Health & Wellbeing: Strategy to action

Posted in : HR Updates on 16 October 2018
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

We’re all aware of the importance of the health and wellbeing of our people. The benefits to both the organisation and the employee can include improved employee morale, increased productivity, decreased staff turnover, reduced sickness absence and increase in the quality of products and services. Improved corporate responsibility can in turn help profile public image and enhance employer branding. Now more than ever it is clear that organisations take health and welfare very seriously evident not least in the sheer volume of award entries for the popular health and wellbeing categories of business accolades such as the Irish News Awards.

So what does health and wellbeing actually mean? The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes a holistic view by not just focusing on physical or mental health alone. Their healthy workplace model includes four overlapping elements each supported by leadership engagement, ethics and values and worker involvement. In a wider sense, the business ethics and legality of the organisation should reflect its drive to protect the health and wellbeing of staff, their families and the wider public.

The elements of the WHO healthy workplace model include:

  1. Health & safety concerns in the physical work environment;
  2. Health, safety and wellbeing concerns in the psychosocial work environment including organisation of work and workplace culture;
  3. Personal health resources in the workplace (support and encouragement of healthy workplace lifestyles by the employer;
  4. Ways of participating in the community to improve the health of workers, their families and members of the community.

The model highlights that leadership commitment and engagement is key. There is little to gain from an ah hoc approach to health and wellbeing with no real consideration given to its strategy. Major stakeholders in the organisation need to be bought into and involved in the process. This can be demonstrated through a health and wellbeing policy signed by the highest authority in the organisation. Once this commitment is in place it is equally important to involve staff and their representatives in implementing the policy. It is simply not enough for them to be ‘informed’. They should be consulted throughout from planning through to evaluation. A dedicated health and wellbeing committee or steering group can help drive this.

The next step in the process involves assessing the current health and wellbeing situation in the organisation and developing priorities that then feed into an action plan. This can be achieved by rolling out a staff survey. Ideally the survey should be tailored to include questions reflecting the WHO model ensuring that it is holistic in its approach. There are some external Occupational Health providers that can provide assistance through survey provision, analysis of results and assistance in putting an action plan into place. Some even provide ‘health champion’ training and provision of health targeted events. The results of the survey should be analysed to identify any running themes or priority areas which will help shape the action plan and provision of health and wellbeing initiatives that are tailored to the needs of staff.

Once the plan has been finalised it is time to implement it. This can be used as an opportunity to launch the programme through a ‘kick off’ event. The programme should also be given a name so that it has a recognisable brand. It is important to continue to engage with staff during the roll-out stage through the established health and wellbeing committee or steering group. This will allow for the opportunity to plan, monitor and amend the programme along the way. Remember that this is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing so integration with senior management, the business plan and across teams is crucial to ensure all stakeholders are involved in decision-making.

Finally when reviewing the effectiveness of the strategy and longer term business success, any positive impact on staff attendance should be monitored alongside wider issues such as improved financial performance, internal business processes, and employees’ learning and growth. It should be a model of continuous improvement engaging with all levels of staff, putting plans into action and then seeing what works and what doesn’t before continuing onto the next phase of the cycle.

Useful reading:

Healthy workplaces: a WHO global model for action 

Health Matters at Work Initiative 

Health and well-being at work

This article is correct at 16/10/2018

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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