Implementing a worksite health promotion program: Improved health can lead to greater productivity and morale

Recent media reports have indicated that, as a result of the global credit crunch and due to the stress of redundancy threats and increased job and company insecurity, employees are experiencing increased cardiovascular disease risks, mental illness risks and in some cases death from suicide. Although funding for new programs is difficult to obtain in the current financial climate, there are some low cost initiatives that can be implemented in order to improve the health of staff.

Before embarking on a company wide health promotion project, it is important to assess the needs and wants of the staff. Undertaking a needs analysis will enable you to find out whether staff are interested in low cost fitness initiatives or whether a stress management program, including individual or group counseling sessions, is of more interest. After completing the needs analysis, you will be in a position to undertake budgeting and economic impact forecasts. Judging the economic impact of a worksite health promotion program can be difficult task, however two of the major forms of economic impact analysis have traditionally been used – cost benefit analysis and cost effectiveness analysis.

Potential worksite health promotion projects that can be developed at a low cost include:-

  • walking groups
  • cycle to work groups
  • health education sessions (many health charities have free or low cost community education speakers)
  • stress management through counseling, encouraging work-life balance and listening to the concerns of employees.

In order for a worksite health promotion project to be considered a success, it must be adopted and owned by the employees of the company. Employee engagement can be obtained by including employees in all stages of the project’s development from the needs analysis through to evaluation of the program’s effectiveness. If you have employees who have particular skills, perhaps in a sport or other recreational pursuit, they may be encouraged to become part of the health promotion program in a leadership role.

Another important way to engage employees in the health promotion program is through the use of communication. Regular communication and modeling of healthy behaviours by managerial staff can result in increased uptake of the health promotion program by lower level employees.

Attempting to improve the health of employees has various benefits for companies, including decreased absenteeism and health care costs, increased productivity of employees and improved employee health behavior choices. An effective worksite health promotion program which engages employees and speaks to their concerns may also improve the generalized morale of the workplace.