One of the most important cultural differences that we are discovering in the “Work, Health, and Well-being” course at the Harvard School of Public Health is what leads them to undertake such initiatives. They do not arise from a legal imposition (of course there is a rule: the OHS Act of 1970). Nor is it just the result of increasing ROI (Return on Investment) for the company, resulting from the improved health of workers. The simple fact of being something that helps shape a better and more sustainable society seems to encourage everyone. Then, within the company, we must be able to persuade people with authority and leadership to commit to the labour welfare model of Total Worker Health, but that’s not the goal, it is a means to achieve a high standard in health and wellness.
Another very unique difference is the practical orientation of any initiative. It is built on positiveness, with the plan to generate beneficial results for everyone, evaluating them, monitoring them and improving them. Collaboration between researchers and managers is promoted so that real conclusions that are practical and evidence-based are reached. Thus, the experience of companies in terms of integrating safety, health and welfare is key to finding the best practices that are extrapolated (within a specific context) to others.
A success story: Dartmouth-Hitchcock
We want to illustrate this by explaining the case of Dartmouth-Hitchcock, a university health system founded in 1893 that serves a population of 1.2 million patients in New England, the region located in the northeastern US which includes the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Dartmouth Hitchcock provides access to more than 1,000 primary care physicians and specialists in almost all areas of medicine, and trains about 400 residents and fellows annually, in addition to carrying out high-level clinical research.
What are the values of Dartmouth-Hitchcock?
Although I have listed them below:
- Responsible management
- Sense of community
They are best explained in this image:
And certainly the best explanation lies in the facts. How rhetoric enumeration has given way to a reality.
Commitment to a sustainable health system
That is to say, creating a “culture of health” that also applies in the workplace and that is durable. This is not dependent on changes in leadership, passing fads or short-term business opportunities. This is very easy to say, but implementing it means joining forces and making commitments in a single direction, and it will not be mine, yours or theirs, but the direction of the institution.
So confident in the quality of their system that they aim to become regional leaders and serve as a model for other institutions in the nation. Now that we have spoken so much about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), I think this may be a good example of how to manage sustainability in a company and connect with the interest groups addressing the needs of society.
Commitment to NIOSH’s Total Worker Health
An institution that proclaims its commitment to creating a culture of health can only, in a display of consistency, adopt the principles of Total Worker Health. That is to say, in summary, that the personal and occupation health of the workers are interrelated. And a healthy worker is a safe worker and vice versa. It does not make sense to compartmentalize what is occupational health, what is personal health. No: we want health for everyone, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, because we can leave the computer in the office, the shovel at work, or the bus in the yard, but the disconnect is not total and this affects us in our personal life due to office stress, backache from work and sitting too much in the bus. It also works in reverse: our personal stability or its absence for various reasons (death in the family, serious illness, separation, economic, legal, etc.) is going to take its toll at work.
The Live Well / Work Well initiative
“Our main goal is to improve and maintain the health and welfare of Dartmouth-Hitchcock employees and their families by creating a supportive culture thatprovides access to resources and services that motivate, stimulate and promote healthy lifestyles and foster resilience.”
Let’s look at some initiatives taken at Dartmouth-Hitchcock:
The objective is to take a virtual trip along 300 miles of trails (6 options). By performing several healthy activities a day (exercise, eating properly or sleeping enough) you can complete the journey. It is a clear example of gamification applied to behaviour change aimed at improving health.
One way of rewarding employee involvement in health programs is economically. Employees who have been involved the most can see their efforts rewarded with better health, but also economically, obtaining up to $ 300.
This initiative is not so original in Spain: there are companies that offer the opportunity to participate in fitness classes, Pilates, yoga, etc. or have gym facilities available or agreements with fitness centres.
All sorts of resources to facilitate tobacco cessation: telephone support, support groups, podcast, personal care, etc.
Contains food and nutrition information for having a healthy diet as well as programs to prevent diabetes, obesity, hypertension, advice on bariatric surgery, nutritional counselling by experts, campaigns to promote healthy alternatives to fast food.
In case of an incident or safety accident, it is recommend to see a supervisor and report it through an eROI (electronic Report of Injury) from which a cascade of actions are generated to assist the worker and prevent future recurrences. It also enables the design of actions directed to areas or departments where the most incidents occur.
Employees are given access to conventional health services but also other assistance such as “emotional” or psychological services, confidential and free, 24 hours a day.
A service aimed at helping, as far as possible, those who need psychological, emotional, occupational, and family support, with the goal of restoring wellness.
This service is aimed at those who suffer from insomnia or sleep disorders.
Those who want to make a change in their life that offers them greater wellness but they do not know how or they lack motivation, can take advantage of a coach who will accompany them in this process.
And what good is all of this?
To achieve a higher level of welfare. We know this by means of all the data collected by the system, with the following results having been obtained:
And this is so because all the initiatives seen above and many others are part of an integrated, measured, evaluated program, aimed at continuous improvement and open to participation. A robust and, once again, sustainable system, built to last and achieve results in welfare.
And these results are not negligible:
- Reduction in health expenditure.
- Productivity improvements.
- Reduction in the number of accidents and incidents.
- Employee involvement.
- Group conscience.
- Company image that attracts talent.
- Return to investors.
If we refer to the studies conducted so far with companies that have spent decades investing in these programs, we find that these companies that deal with the safety and health of workers with this integrated approach aimed at wellness manage to turn this initiative into an essential value for their investors. This is a test of intelligence and entrepreneurial vision. And the key is a term that connects the health and welfare of the workers (physical, mental, social and emotional) and the company (financial):
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