Health and Wellbeing at Work: More Than Just “An Apple a Day”

A substantial proportion of our waking life is spent working, so it’s not entirely surprising that wellbeing at work has become an increasing area of interest for many individuals. However, organisations may be unwilling to invest in interventions or programmes  that promote such wellbeing, unless it is going to impact on their bottom line.

A number of studies provide evidence to support the idea that participation in organisational wellness programs can result in reduced stress levels, lower absenteeism, higher job satisfaction and increased productivity (Parks & Steelman, 2008).  However, most of the programmes reported are focused on physical health (e.g. gym memberships, health and fitness groups) and education (e.g. nutritional information).

My thoughts are that while physical health is important to overall wellbeing, this is only one piece of the puzzle.

The World Health Organisation’s definition of health, and New Zealand’s own Health and Safety legislation, extends beyond physical health to also include mental and social health. However, there appears to be little research linking specific organisational practices and interventions to mental and social wellbeing.  Nevertheless, many consulting companies and organisations offer a range of wellness programmes addressing the more psychological and emotional aspects of wellbeing. These offerings are designed to aid employees’ ability to cope with stress and bounce back from adversity, for example resilience training and stress management programmes. These types of interventions have the potential to not only assist employees in coping with pressure at work, but also teach people transferable skills that can help them cope with pressure in other aspects of their lives as well.

As I/O and HR researchers and practitioners we need to provide evidence to support these interventions and link them to individual and organisational outcomes; otherwise many organisations may not consider the value the programmes can contribute to individual mental health and organisational outcomes.  

So, how do we measure the effectiveness of these interventions and where do we start?

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