Workplace health promotion (WHP)

Workplace health promotion (WHP) is an important pillar of holistic workplace health management – regardless of the size and industry of the company. WHP is voluntary and the health insurance companies bear the costs for a lot of measures.

At a glance

  • Workplace health promotion is suitable for companies of all sizes – including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • In addition to occupational health and safety and a workplace integration management program, WHP is part of holistic workplace health management.
  • Measures for workplace health promotion are voluntary for employers and employees.
  • The health insurance companies are obliged to support companies with workplace health promotion benefits.
  • Workplace health promotion can have many benefits: for example greater performance and motivation, a better working atmosphere, a lower sickness absence rate and less fluctuation.
  • The WHP coordination centers of the health insurance companies give advice to every company free of charge – regardless of size and industry.
Workplace health promotion: 3 people sitting on the floor of a room with glass walls in an office building. They are sitting cross-legged with their arms resting on their knees. They look as though they are meditating during working hours.

What is workplace health promotion (WHP)?

In addition to occupational health and safety and a workplace integration management program (IMP), workplace health promotion (WHP) is one of the pillars of holistic workplace health management. Company health management encompasses all the health-related activities of a company. This means that everything a company does to maintain and promote the health of its employees is organized, managed and controlled using workplace health management.

Important: Employers are required by law to have occupational health and safety and a workplace integration management program in place. Measures for workplace health promotion, on the other hand, are voluntary. But they are encouraged because health insurance companies are obliged to provide work-related health promotion benefits.

Workplace health promotion has proven to be a suitable tool to respond to changed health burdens in the workplace. After all, companies cannot be successful without healthy, efficient employees. Measures for workplace health promotion can achieve a range of things, including improving motivation and performance and the working environment, preventing absences due to illness and avoiding illness-related costs. Companies can also increase their attractiveness as an employer.

Implementing a workplace health promotion strategy can be overwhelming for some companies.

What are the principles of workplace health promotion?

The aim of workplace health promotion is to promote the health, performance and well-being of employees.

Workplace health promotion is based on the following principles:

  • Participation: all employees and workplace experts, e.g. company doctors, are included in planning and carrying out the measures for workplace health promotion.
  • Integration: health promotion is important in all areas of the company and in important decisions.
  • Project management: all measures and programs must be carried out systematically. Each step includes a needs analysis, setting priorities, planning, execution, continuous monitoring and evaluation of results.
  • Comprehensiveness: WHP includes both individual-directed measures and environment-directed measures. It combines the approach of risk reduction with that of developing protection factors and health potentials.
Workplace health promotion strategies benefit employees and companies by encouraging participation, integration and harmonious working relations.

What measures can you take to start workplace health promotion?

The measures for workplace health promotion are broad in scope. They are aimed equally at the company as an organization and at the individual employees, taking into account the diversity of the employees. WHP measures include the following areas, among others:

  • wrk equipment
  • working environment
  • woking hours
  • organization of work
  • social relationships
  • idividual adjustments

The specific living situation of the employees is also often considered to improve work/life balance.

Companies that want to get started with workplace health promotion have lots of options: they can for example improve workplaces and processes, take into account social issues such as collaboration and leadership and or become active outside the company. Measures that help employees to do more exercise are also possible, as are initiatives such as nutrition advice and addiction prevention.

Workplace health promotion measures relate, for example, to the working environment, work equipment, working hours and social relationships.

Companies can set up project management, moderate working groups or perform internal public relations work on health topics under the umbrella of workplace health promotion. It can also be useful to network with other companies and institutions or share experiences across the company.

Companies that start workplace health promotion usually focus on the following first of all:

  • wrk-related physical stress, back health
  • nutrition and company catering
  • psychosocial hazards such as stress
  • skills for managing stress at the workplace
  • healthy staff management
  • having a smoke-free company
  • addictive substance use and substance abuse

What measures can prevent health problems?

An important area of workplace health promotion is prevention, i.e. everything that is done with the intention of preventing health problems. Preventive measures can either aim to change the behavior of employees – these are referred to as individual-directed measures, or they have the aim of changing the environment and general conditions in the company - these are referred to as environment-directed measures.

An example: nutrition courses for employees are an individual-directed measure, healthier options in the company canteen is an environment-directed measure.

Other possible preventive measures include:

  • back school
  • ergonomic workplace design
  • courses on relaxation
  • healthy staff management
  • smoking cessation programs
  • measures to improve the working environment
  • setting up “health circles”
  • introducing new working models (for example flexible working hours)
  • transparent communication

Important: Every company has its own particular culture and ways of doing things and the employees have individual needs. This means that “off the peg” measures have often proven to be ineffective. Successful workplace health promotion considers above all the resources and requirements of the employees. Therefore it is important to allow all employees to be involved in developing any measures.

What are the benefits of workplace health promotion?

Companies that implement measures for workplace health promotion strengthen an important pillar of health management as a whole. This is because they support their employees in staying healthy for the long term. What’s more, they promote well-being in the workplace, a good working environment – and with it improve the motivation and performance of the employees. This also helps the employees to identify better with the company. These measures ultimately contribute to decreasing absenteeism, increased productivity and quality and a good image. So employees and employers alike end up benefiting equally.

Possible benefits of workplace health promotion for the employers:

  • The performance of the employees is maintained.
  • The motivation to work increases.
  • Identification increases. Employees remain committed to the company.
  • The decrease in sickness and production losses reduces costs.
  • Better health and more happiness leads to greater productivity and quality.
  • The company’s image is enhanced.
  • Competitiveness and attractiveness as an employer increases.

Possible benefits for the employees:

  • more enjoyment of work
  • better working environment
  • less risk of illness
  • greater quality of life, also in leisure time
  • greater safety
  • less stress from illnesses
  • better performance
  • greater participation

Important: Workplace health promotion is also tax-supported. The tax exempt amount per employee and year is 600 euros. The health insurance companies can also stipulate in their statutes that both the employer and the participating insured persons receive a bonus for workplace health promotion measures.

Which companies can take advantage of workplace health promotion?

So far workplace health promotion is especially present in large companies. Although most of the social security contributors are employed in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and small and microbusinesses (SMBs), it is still comparatively rare for these organizations to take advantage of the opportunities.

Small and medium-sized companies in particular can often benefit from the advantages of workplace health promotion more quickly: decisions in these companies can often be made with less bureaucracy, the direct contact to employees helps to take the right measures from the outset.

Where can I get advice about workplace health promotion?

WHP – Health insurance company coordination centers offer free advice from experts.

They help all companies, regardless of size and industry, with their questions about workplace health promotion.

If you also want to find out more about workplace health promotion, you can find independent information on the following websites:

Federal Ministry of Health: “Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung” (Workplace health promotion) webpage

Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs: “Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit (INQA)” (Initiative New Quality of Work)

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