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Health and Wellness Policies Can Improve Your Business Performance

Employee performance is influenced by the polices at their workplace
July 27th, 2017

If a business wants to succeed these days, it has no choice but to address health.

Many people view health as a responsibility of employees, not the organization, its leaders or management’s responsibility. We need to address this.

Workplaces Significantly Influence Employee Health and Habits

For most of the working population, workplaces have a tremendous influence on health habits and outcomes.

It’s not uncommon for people to spend 50% of their waking hours at work on any given workday.

As jobs have become more demanding with fewer resources, it has become more difficult for employees to create and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle throughout the day.

Social environments, such as workplaces, can influence health by shaping an employee’s regular behavior patterns. These settings can be health promoting or health damaging.

They can provide opportunities to engage in particular habits as well as expand or put constraints on the choices employees have.1   

Social norms not only influence health behaviors and overall health, but they also drive business outcomes. Not surprising, habits learned and practiced in the workplace influence habits outside of work as well, making workplaces the perfect setting to address health!

Knowing that healthy employees are more productive employees, the goal of wellness in the workplace, from an organization’s perspective, is to maximize the performance of their people while minimizing costs.

Although nearly 7 in 10 employers offer some type of employee wellness program, many of these programs are not guided by or include broad health-enhancing workplace policies.

Although nearly 7 in 10 employers offer some type of employee wellness program, many of these programs are not guided by, or include, broad health-enhancing workplace policies.2

Some experts argue that wellness programs do not drive employees’ health in the workplace, and establishing a supportive environment which includes instituting health-enhancing workplace policies is far more effective to get (and keep) employees healthy. Before working on individual wellness initiatives, leaders should assess and recognize the need to establish a supportive environment that promotes health.

Use Policies to Improve Health and Business Performance

Policies and systems should be part of a strategic approach to promoting workplace health. This is because the primary purpose of these policies is to create a supportive environment that enables employees to lead healthy lives.

Policies send a consistent message about an organization’s values and demonstrate an organization’s commitment to establishing a “culture of health”.

That being said, they are vital in supporting healthy behaviors and improve health outcomes while at work. Policies and systems can influence the way people act in a meaningful way, can help reduce health risks, and improve the quality of life for employees.

Health and wellness policies are just as important as safety and other organizational policies.  There are no doubts health and wellness policies also clearly impact the culture and workplace environment.

Organizations should use policies as a way to show their support and commitment to the health of their employees who are committed to making healthy lifestyle changes.

The effect of organizational policies on creating a supportive environment cannot be overemphasized. They benefit both the organization and employees. These policies should be put in place to make health the easy choice in the workplace.

Establishing Health-Enhancing Policies in the Workplace

In order to establish policies and systems in the workplace, organizations should consider some key elements:

  1. Having a clear statement of why a health-enhancing policy is being developed and its intended purpose, as well as an expressed commitment to the health of employees.
  2. Embedding organizational philosophy and long-term vision into policy to reflect their pledge to improving employee health.
  3. Involve key stakeholders, i.e., employees, in policy development to ensure employees are aware of the policy, as well as to increase support for such policies.

These are only a few important ‘must-haves’ when incorporating health-enhancing policies into the workplaces.

To truly achieve a healthy, high-performing culture through policy initiatives, transformational leadership is a requirement to disseminate these approaches. In addition, leadership plays a vital role in generating organization-wide movement and promoting well-being in the workplace.

As policies and systems are being developed to support well-being, organizations need to be mindful of how employees will react. If employees are made aware that policies regarding health are in place because the organization is committed to their health, they are more likely to engage in other health-enhancing programs in the workplace.

Having policies and systems in place to support employee well-being will help guide the implementation and evaluation of workplace wellness programs

Examples of Policies:

  • Tobacco-free workplace policy
  • Allowing employees to be away from their desks to participate in short bursts of physical activity regularly throughout the day
  • Provide subsidy for fitness classes, membership or equipment
  • Encourage physical activity in the course of work function
  • Healthy Meeting Guidelines
  • Provide/subsidize healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines
  • Ergo policies – getting properly equipped/fitted tools and equipment to perform job
  • Allow flex time

Health is shaped, guided, and influenced by a multitude of factors, including the workplace.

The social environment in the workplace contributes substantially to the overall health and well-being of employees as well as overall organizational performance.

To have a truly effective and impactful wellness culture, along with visible support from leadership, supportive workplace policies will help get employees more engaged at work.


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  1. Tabak, R.G., Hipp, J.A., Marx, C.M. & Brownson, R.C. (2015). Workplace social and organizational environments and healthy-weight behaviors. PLoS ONE, 10(4), e0125424.
  2. Mchunu, G. (2012). Proposed guidelines for a workplace health promotion policy and implementation framework. Occupational Health Southern Africa, 18(2).
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