Two key elements of success are finding out what motivates workers to participate and the role of diversity in participation.
EU-OSHA has produced a useful e-fact sheet which addresses these questions and summarises a report of a literature review on the motivating factors for employees to participate in workplace health promotion. This knowledge can be used to improve workplace health promotion programmes and, consequently, participation rates.
Good communication and engagement with workers are keys to successful workplace health promotion. These factors can be seen clearly in EU-OSHA’s recommendations:
- Actively and continuously involve employees in the design and implementation of WHP activities.
- Tailor and target WHP measures to the individual needs of employees.
- Use formal and informal communication strategies to promote WHP measures and raise employees’ awareness of health issues.
- Provide employees with adequate, personal and motivating information on the WHP activities.
- It is important that WHP activities satisfy individual and social needs at the workplace.
- WHP activities and measures should be easily accessible.
- Clear leadership and continuous support by employers and senior management is crucial for WHP programmes.
- Consider the role of diversity when planning WHP measures and actions.
The improvement of the health and wellbeing of people at work is achieved by the combined efforts of employers, managers, workers and society. The EU-OSHA e-fact sheet summarises the key elements employers and managers need to consider in order to implement a successful workplace health promotion.
Developing and sustaining a healthy work environment and workforce can lead to an improvement in social and economic development at local, regional, national and European level as well as benefiting employees and businesses.
Contains material under Copyright 1998-2013 European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
PPE.ORG is a media partner of EU-OSHA.