Companies need to help their employees stay healthy. Workplace health management (WHM) includes occupational healthy and safety, workplace integration management and workplace health promotion. What exactly is this about? And how does it benefit all those involved?
At a glance
- Workplace health management is based on three pillars.
- Occupational health and safety and workplace integration management are required by law, while workplace health promotion is voluntary.
- Employees and the company both benefit from workplace health management.
- In addition to better health in the workplace, these benefits include potential improvement in the working atmosphere and greater attractiveness as an employer.
- Successful workplace health management can be achieved when all the steps are well planned, managed and controlled.
What is a workplace health management program?
A company’s workplace health management (WHM) ideally encompasses all areas that could have an impact on the health of their employees. The holistic goal is to maintain and promote health, performance and success for all employees – and therefore also for the company as a whole. To do this, various measures are planned, managed and controlled – systematically, goal-oriented and continuously.
Workplace health management must be adapted to the circumstances of the company or the individual business premises. Since it is particularly effective when it is strategically implemented, it should be one of the management tasks. It is equally important to involve employees in the process too.
What are the benefits of WHM?
Companies that invest in their employees’ health are not just fulfilling their social responsibility. It has long been about an entrepreneurial imperative for economic success too.
Workplace health management can bring the following benefits, among others:
- healthy and productive employees
- fewer cases of sick leave and production losses
- better working atmosphere, more participation and more motivation
- an increase in productivity and quality
- employees remain faithful and loyal
- greater attractiveness as an employer
- possible tax benefits
- greater quality of life for the employees, also in leisure time
Occupational health and safety measures as well as health promotion and prevention measures especially help to avoid work accidents and illnesses. The workplace integration management program can help employees to return to work after a prolonged period of illness and in the case of health impairment.
But WHM is particularly effective when it is sustainable, geared towards operating procedures and the needs of the employees, and actively managed. The support and approval from executives is considered an essential condition for the benefits mentioned to occur.
The three pillars of WHM at a glance
Occupational health and safety and the workplace integration management program are legally binding for employers. Workplace health promotion measures are voluntary, but also very important for health management. Workplace health management is often most successful when all three pillars are closely interlinked.
Occupational health and safety
Every employer must ensure that the statutory occupational health and safety regulations are complied with. The German Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) forms the essential legal basis. It mainly sets out general protection goals. So, for example, “work should be arranged in such a way (…) as to avoid any risk to life and health as far as possible, and the residual risk should be kept to a minimum”.
When implementing occupational health and safety, the focus is on risk assessment, where an occupational health and safety specialist and an occupational physician usually identify occupational health risks and make suggestions for suitable protective measures. Technical and structural hazards and psychological hazards for employees are considered.
Among other things, factors must be assessed which
- are related to the place of work, for example lighting, escape routes and fire protection.
- are related to the workstation or workspace, the job or the activity, for example work processes, working materials and equipment.
- are related to certain people or groups of people, for example employees in need of protection or who are extremely stressed.
Occupational health and safety also includes aspects of technical occupational protection – for instance when employees are exposed to noise, radiation or toxic substances.
Workplace integration management program
The workplace integration management program (WIM) is also required by law for employers – regardless of the size of the company. These are measures that enable employees who have been ill for a prolonged period of time to gradually return to working life. The employer is required by law to offer a WIM program to an employee if they are unable to work for more than 42 days within 12 months.
It is of no significance whether it’s a prolonged period of being unable to work or lots of short periods of illness following on from each other. Participation for the employees is voluntary.
Workplace health promotion
Workplace health promotion (WHP) plays a special role in workplace health management. It opens up the opportunity to employers of developing offerings and measures for greater health in the workplace and adapting these to the employees’ needs. The range is diverse – activities that promote the movement of employees are just as important as is support for nutritional issues, help with addiction prevention, moderating working groups, or internal public relations work.
WHP is a voluntary service offered by the employer. So far it has mainly been found in large companies. Small and medium-sized companies in particular can often benefit more quickly from the benefits of workplace health promotion – decisions can often be made without so much bureaucracy. Direct contact with the employees helps to take the right measures from the outset. Suitable measures can be funded by the statutory health insurance providers.
How is WHM set up?
Successful workplace health management can be best achieved when all the steps are well planned, managed and controlled. To do this, those responsible for health management first of all need to precisely analyze problems and needs. After that, achievable goals and specific measures are defined. Once implemented, the success of the measures should always be verified. These steps are regularly repeated.
This is how workplace health management can gradually grow and adapt ever more precisely to the needs in the relevant company.
Workplace health management includes the following topics, among others:
- healthy corporate culture
- occupational health and safety
- health promotion
- human resource management
- staff development
- organizational development
- employee participation
- employee-oriented management
- work/life balance
- demographic transition
Important: To achieve workplace health management that is as comprehensive and successful as possible, it is worth involving the employees as much as possible. This not only applies to the analysis, but also when implementing measures and all other steps.
Detailed information about introducing workplace health management is provided, for example, by “psyGA”, offered by the Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit (Initiative New Quality of Work) which was started in 2002 by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
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Reviewed by the German Society for Social Medicine and Prevention (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozialmedizin und Prävention e.V.). As at: