Why invest in employees’ wellbeing, health, and work participation?

Fostering employees’ wellbeing, health, and work participation benefits both employees and employers, as well as the society, in several ways (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Benefits of investing in employees’ wellbeing, health, and work participation.

Wellness at work is everybody’s business

Employers and employees have a shared responsibility in the promotion of employees’ wellbeing, health, and work participation (Figure 2). This Toolkit provides employers ideas on how to create a workplace that thrives through taking care of its personnel.

Figure 2. Employers’ and employees’ responsibilities in the promotion of wellbeing, health, and work participation.

What is this Toolkit made of?

The Toolkit compiles means through which workplaces can support the wellbeing and health, and enhance the work participation of all employees, regardless of their current work ability and health status. In addition, the means of the Toolkit aid to prevent chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, and lung diseases. More information on some of the most frequent chronic diseases can be found in the Training Tool Appendix.

Whom is the Toolkit designed for?

The Toolkit is designed for the use of all parties involved in fostering occupational wellbeing and health, such as the human resources personnel, the management of workplaces, occupational health care, and catering service providers.

How was the Toolkit developed?

The means of the Toolkit have been selected based on a groundwork comprising several systematic literature studies and dozens of interviews conducted with managers and employees of workplaces from various industries, as well as occupational wellbeing and health professionals in several European countries. The groundwork was completed to map scientific evidence and to collect empirical data on effective and feasible actions workplaces can take to promote personnel’s wellbeing, health, and work participation, and to prevent the development of chronic health problems. In addition, the groundwork identified factors that facilitate the implementation of such actions at workplaces, and factors that encourage employees to make use of the opportunities their workplace provides for fostering personal wellbeing and health. The structure and the content of the Toolkit arise from this groundwork.

How is the Toolkit structured?

The content of the Toolkit is categorised into seven domains (Figure 3), each important to overall wellbeing and health, and each of which a workplace can advance. Every domain includes various types of approaches, and under each approach, there are suggestions for concrete means to improve employees’ wellbeing and health within the domain. Many of the proposed means are relatively effortless to put into action, meaning that their execution does not require major investments as regards personnel, time, or material. These means are indicated with a thumb.

This means is relatively effortless to put into action, meaning that it's execution does not require major investments as regards personnel, time, or material
Figure 3. The structure of the Toolkit and some examples of the means within each approach.

How to use the Toolkit?

The Toolkit can be used both as a checklist and as an idea generator. Browsing through its content, you can first map which Toolkit domains have already been paid attention to and which approaches and means currently are in use in your organization. In Appendix 1, you can find a checklist form that helps you to conduct this mapping. The mapping aids you to recognise factors that already support your employees to feel well at their workplace. Be proud of what you have accomplished by now, and keep sustaining all the existing good.

Next, you can consider which domains you could still work on to best support the employees of your workplace. What would your employees need the most to stay well and to be able to work also in the future? Having identified the most important development domains, take a closer look at the concrete means the domains contain. Which of the means would be the most beneficial and feasible in your organization? Choose 1–3 such means at a time, and plan how and when you will put them into action. The means of the Toolkit are examples, and hence, when implemented, they can be adjusted to find the best fit for each workplace.

For more information on how to ensure successful implementation, have a look at Appendix 2 . This Appendix presents factors identified to facilitate the implementation of wellbeing, health, and work participation promoting actions at the workplace. In addition, Appendix 2 lists factors shown to encourage employees to make use of the actions the workplace implements.

For an example of a more comprehensive protocol for identifying and finding solutions to employees’ potential health challenges early on, please refer to Appendix 3.

The domains of the Toolkit are interconnected, and many of the Toolkit means have beneficial effects on more than just one domain. Targeting various domains, using diverse approaches, and combining several means are likely to result in the greatest effects.

Means for all kinds of workplaces

Since workplaces are highly variable, also the means that are feasible for implementation and needed among employees vary across workplaces. For example, there is no need to encourage employees to use stairs instead of elevator in a building that has no elevator, or to reduce time spent sitting among employees that spend most of their working hours standing and walking. We hope that this Toolkit can provide each workplace at least a couple of viable ideas on how to improve employee’s wellbeing, health, and work participation considering available resources and employees’ specific needs. There are plenty of things that can be done with limited resources, and even small measures have the potential to considerably improve employees’ wellbeing and job satisfaction. Each action counts!