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When the workplace makes decisions on behalf of your health

Published by
August 13, 2019

As we spend a large part of our time in the workplace, work helps to shape our identity. Similarly, our views on health are part of our identity, as we all have an opinion on health and have different lifestyles. Both have a major impact on our quality of life. It is important that ethical considerations are made in relation to health promotion initiatives at workplaces, as they have an impact on the individual employee.

Involve employees in workplace health decisions

Companies are reaping the many benefits of workplace health services, such as improving employee concentration, increasing efficiency and reducing sick days. This has a positive impact on the economy. In addition, companies offer these services to meet employees' wishes, to retain employees and to be an attractive company for new employees. However, these health offers also interfere with the individual employee's identity, as decisions are made on behalf of the employee on how to optimize their health. As some will feel that one's health is private and companies should not interfere with it, those implementing health offers may face resistance. A good way to deal with this ethical dilemma is employee involvement. This means that employees should define their needs and wishes and a health intervention should be made that takes this into account. In this way, the health initiative is not imposed on the employees, but it is an initiative that meets the needs of the employees.

Voluntary or mandatory exercise in the workplace?

Voluntariness is another factor that needs to be considered when talking about workplace health initiatives. As a rule, employees themselves decide to what extent they want to make use of the health services available at the workplace. However, compulsory exercise during working hours is also gaining ground in Danish companies. Regardless of the way in which health is implemented in the workplace, the voluntary nature must be taken into account.

Get a handle on health communication

When working with health in the workplace, it is important to be aware of how to define the concepts of health and health promotion. Similarly, it is not management alone, but management in cooperation with the employees who should decide this. The way you define health is what is reflected in the health services you choose and what you want to work towards.
Clear and honest communication about why and how is essential to involve employees and reduce their skepticism about health services.

Everyone wins from health promotion efforts

It is important to remember that workplace health promotion is a win-win situation - not only for the company, but also for the individual employee. Being part of workplace health promotion not only gives you the opportunity to strengthen your social network with colleagues, reduce pain from sedentary or repetitive work and much more, but it also gives you more energy at home. So, in the end, it is a privilege if you are lucky enough to have a workplace that cares about the health of its employees.

By Josefine Huusom