Sunday, 7 July 2013

Optimising workplace interventions for health and well-being: A commentary on the limitations of the public health perspective within the workplace health arena

an article by Maria Karanika-Murray (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and Andrew K. Weyman (University of Bath, UK) published in International Journal of Workplace Health Management Volume 6 Issue 2 (2013)


The purpose of this paper is to discuss contemporary approaches to workplace health and well-being, articulating key differences in the intervention architecture between public and workplace health contexts and implications for intervention design.

Contemporary practice is discussed in light of calls for a paradigm shift in occupational health from a treatment orientation to an holistic approach focused on mitigation of the causes of ill health and the promotion of well-being. In practice, relatively few organisations have or seem able to engage with a broader perspective that encompasses challenges to health and well-being associated with contextual organisational drivers, e.g. job design/role, workload, systems of reward, leadership style and the underpinning climate. Drawing upon insights from public health and the workplace safety tradition, the scope for broadening the perspective on intervention (in terms of vectors of harm addressed, theory of change and intervention logic) is discussed.

There are important differences in scope and options for intervention between public health and workplace health contexts. While there is scope to emulate public health practice, this should not constrain thinking over intervention opinions. Increased awareness of these key differences within work organisations, and an evidence-based epidemiological approach to learning has the potential to strengthen and broaden the approach to workplace health and well-being management.

The authors argue that approaches to workplace well-being interventions that selectively cross-fertilise and adapt elements of public health interventions offer promise for realising a broader change agenda and for building inherently healthy workplaces.

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