Health in the workplace: prevention goes global

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Today marks the annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work. The International Labour Organisation has designated 2015 as the year for governments, employers and employees to “Join in building a culture of prevention on OSH [Occupational Safety and Health][i]”, with priority given to preventing injury and illness. Best Doctors looks at ways that employers are embracing best prevention practices.

While a large part of preventive workplace safety and health measures is dedicated to on-the-job safety, such as the correct operation and maintenance of machinery and ensuring a hygienic and toxin-free working environment, prevention also includes providing employees with reliable resources for support and advice when it comes to their health concerns. Such resources may take the form of on-site facilities or may be included as part of an employee benefits package.

A global approach to health

Preventive measures can also be strengthened through the corporate culture that a company transmits and shares with its employees. According to a recent article in The Telegraph, the increasingly “global” nature of many companies, and of work as we know it, offers an opportunity for employers to positively impact employee health, resulting in an equally positive effect on productivity and profitability[ii].

When a company has offices or partners in one or many different countries, there are opportunities for employees to share not just a logo and a head office, but best practices for health and well-being. The article observes that the increasing tendency for multi-region organisations to work under “a single overarching health ethos[iii]” fosters a central, shared culture and can improve performance across the board. Whether this means the sharing of work across different time zones so that no single region or office puts in overly long hours, the selection of successful local health benefits and their replication in other regions, or even internal newsletters or cross-regional teambuilding events that promote a common spirit or support network, such initiatives are shaping company health policies present and future.

Five actions for better prevention

Affirming that the new global ethos is valid for all employers and employees, whether multinationals or local operations, the Telegraph article shares valuable ideas from Dr Derek Yach, executive director of the Vitality Institute, a global health research organisation, and former director of the World Health Organisation: “Effective programmes lead to improved employee morale, retention, productivity and, in time, reduced healthcare costs[iv].” Dr Yach encourages employers to consider the “5 global health need-to-knows[v]” for a healthy workplace:

  • A corporate culture of health” with a strong contribution from top management.
  • “Focused attention to health risks that matter most”, including diet, smoking and lack of exercise, as well as attention to health screening and chronic disease management.
  • “Smart use of financial incentives and personalised health devices”, that facilitate health monitoring and provide longer term motivation.
  • Better alignment between personalised health programmes and workplace design features”. Healthy food and lifestyle offerings in the workplace ensure better adherence on the part of employees.
  • “Inclusion of metrics on the health of employees into integrated financial reports”. Provided medical confidentiality is adhered to, including health information along with other issues such as governance and diversity as a future performance indicator encourages more commitment to prevention.

In past blog posts Best Doctors has highlighted the importance of workplace health, well-being and illness prevention and encourages employers to communicate the value of employee health benefits and prevention programmes to staff. Click on the links below to read more:

http://www.bestdoctorsblog.com/nz/a-healthy-approach-to-absenteeism-2/

http://www.bestdoctorsblog.com/nz/a-phone-call-that-can-ease-the-pain-3/

http://www.bestdoctorsblog.com/nz/the-future-of-company-health-care-plans-2/

Sources:

[i] International Labour Organization (2015) World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Retrieved from: http://www.ilo.org

[ii] Powell, Jessica (30 March 2015) Employee well-being: a global approach to health. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

[iii] see note ii

[iv] see note ii

[v] see note ii

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