Well-being at work: innovation and good practice

The EU Well-being at Work project in 2008 sought to encourage comprehensive action promoting the better health, safety and well-being of the workforce simultaneously with the organisation’s productivity and success. A report published by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health describes the management changes needed to achieve well-being at work and presents a self-evaluation matrix that organisations can use to determine the standard of their performance.

The concept and focus of well-being

The Well-Being at Work project, which ran from 1 January to 31 December 2008, was part of the EU’s PROGRESS programme and was coordinated by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH). The aim of the project was to disseminate the newly developed concept of well-being at work and good practice to all parts of Europe. Five countries selected on the basis of their capacity for interdisciplinary focus were involved in the project: Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Romania.

The concept and actions making up well-being at work had already been set out in various EU countries based on the concept of workplace health promotion (WHP) defined in 1997 in the Luxembourg Declaration on workplace health promotion in the European Union (150Kb PDF) (ENWHP). However, countries had tended to interpret the WHP concept differently and had included different types of activities with a varying scope in their strategies to promote workplace health. The quality of working life (QWL) approach and the concept of the ‘healthy enterprise’ were subsequently developed to cover the issue.

Well-being at work means safe, healthy and productive work in a well-led organisation by competent workers and work communities who see their job as meaningful and rewarding, and see work as a factor that supports their life management.

Promoting well-being at work

The European concept of well-being at work is based on consistent cooperation and dialogue between different partners and groups in the workplace (Anttonen and Räsänen, 2008). This involves organisations:

  • moving from a multidisciplinary to an interdisciplinary method of operating (Figure 1);
  • merging the perspectives of health promotion, occupational health services, safety management, human resources and productivity in order to ensure their simultaneous and effective impact in the workplace.

To avoid confusion in workplaces caused by the different concepts developed by various EU expert groups, there should be one integrated concept of well-being at work which is proactive, preventive and suitable for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Good practice and tools should promote this integrated concept in the practice. However, this means changing from multidisciplinary to interdisciplinary actions.

Figure 1 summarises the main focus of the issue, that is, to gain a better understanding and improved management of work. We need in particular to operate in the workplace through more focused occupational health and safety (OSH) management practices.

Figure 1: Change from multidisciplinary to interdisciplinary action – from non-coherent actions to coherent actions

Figure 1: Change from multidisciplinary to interdisciplinary action – from non-coherent actions to coherent actions

Source: Anttonen and Räsänen (2008, p. 5)

The promotion of well-being at work in Member States has developed through national policies and the joint initiatives and strategies of the European Commission. The main background contexts for the development of well-being at work policies can be identified as:

  • occupational health services (OHS) and workplace health promotion (WHP) as described especially in World Health Organization (WHO) policies and strategies;
  • OSH strategies and activities that adopt traditional methods of occupational safety and the prevention of accidents at work.

Companies and organisations have also been at the heart of the recent development of well-being at work.

The Well-being at Work project sought to encourage comprehensive actions for promoting the better health, safety and well-being of the workforce simultaneously with the productivity and success of the organisation (Figure 2).

Increasing emphasis is now being placed on the integration of the OSH and well-being policies at both national and company level. At national level, the collaboration between different policy sectors reflects the trend of cooperation and interdependence between OSH, OHS, human resource development (HRD) and business management.

Figure 2: Development stages of well-being at work

Figure 2: Development stages of well-being at work

Source: Anttonen and Räsänen (2008, p. 7)

Activities related to well-being

The report (846Kb PDF) published by FIOH as part of the Well-being at Work project designates the following categories of work activities as being related to well-being at work:

  • ‘work environment and assuring business activities’;
  • ‘functioning of work community, management and communication’;
  • ‘organisation of work’;
  • ‘promotion of work ability and health at the workplace’;
  • ‘competence development’;
  • ‘productivity’.

Each category has different activities that describe practical actions in the workplace to promote well-being at work (for example, a company has a safety plan for action in case of emergency).

Evaluating the standard of well-being at work

The report presents a method the organisations can use to evaluate their standard of well-being at work. Based on the results, an organisation can prioritise its goals for improving well-being at work.

The matrix is based on the six categories of activities and the following three-level classification of quality management:

  • ‘good practice’;
  • ‘high-standard practice’;
  • ‘excellent practice’.

The self-evaluation matrix is designed primarily for SMEs and uses a scoring system to determine the standard that gives the best match in each of the work categories. A lower score is given if more activities are needed to match the criteria in that category for a particular standard and a higher score if all or nearly all the criteria are fulfilled in the workplace.

The individual scores are added and the sum compared to those for the three functional standards: a score of 6–17 points indicates ‘good practice’, 18–24 points indicates ‘high-standard practice’ and 25–36 points indicates ‘excellent practice’. Although the sum of the scores for each individual category gives a general view of the standard of well-being at work activities in the organisation, the calculated scores have no absolute value and are not recommended for benchmarking.

Table 1 shows the scoring for the six categories while Table 2 gives, as an example, the criteria for the category ‘work environment and assuring business activities’. The full self-evaluation matrix is given in Appendix 1 of the FIOH report (Anttonen and Räsänen, 2008). The evaluation matrix is also produced as a computer-based tool which organisations can use to evaluate their standard of well-being at work.

Table 1: Criteria for each standard
 

Functional standard

Good practice 1

High standard practice 2

Excellent practice 3

Work environment and assuring business activities

More activities are needed. (1)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (2)

More activities are needed. (3)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (4)

More activities are needed. (5)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (6)

Functioning of work community, management and communication

More activities are needed (1)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (2)

More activities are needed (3)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (4)

More activities are needed (5)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (6)

Organisation of work

More activities are needed. (1)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (2)

More activities are needed. (3)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled (4)

More activities are needed. (5)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled (6)

Promotion of work ability and health at the workplace

More activities are needed. (1)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (2)

More activities are needed. (3)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (4)

More activities are needed. (5)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (6)

Competence development

More activities are needed. (1)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (2)

More activities are needed. (3)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (4)

More activities are needed. (5)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (6)

Productivity

More activities are needed. (1)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (2)

More activities are needed. (3)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (4)

More activities are needed. (5)

All (or nearly all) of the criteria are fulfilled. (6)

Notes: Points scored given in brackets.

1Basics are under control, legislation is followed; 1–2 points.

2Proactive planning and implementation of programmes; 3–4 points.

3Comprehensive and systematic activities, best practices, use of quality system; 5–6 points.

Source: Anttonen and Räsänen (2008, p. 26)

Table 2: Example from self-evaluation matrix of criteria for one category

Functional standard

Work environment and assuring business activities

Good practice

Basics are under control, legislation is followed

(1-2 points)

  • Crucial areas in occupational health and safety of personnel are identified (work environment risks are assessed).
  • Company has a safety plan for action in case of emergency.
  • Disaster risks and risks of other emergency and crisis situations are identified and mapped. Specific responsibilities in emergency situations are documented and personnel are trained.
  • Workplace is clean and orderly.
  • Maintenance of machines is arranged and protective equipment is available.

High standard practice

Proactive planning and implementation of programmes

(3–4 points)

  • There is proactive identification of hazards and risk assessment in the workplace.
  • Company has prepared for emergency and crisis situations by holding regular rehearsals and training at 2–3-year intervals, updating the plan as necessary.
  • Health and safety requirements for operations are defined by management and made known to personnel.
  • A zero accident policy is realised in the development and cooperation at the workplace (actions promoting safety at workplace are planned and realised together with various personnel groups).

Excellent practice

Comprehensive and systematic activities, best practice, use of quality system

(5–6 points)

  • The organisation has a comprehensive system for development and control of the quality of health and safety such as OHSAS 18001.
  • The safety culture is analysed and developed together with employees.
  • Safety inspections are planned and made at regular intervals, with management participating.
  • Major changes are followed by an inspection where the effects of change and the success of its implementation are evaluated. Staff are committed to continuous health and safety improvement in the workplace.
  • The results of the activities are compared to the results of the other companies (benchmarking).

Source: Anttonen and Räsänen (2008, p. 32)

References

Anttonen, H. and Räsänen, T. (eds.) (2008), Well-being at work: New innovations and good practices (846Kb PDF), Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki.

Hämäläinen, R.-M. (2007), Workplace health promotion in Europe – the role of national health policies and strategies (1.25Mb PDF), Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki.

Ylikoski, M., Lamberg, M., Yrjänkeikki, E., Ilmarinen, J., Partinen, R., Jokiluoma, H. and Vainio, H. (eds.) (2006), Workplace health promotion as a tool for improving and extending work life, Report 2006:62, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki.

Tuula Räsänen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

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