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Why do some workplace health and wellbeing programs fail to deliver success?

Posted by: Office all-rounder

A good workplace health and wellbeing program can grow into an essential part of an employees’ work life balance and improve the culture of a workforce as a whole. Here are some of the common reasons why some programs fail to deliver success and our approach for getting better results.  

Lack of support from the top

A great way to gain management support is to provide evidence of how investing in workplace health and wellbeing will benefit the business. It is important that management understand and support the benefits of creating a healthy workplace and supports the program with appropriate resourcing.  Your health and wellbeing program can grow into an essential part of employees’ work life balance and improve the culture of your workforce as a whole.  For example, management support can/should include:

  • allocating coordinator time to implement the program
  • supporting the development and promotion of health policies and supportive environments
  • encouraging and supporting the workplace health and wellbeing  coordinator to attend free HWWA training or PD events
  • Supporting staff consultation processes and encouraging staff feedback
  • Ensuring all levels of management endorse and promote the program
  • Encouraging workers to participate by getting involved themselves.

Get started with Healthier Workplace WA Getting Started fact sheet in developing a comprehensive business case.

Poor planning

Taking the Healthier Workplace WA Workplace Health Check will allow you to:

  • Consider what your workplace actually needs
  • Identify gaps and priorities in your workplace in relation to the risk factors of smoking, unhealthy eating, alcohol and physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour.
  • Assess your workplace on healthy policy, supportive infrastructure, education and activities which are the essential elements of a comprehensive program.
  • Provide a tailored report with specific recommendations to help you get started in creating your healthier workplace.

Lack of consultation

If you don’t understand the health risks that exist in your workplace, you can’t address them with suitable strategies. Understanding your staff’s needs, wants, perceived barriers and enablers to being healthy are essential if you want your workplace health program to succeed.

When you consult properly with staff you can make informed decisions about the direction of your new or existing workplace health and wellbeing program. Workplaces vary greatly from one to the next and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to workplace health promotion. In order to create a program that is specific to your organisation, you need to:

  • Consult with staff prior to creating and implementing your program
  • Understand the health risks that exist in your workplace
  • Understand your staff’s needs, wants, perceived barriers and enablers to being healthy.

Staff will provide valuable insights into what strategies will and won’t work in the workplace, and what they believe will make a difference to their health. In addition, by engaging them early you will create a feeling of ownership which will assist with participation rates.

Its important to consider the different ways you can consult with staff for example verbally, through online surveys or at a team meeting.

Narrow focus

Many workplace health and wellbeing programs are based solely on a series of activities or events. While it is great to have activities that employees can participate in, to bring about long-term/sustainable change, you need a comprehensive workplace health action plan that also addresses policy and environment.

policy is a formal written document setting out an organisation’s intention in relation to managing health and wellbeing. A health policy demonstrates the commitment of your organisation to providing a work environment that supports good health.

The workplace environment (infrastructure and facilities) should support and reinforce your health-related policies, education and activities in order to make healthy choices the easy choices. Even small improvements can significantly increase the health of your employees.

Education provides employees with knowledge on how their behaviours affect their health, which may motivate them to make healthier choices. Activities provide an opportunity for employees to practice new skills in a non-judgmental environment. Education and activities alone, however, is the least likely of the three elements to bring about changes in personal behaviour.

Lack of monitoring

If you don’t evaluate and review your workplace health and wellbeing program you won’t know what’s working and what’s not. From the start, think about collecting information on your activities, promotion, and new polices implemented. The results can also be a great way to motivate staff and celebrate success. Start with some basic monitoring:  

  • Staff awareness of the program
  • Number of staff attending specific health and wellbeing activities
  • Staff satisfaction with the program
  • Staff awareness and understanding of workplace polices i.e. healthy catering, smoke-free
  • Management support for the program  

Reflecting on your results will allow you to determine where to go next with your health and wellbeing program. In moving forward consider:

  • What additional expertise, knowledge or resources you might need?
  • Are there better strategies to target a particular group?
  • Is there a more- cost-effective way of reaching staff?
  • Who else could be involved?

In summary, to deliver a successful workplace health and wellbeing program you need to:

  • Gain management support - it is important that management understand and support the benefits of workplace health.
  • Plan and consider what your workplace actually needs to improve health and wellbeing
  • Consult staff so you can understand the health risks that exist in your workplace to ensure strategies are relevant
  • Ensure a balance of strategies (policy/ies, environment, education and activities)
  • Monitor - evaluate and review to see what’s working and what’s not and share your success

Other source: Healthier Workplace WA LinkedIn.

Office all-rounder

About Office all-rounder

Worker, workplace health champion, mum of two, sports nerd

View all posts by Office all-rounder

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Healthier Workplace WA. For further information please see Healthier Workplace WA terms of use.

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