Term Paper: Healthy Workplace Practices

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Healthy Work Practices

Introducing Health Initiatives in the Workplace: Analysis and Exploration

Healthy Workplace Practices Introduction

This paper provides an analysis of healthy (safety) workplace practices. Murphy & Cooper (2000) provide a synopsis of case studies of organizations that are working to introduce health programs including preventive screenings and stress management courses for employees and family members. Internationally the researcher's note, more and more organizations are beginning to realize how critical healthy work practices are not only for the individual, but also for the organization. An organization that commits to a healthy and safe work environment is more likely to run efficiently because fewer employees are likely to call in sick or waste time at work (Murphy & Cooper, 2000). All across the globe, countries including the United States, Australia and Europe are working to explore how healthy safety work-based practices can improve productivity and efficiency.

Healthy Organizations Defined

To understand healthy workplace practices one must define what a "healthy work organization" is and is not. Murphy & Cooper (2000) define healthy organizations as those that promote efficiency and effectiveness by caring for the worker. Healthy organizations work to "foster a common set of job and organizational design characteristics" with the intent of promoting health or "organizational effectives" what many also call "total quality management" (Murphy Cooper, 2000: 1).

Factors Predicting Health Outcomes and Performance

There are many factors that predict health and performance outcomes in the organization. Because the concept of a healthy work organization is relatively new, many organization's efforts at creating workplace health and safety policies are in the stages of infancy. That is not to say organizations are not committed however, to improving the health of employees. Quite the opposite is true. Many organizations are now identifying ways to integrate worker personal goals with organizational goals. These goals include goals that will help workers create a more balanced work/life ratio (Murphy & Cooper, 2000:2).

To create a healthy and safe workplace, the organization must first adopt a "goal integration model" which can be defined as a model that integrates the individual objectives or strategic goals of the employee and organization, as related to wellness, productivity and competitiveness (Murphy & Cooper, 2000:2). It is important for employees to understand how their role impacts the organization, and how they can work to fulfill any personal goals they have (like staying healthy) with organizational objectives (which may include empowering employees in a way that creates greater work-life balance and therefore improves health (Murphy & Cooper, 2000:3). Factors that can impact health may include hours worked, role and job design, participation, and education about workplace hazards, policies and procedures (Murphy & Cooper, 2000; Theorell & Karasek, 1990). Stress is also an important predictor of health and subsequent workplace productivity. Many workplaces are now reconfiguring their workday to reduce stress placed on employees so employees have an opportunity to work more efficiently without compromising their health. Health programs that reduce stress include stress education and training through company-wide sponsored health drives (Theorell & Karasek, 1990).

Some organizations are offering incentives to employees that aspire to reduce their stress, which may reduce absenteeism and thus increase productivity at work (Theorell & Karasek, 1990). Other companies are compensating employees for personal time taken to train or learn more about stress reduction and healthy work practices. Many of these organizations also teach employees how to balance their work with their family life so the two are not exclusive of each other.

Ergonomic Based Interventions

Apart from stress reduction and education, work organizations are also encouraging more ergonomic practices. Ergonomic evaluation of a computer users work station and computer practices may lead to fewer worker compensation claims related to carpal tunnel and other injuries related to poor postural alignment or improper job design (Vicente, 1999). Ergonomics is not something that promotes healthy work for computer-based workers either. Individuals working in distribution and manufacturing plants, especially those working on assembly lines, are subject to repetitive use injures as well (Vicente, 1999). Education, ergonomic and occupational training may assist workers in these positions and help them prevent injuries before they happen. Organizations can assist with this process by promoting ergonomics evaluations and providing free occupational therapy assessments to employees in positions that may compromise their postural or structural health.

The Occupational Safety and Health Association or OSHA works with many manufacturing plants and other facilities to ensure healthy work practices are followed. OSHA can provide training to supervisors, managers and line staff. Hazardous chemicals management is one item OSHA monitors in companies to ensure workers are not exposed unnecessarily to toxic chemicals that may prove irritating or deadly if improperly used (Vicente, 1999; Murphy & Cooper, 2000; Theorell & Karasek, 1990).

Takano (2003) notes more and more researchers are adopting a healthy city/health organization outlook. More and more cities are ranked according to health statistics. These statistics include the number of worker-friendly organizations or those that conscientiously act to promote worker health and safety (Takano, 2003). Healthy cities are also ranked by the number or organizations providing family services like childcare, and mental health services that can help employees overcome workplace stress in an ever-changing work environment (Takano, 2003).

Brett & Drasgow (2002) focus on stress and the workplace, as noted earlier. The researchers adopt a psychological and sociological approach to health and safety in the workforce, noting many people develop psychological problems related to work stress. This stress may come from working too many hours or by attempting to complete too many jobs (multi-tasking overload) at one time (Brett & Drasgow, 2002). Many employees seek employee counseling services when attempting to overcome difficulties including death, depression, death of a co-worker or marital problems including domestic violence, all of which can impact a worker's performance and rates of absenteeism (Brett & Drasgow, 2002). Many of these programs allow employees to participate in free mental health screenings and counseling sessions that remain confidential. This allows workers to seek mental healthcare without revealing their identity or their problems to their supervisor or manager, which may inspire more fear or panic in susceptible persons.

Still other organizations are adopting stress free days or stress reduction training for groups of employees, much as organizations would provide sexual harassment training or orientation training for new employees (Brett & Drasgow, 2002).

Why the sudden fervor and availability of health interventions? Many organizations now face sanctions if they do not provide employees with opportunities to train or learn more about safety in the workplace (Gunningham & Johnstone, 1999). These penalties may result in large fines that cause productivity to decline. It is in the best interests of many large organizations to regularly monitor worker habits and equipment to make sure all are functioning at "optimal" levels (Gunningham & Johnstone, 1999). Whereas in times of old where managers were lackadaisical about health and safety, today health and safety are among the more important avenues of interest to employees, especially those searching out the market for new opportunities (Takano, 2003). Organizations with better benefits are going to receive the cream of the crop when it comes to job candidates for central positions within the organization.

Vicente (1999) notes that despite all the changes, more changes are necessary for workforces to function their best. One way to improve health and safety at work is to introduce initiatives that motivate and reward employees for taking charge of their health. Incentive and reward programs are modeled in many ways, but often provide the impetus employees need to start caring for their health and that of their co-workers in a proactive manner (Bress & Drasgow, 2002). Health and safety based initiatives may include programs that reward one or more employees monthly, quarterly or annually for meeting set health and safety goals. Performance reviews now focus not only on work-related performance, but also an employee's overall performance which may include absenteeism or lack thereof because of improved attention to health and wellness. Preventive measures and programs are more popular than ever, especially among public organizations, where state agencies often pay to have employees screened for common problems including overweight, obesity, high blood pressure and risk factors for diabetes, lung cancer or heart disease (Murphy & Cooper, 2000; Takano, 2003; Gunningham & Johnstone, 1999). Such programs can be continued from year to year so employees are more likely to stay with their organization, and more likely to realize dramatic improvements in health with time if they actively partake of incentive programs that reward employees not only on merit, but also on health and wellness.

Conclusions

Health and safety are more important now than ever in the global and international workplace. More so than ever before organizations are realizing how important healthy workers are to their bottom line and productivity. More organizations are creating programs and policies designed to improve work performance by first enhancing employee comfort and safety on and off the job. Employees interested in learning more about their health and wellness have more opportunities to do so thanks to organizational… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Healthy Workplace Practices.  (2007, November 20).  Retrieved December 6, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/healthy-workplace-practices/52294

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