The Workplace Health Pyramid – Creating a Healthier Workplace

Part 1 – The Workplace Health Pyramid

Across the corporate landscape, there is a growing understanding that a workplace health & wellbeing programme is an essential part of a successful business strategy.  Indeed, some of the world’s most successful and innovative organisations allocate significant time, resource and energy into creating an environment that supports employee health.

Interestingly however, although 75% of businesses provide some form of workplace health & wellbeing programme, only 29% of employees report their company offers physical wellness provision.  This mismatch between provision and uptake demonstrates a clear disconnect between the intended and actual impact of an organisation’s health & wellbeing strategy.

Given the gap of specific expertise and resource available to a high proportion of businesses, a lack of employee engagement in health & wellbeing shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise.  In this series of short articles, I present my thoughts on creating a healthier workplace for all, starting with the “Workplace Health Pyramid”.

The concept of a pyramid to describe the process of developing a successful plan is not particularly novel, however in the instance of designing and developing a health & wellbeing programme it is entirely appropriate.  More specifically, this pyramid structure has 3 levels of focus;

  1. Organisation
  2. Business Unit
  3. Employee

Each level builds upon the previous and in a perfect world, would be implemented in ascending order (unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world!).  So, what do I mean with regards to each level?  More discrete detail will be provided in parts 2, 3 and 4 of this series, but to paint a picture with regards to each level:

Level 1: Organisation

Level 1, Organisational level, refers to the need to instil a culture and positive attitude towards health & wellbeing that resonates throughout the business.  Like every construction project, a successful workplace health & wellbeing programme is built on strong foundations that support the implementation of more specific and tailored interventions.

A sustainable health & wellbeing programme is much more likely to succeed when a supportive environment is fostered and prioritised within an organisation, with ownership of the programme championed at senior levels.

Level 2: Business Unit

Level 2 relates to Business Unit, Department or Team, and specifically focusses on understanding the current status quo.  In order to solve a problem, we really need to know what the problem is, where it lies and how deep it runs before we can design an effective solution.  In the context of this article, collecting data on the current health, wellbeing & performance levels of their employees allows them to identify how the current health & wellbeing provision influences their staff.

Furthermore, given the growing understanding of the influence workplace environment has on health & wellbeing, a further desirable step is monitoring and tracking the environmental conditions created in the workplace (this will be discussed in further detail in Part 3 of this series of articles).

Collectively, level 2 is a raft of population level data insights from which tailored, bespoke solutions can be developed that are appropriate and realistic to the organisation.  In order to implement sustainable change, really knowing your staff and workplace environment is pivotal.

Level 3: Employee

The peak of the pyramid, Level 3 – Employee, is where change and intervention are implemented.  Specific changes, campaigns and offerings should be directly linked to the insights gathered from Level 2, with appropriate success metrics and KPI’s agreed prior to roll out.  Unfortunately, in the pursuit of quick fixes, organisations often jump straight to Level 3 as actions taken here are often more visible by key stakeholders.  However, if changes, interventions or provisions are not founded on insights gathered from the intended area of deployment (i.e. Level 2), the likelihood of successfully impacting sustainable health & wellbeing change for employees is significantly lowered and ROI and VOI diminished.

In summary, The Workplace Health Pyramid is a guide helping organisations to think systematically about how they can affect significant and positive health & wellbeing change in their organisation.  A key takeaway from this article is that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not appropriate in the delivery of workplace health & wellbeing.  An understanding of how an organisation currently operates, what their resource is and funding they have available will dictate what the most effective health & wellbeing strategies are for them.

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