For a workplace health program to be successful, leadership has a vital role to play. Leadership commitment and support can communicate the purpose and processes of the workplace health program to all levels of the organization.
Leaders can act as models or champions for the effort, achieve buy-in and support from other levels of the organization, appoint a workplace health coordinator and wellness council members to manage the program, cultivate a supportive work environment with management and employees, and dedicate the necessary resources to the effort. Managerial leadership behavior and manner of communication can also have an impact on employee health. For example, results from the prospective cohort WOLF study in Sweden suggest that managerial leadership behaviors and manner of communication such as consideration for individual employees (My boss shows that he/she cares how things are for me and how I feel), provision of clarity in goals and role expectations (I have a clear picture of what my boss expects of me), supplying information and feedback (My boss gives me the information I need), and promotion of employee participation and control (My boss encourages my participation in the scheduling of my work) decrease the risk of employee ischemic heart disease.1
All these factors are important to firmly establish the workplace health program and create a culture of health. Creating such a culture where health promotion is a valued part of the normal work environment demonstrates an employer’s concern for the health and well-being of their employees, enhances the company’s competitiveness, engages employees, and presents the company as an attractive place to work.
Identify a senior executive to be in charge of the organization’s workplace health program
- Communicates consistently to all levels of the organization the workplace health program goals, objectives, and activities to create buy-in and support
- Serves as a model and champion. Senior leaders “walk the talk” and gain active commitment, support and participation from other managers
- Demonstrates organizational commitment to workplace health and safety initiatives (through employment contracts, strategic plans, health improvement plans)
- Appoints a workplace health coordinator and wellness council members
- Dedicates resources
- Managerial leadership behavior and manner of communication
Gather input on the vision and goals for a workplace health program from senior leaders
- Articulate how the vision and goals align with overall business goals showing the connections between employee health and business objectives
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
1. Nyberg A, Alfredsson L, Theorell T, Westerlund H, Vahtera J, and Kivimäki M. Managerial leadership and ischaemic heart disease among employees: the Swedish WOLF study. J Occup Environ Med. 2009 January; 66(1): 51–55.