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An integrated approach to workplace health and wellness with a focus on support and prevention

By Michelle Juling, Bank windhoek, Manager HR: Shared ServicesMichelle Juling.JPG

Employee well-being has always been important, but it is now more central to the future of work than ever before. Companies can play a meaningful role in creating a positive work environment that makes employee health and wellness a priority, but how do we design and execute an evidence-based workplace health and wellness care programme that works?

Evidence suggests that there is a high prevalence of chronic diseases, and the rates are rapidly rising, resulting in a material financial impact on health benefit costs and lost productivity. Mental health wellness and chronic diseases are interconnected, and employee health and wellness directly correlate with improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and levels of engagement and enhanced employee morale.

Creating a health and wellness programme that works, starts with being very clear about what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. This ensures that you have a thorough understanding of what approaches are needed to achieve a thriving organisational culture of employee health and wellness.

Your organisational objectives pertaining to employee health and wellness should be centred on educating and empowering employees to manage their health better and place them in a position to make informed health decisions and proactively intervene in their health before certain health conditions become critical. The ultimate goal should be to create a way of life in the workplace that integrates a total health and wellness model into every aspect of business practice, from company policies to everyday work activities. By “total health", I mean a culture supporting career, emotional, financial, physical, and social well-being.

Support from leaders: We know that any successful internal programme starts with a clear and strong leadership commitment. Leaders should understand who they lead and lead by example—ensuring that health and wellness are integrated and integral to the organisation's overall purpose. Driving and ensuring continued success of your programme will depend however on ongoing support at all levels of the organisation. Effective employee communication will therefore play an essential role in the success of the initiatives.

Employees: At the employee level, we understand that a workplace health promotion programme and encouraging engagement in wellness activities can only be achieved when employees own the programme, know how they and the company benefit, and are given a meaningful voice in its ongoing operation. Employees should understand what the programme entails, how it works, what's in it for them, and how to get involved.

Organisations should approach workplace health and wellness from a support and prevention angle. Look at establishing an in-house multi-disciplinary, multi-service health and wellness care centre. A programme of this nature will see the full integration of all aspects of workplace health and wellness programmes. Employees can then benefit from preventative care programmes, acute care, chronic disease management programmes, occupational health services, complimentary wellness, and having on-site access to a broad spectrum of medical, allied, and other health professionals.

Today in all our workplace environments, we need to understand what the health risk profile of our workforce is and, with that, be able to identify opportunities to promote better mind and body health, whether it is healthier eating, more physical activity, offering mental health support and providing monitoring and support services for persons with specific medical/chronic conditions. Great wellness programmes address and mitigate these risks through targeted intervention strategies. Remember, a healthy company culture is built intentionally and will take time and support.  

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