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Workplace Health Improvement Plan
The workplace health improvement plan is a key document that serves as:
- A roadmap by which the program will take shape
- Guidance for those involved to work in unison
- A communications tool for employers, leadership, supervisors, and other key stakeholders about the program’s purpose, processes, and success
The final report summarizing the data collected during the workplace health assessment phase can be used as a reference tool to guide decisions when creating a workplace health improvement plan. The assessment can identify a number of opportunities for employers to create access and opportunity for employees to practice healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, or discourage unhealthy behaviors, such as creating a tobacco free work environment. The assessment can also properly identify health risks and hazards from the work environment that may cause occupational disease or injury. The findings from an assessment can be used to form the foundation of the workplace health improvement plan and create a basis to institute health promotion, prevention and control measures for identified health and safety risks, and implement systems to collect, analyze, and interpret health promotion, occupational disease and injury control information as part of the workplace health program.
Several criteria may be useful in establishing priority areas that should be detailed in the workplace health improvement plan:
- What health and safety risks are present? How they are monitored
- The number of employees affected by a health condition or at risk for the health condition
- The magnitude of the health effects for those employees affected such as risk for death or disability, or impact on quality of life
- The current economic cost such as direct or indirect health care costs
- The potential health benefit of the program including the proportion of employees who might be benefited
- The availability of evidence-based interventions with proven effectiveness
- The availability of programs and services across various subgroups of employees
- Return on investment - the cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit of the strategy or activity
- The level of difficulty in implementing the intervention or strategy
- The cost of implementation
- The time needed to plan and implement the intervention or strategy
- The interest of employees in participating in the chosen intervention or activity
Start with actions that build momentum and lead to early success.
A long term goal for a workplace health promotion program may be to have an on-site fitness facility that offers a range of physical activity classes and programs to employees. Achieving this goal will take significant effort and investment. Initially, the program may develop a walking program for employees and organize seminars or demonstrations on physical activity as a way to generate interest, participation, and momentum for the program to reach the long term goal.
The workplace health improvement plan includes:
- The workplace health program vision and mission statement
- Specific, measurable goals and objectives that are aligned with overall business objectives
- Writing SMART Objectives was developed by the CDC Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention as a resource for state programs in writing program goals and objectives. It is also useful for other settings
- The CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed as part of its WorkLife Initiative the Essential Elements document which identifies twenty components of a comprehensive work-based health protection and health promotion program and includes both guiding principles and practical direction for organizations seeking to develop effective workplace programs. The Essential Element’s twenty components are divided into four areas: Organizational Culture and Leadership; Program Design; Program Implementation and Resources; and Program Evaluation
Interventions to be implemented
- The interventions that have been chosen for implementation to support employee health including programs, policies, benefits, and environmental supports including building upon current activities that are present to address health and safety risks
- Timelines for action showing specific action steps and dates by which they will be completed
- An itemized budget and key resources such as staffing, equipment, space, or materials to support the workplace health program
Defined roles and responsibilities
- Defined roles and responsibilities for those involved in achieving the program’s goals and objectives
- The program may involve individuals or groups inside of the business such as a wellness coordinator, committee, or council, and champions at all levels
- Working with other organizations such as community groups, local hospitals, and vendors can improve access for employees, provide resources, and bolster the credibility of the program
- Forming partnerships and alliances should be done to ensure external organizations fit into the overall workplace health program strategy and bring enhancements to the overall program
An evaluation strategy
- Before implementing any interventions, the evaluation plan should also be developed to demonstrate the impact and success of implemented interventions
- The evaluation plan should include measures related to the process of establishing and delivering the intervention as well as the desired outcomes. It is important to first identify the evaluation questions of interest such as:
- What aspects of the program will be examined?
- What does success look like?
- Who will need and want to see the information?
- What is the scope of the evaluation, recognizing every aspect of the program need not be evaluated?
- What type(s) of data will be collected, by what method(s), and how frequently will data be collected? What data systems are available to collect health-related data?
- Knowing what is not working is just as valuable as what is working when building a successful program. If the desired program outcomes are not being achieved, having an evaluation plan and proper infrastructure allows for adaptations and refinements to the program, rather than wholesale changes to address areas that are not working well
- Resources related to staff time or data collection are needed for evaluation just as they are for implementing interventions and should be included in the overall program budget
- Financial returns on investment such as reductions in health care costs or improvements in worker productivity may not be achievable in the first couple of years of the workplace health program3-6 so to demonstrate progress, and keep commitment of both senior leadership and employees, evaluation measures can be established around short and intermediate term indicators such as:
- The process of establishing workplace health programs, policies, benefits, or environmental supports
- Employee awareness of and satisfaction with programs and services and those that provide them
- Participation and use of programs and services
- Changes in employee health behaviors and risk profiles
A communications plan
The communications plan allows the workplace health program to:
- Create a brand identity for the program
- Create materials and messages to reach the target audience in support of the program goals
- Market the program to employees
- Build trust with employees by sharing the results and taking action.
- A way to build trust and good relationships with employees is through ongoing communication of the program’s purpose, actions taken to improve employee health and why and the results of those actions. If the company has good relationships with their employees then the workplace health program is more likely to get higher employee participation. Responding to the needs of the workforce will help improve employee morale and also is likely to increase participation in future program activities
- Raise awareness of workplace health and safety risks and opportunities for health promotion
The workplace health coordinator and committee may want to consider pilot-testing components of the workplace health program.
Pilot testing is a small-scale test of the procedures, methods, and strategies of a health promotion program, designed to ensure that it will work in practice before being applied on a larger scale.
Pilot tests provide an opportunity to make adjustments to aspects of the program that did not work as well as expected before investing the time, staff, and money needed to support a broader effort.
A pilot test can inform the workplace health improvement plan by:
- Determining if the communication methods used to reach employees are the most effective
- Determining if the program interventions selected are best suited to employee needs and interests
- Determining if the program is reaching the intended audience