The WHO defines health as: “…a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” Poor health outcomes related to work and lifestyle behavior include high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, depression, obesity, osteoporosis, back pain, musculo-skeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, obstructive pulmonary disease, stress, etc.
Here is a diagram representing the cost of poor health to employers:
A worker’s health is affected by two factors, when considering the employee health and well – being:
1. What workers bring with them to the workplace – in terms of heredity, personal resources, health practices, beliefs, attitudes, and values; and
2. What the workplace does to employees – in terms of organization of work, in both the physical and psychosocial sense.
Thus, the second factor is in total control of the employer on the employee.
Mental Health Promotion (MHP) is defined as “the process of enhancing protective factors that contribute to good mental health” (Pollett, 2007). MHP involves the development of individual, social and environment conditions that enable an optimal health and promote personal empowerment and development.
Role of training: Managers and workers have roles to play in building safe work environments-ones that will not create or deteriorate mental illness and the ones in which workers are properly supported. Trainings given for mental health and well-being at workplace include:
- The importance of workplace wellbeing and workplace mental health
- The role of the manager – what to do and what not to do
- Common workplace mental health issues
- Recognition and practical intervention strategies
The following are case studies of few companies that incorporated a mental health promotion program in their organizations:
Barclays: A UK based company employs 60,000 employees. The Health Program at Barclays has an Occupational Health scheme for its entire staff, because there was 20% absenteeism due to musculo-skeletal problems. The initiatives included work station assessment and advice on how to prevent and manage musculo-skeletal problems. The result was that musculo-skeletal sickness referrals were down to only 3%.
British Gas: A UK based company employs 2,500 employees, 90% of who are based in customer service call centers. The health program at British Gas was to re-brand work to “health and wellbeing” rather than “health and safety”. It implemented smoking cessation classes, healthy eating options in the canteen, massage sessions, fitness classes, family fun activities, introduced stress interventions (e.g. office snowball fights), organized voluntary community charity schemes. The result was there was a reduction of 12% staff absence, 25% staff turnover, employee engagement and commitment scores from its annual employee survey, and the corporate image was built as they became winners of Financial Times ‘Great Places to Work’, Sunday Times ‘Best companies to work for’ and landed a BBC Workplace Health award, as well. (Source: Health Work and WellBeing).
Thus, organizations can have a range of economic and business related outcomes from mental health promotion programs, such as improved workplace morale and culture, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, reduced injuries or work-related accidents, etc. There are other interventions, apart from training to promote health programs. These trainings can also be conducted by eLearning.