Governance Structure & Management

Implementing a workplace health program takes “championing” at all levels of an organization, but should be led by a dedicated staff member.

The first step toward a healthier workplace is to identify a qualified and motivated workplace health coordinator. This person will be most effective if he or she has support from senior management, is empowered to work across organizational units, is supported by a workplace health council or committee, and has an annual operating budget and the authority to implement the workplace health improvement plan.

For employers that have multiple business units or locations, it is important to cascade the workplace health program and goals down the enterprise. Establishing a site-level organizational structure, such as a workplace health committee or council can help implement the workplace health program.

The workplace health council can play a key role in building a “culture of health” by helping the employer understand critical employee health problems and cost drivers, assessing current workplace health efforts, the work environment, and the health promotion needs and interests of employees, and developing a plan to guide actions to improve health, reduce costs and improve worker productivity.

A broad and diverse representation of workplace health committee members including workers from multiple organizational units, human resources, supervisors, employee representatives (e.g., union officials), and representatives from community organizations will help ensure success.

Identify a workplace health coordinator

  • Coordinator oversees the workplace health program, chairs and regularly convenes the workplace health committee, and oversees an annual budget

Establish a workplace health council or committee

  • Committee has representation from broad range of organizational units, workers and their representatives (e.g., unions), supervisors (including managers from multiple shifts), and key community organizations
  • Employee representation and participation in the program’s decision making process is important for success. It leads to higher levels of commitment to and satisfaction with the workplace health program. It signifies that employee needs are reflected and results in employee buy-in and additional program champions. The level of influence by employees should reflect the level of authority and expertise they have in other business functions. For example, employees may be instrumental in identifying and establishing the most effective communication strategies, but may not have the ability to determine the program’s budget levels
  • In unionized workplaces, union representatives should be part of the committee (e.g., a labor-management health and safety committee) and engaged in all activities related to planning and program design. Involvement of employee representatives can have a significant influence on the establishment and acceptance of workplace health programs.
Tools and Resources
  • 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

Integrate the workplace health program vision with the business’ mission

  • The workplace health program relates to the overall core business functions and describes the organization’s commitment and processes to implement the workplace health program
  • The Institute of Medicine recommends that organizations adopt a vision for worker health
    • This vision should link the company’s overall mission with a clearly articulated perspective of health and how it advances the core mission of the organization
    • An enterprise workplace health program should be promoted and implemented vertically and horizontally, using participatory strategies to ensure sustained senior management, organizational, and total workforce engagement
    • A charter, vision, or mission statement should be created to describe the organization’s commitment to implementing the workplace health program. The program should have explicit goals and objectives that integrate with business objectives1

1.  Institute of Medicine. 2005. Integrating employee health: a model program for NASA. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.