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Taking An Organizational Approach To Occupational Wellbeing

The phenomena of organizational health and individual health are often presented as having a symbiotic relationship. In order to support employees health and wellness in the workplace, we need to move beyond current conceptual “health and safety” limitations and move towards a more strategic model of engaging employee wellbeing. My central argument is that healthy behaviour change in the workplace requires a strategic and a sustainable health strategy. If you want to gain a competitive advantage in health human resources and retention, take an organizational approach. Consider incorporating these 4 ways to support your teams to build healthy mindsets and behaviours that keep them working productively throughout their hospital shifts.

Here are 4 Ways To Keep Employees Healthy In The Workplace:

1. Practice Healthy Leadership

Occupational health as a subject area was first introduced in the 1990s. It has accounted for some contribution to creating healthy workplace practices. I’ve noticed great concerns for individual well-being from the increase media attention throughout COVID-19. As much as we know about increased work demands and poor work–life balance, workplace initiatives have yet to really support employees. If the organization changed its views on leadership, and recognized the employee as not being separate from its environment, then organizations could have the “ultimate competitive advantage”. 

2. Engage Leadership Through Health & Wellness Committees

Creating a health and wellness committee that’s led by employees is a great way to support the organization at large. The first place to start is to assess if you have the support from your organization. Knowing this can tell you a bit about the values of your organization. It can also tell you what kind of resources are available within your organization. If there’s a lack of consciousness around the value of organizational development, as is related with health promotion programming, you may need to start with raising the consciousness.  This will help you decide where to start with employee leadership and wellness initiatives.

Find out how much time and resources your employer would allow you to develop something? Might you start with a small committee dedicated solely for your hospital unit, instead of the hospital at large? Can you lean on the private sector to help you get such an initiative started?

3. Promote Mindful Nutrition

Take a look at what your staff is eating on break. Is it coming from the vending machines on-site, or is it coming from a veggie tray in the staff room?  If you have regular sugary snacks and sodas, then you can start by promoting water intake. This might be an easy place to start (or not). Also look at the kind of foods that are being served in the cafeteria and whether you have access to organic options within the organization. While food is a highly political issue to some, simply promoting healthy and nutritious snacks and reducing the amount of sugar and pesticide intake can build awareness around healthy nutrition lifestyle choices.

A little FYI, in my graduate work on food security, I became engulfed in the work of Michael Pollan. For those unaware of Michael Pollan, he’s an author, journalist, and activist. In his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Pollan challenges the reader to reassess our conceptions about food in relation to personal health. For more on the topic, check out this popular podcast, Episode 31 – 6 Super Easy Steps to Mindful Eating. 

4. Engage The Private Sector

While there are many components to creating a thriving workplace health & wellness initiative, one key resource to help you get started is by leaning on the experts in their field. I like to draw on the analogy of doing a DYI on your bathroom or kitchen renovation.  You know you’ll save money by doing it yourself, but you’ll save yourself a whole lot of mistakes and frustration if you lean on the experts. Most importantly, adjust your “mindset” around what workplace health and wellness programs can do for your teams – and who is the best person for the job.  It’s important that employer-provided efforts “enhance awareness, change behaviour, and create environments that support good health practices” (reference). Often times, internal resources are insufficient to support teams at large. Employers believe that these programs reduce medical spending and increase the productivity.

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