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Why employers often get worker wellbeing wrong and how to get it right

A new report from the Campbell Institute indicates not all employers are getting worker wellbeing right, and it could be affecting the sustainability of their business.

While many organizations today are focused on wellbeing programs that tackle smoking cessation, weight loss or nutrition—not bad programs in and of themselves—the Campbell Institute report indicates a more multifaceted approach to worker wellbeing can lead to sustainable, and even increased, employee health.

According to the report, wellbeing is where health protection (such as safety training) and health promotion (such as free flu shots or other immunizations) intersect. To get the most out of their wellbeing programs, organizations should consider improving the areas of highest risk to their team. These areas can certainly include employee fitness and nutrition, but also encompass broader health and safety issues, such as workplace fatigue, stress, overtime management and job security.

The Campbell Institute proposes a systematic approach to assessing and addressing total worker wellbeing, such as implementing the “Plan Do Check Act” model.

“There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to worker wellbeing,” said John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute, the center of excellence for environmental, health and safety management at the National Safety Council. “Organizations are unique and so are their employees. If the biggest risk to an organization is employees being overweight, it might want to focus efforts on physical fitness. Or, if the highest risk for an organization is deemed to be worker stress, it might want to look at implementing a worker assistance program.”

The PDCA model is intended to not only discover and implement improvements in worker wellbeing, but also ensure those improvements are maintained. The system is well known in the safety industry and is repeated continuously for ongoing progress. Steps in the model are as follows:

Plan: analyze information, solicit ideas and select best plan for improvement
Do: implement the plan (either as a pilot program or fully deployed plan)
Check: gather information to verify the desired effects of change are seen
Act: sustain gains made and make course corrections as needed

By using the PDCA model, employers can identify top problem areas and then develop intervention strategies at an organizational level to address those risks.

To view the full Campbell Institute report, titled “A Systems Approach to Worker Health and Wellbeing,” click here. The report includes a 35-item questionnaire that addresses six primary stress areas on the job.

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