Module 3
Best practice workplace
health promotion

In this section you will learn:

What constitutes best practice workplace health promotion

How to select effective workplace health promotion strategies

To recognise the importance of policy and environment in workplace health promotion

What are the keys to success?

When considering your workplace health and wellbeing program, you need to make sure you take into account the three key elements of workplace health and wellbeing programs that influence the health-related choices employees make. These include:

  • Health policies  — 
  • Workplace environment  — 
  • Health education and activities

Let’s take unhealthy eating as an example. Providing healthy eating education and information to staff may be ineffective if the workplace provides unhealthy catering at meetings and events. Introducing a healthy catering policy will ensure the healthy eating information and messages are consistent. The triangle below depicts the impact each of the elements has on changing behaviour, with policy having the largest impact.

Eduction, environment, policy

Policy, environment and culture

Setting the foundation

A health policy is a written document that formalises an organisation’s ongoing commitment to improving health and wellbeing in the workplace.1 When developing a workplace health policy, it is important to:

  • Speak to staff, so that they feel involved in the process.
  • Gain support from all levels of management, so that they can ‘walk the talk’ and support/promote your policy and program objectives.

 

Health policy can be developed in several ways:

  • Overarching Health and Wellbeing Policy targeting a range of health issues.
  • Stand alone policies targeting specific health areas (e.g. a Physical activity policy, a Healthy catering policy, a Smoke-free policy and/or an Alcohol policy)
  • If your organisation does not want to create new policies, you could include health policy items within an existing health related policy (e.g. a Fitness for work policy or an Occupational safety and health policy)

A good health and wellbeing policy should:

  • Provide clear messages about the organisation’s stance on health and wellbeing.
  • Guide decisions related to health and wellbeing in the workplace.
  • Provide a foundation for creating, implementing and reviewing health and wellbeing strategies.

Health policy is about encouraging and supporting staff to make healthy choices. For example, a healthy catering policy may state that at least 50% of the food provided at workplace functions (meetings and events) or at an on-site cafe must be healthy. Policy also allows you to ensure that the workplace is not supporting unhealthy behaviours. For example, limiting the number of alcoholic drinks offered at work functions to no more than two per person.

What does a healthy workplace look like?

‘Workplace environment’ refers to the infrastructure and facilities provided to staff, such as kitchen utensils, showers or a pool bike.1 A supportive environment encourages healthy behaviours by providing workers with the opportunity to make healthy choices. Creating a healthier workplace doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. There are some small things that you can do within your workplace that will make a big difference to the overall health and wellbeing of your workforce.

Your workplace environment can strongly support and reinforce your health-related policies, education and activities in order to make it easy for your staff to make healthy choices.

View ideas for making your workplace a healthier one.

Fridge

Have an alcohol free fridge.

Kitchen bench

If you provide your staff with snacks, skip the biscuits and chocolate and serve fresh fruit instead.

Desk

Try to encourage staff to get up and move around every 30 minutes, even if it is just to stretch. You could even introduce sit-stand work desks, so they can work standing up!

Meeting room

Instead of sitting down for meetings, try having a walking meeting instead or even just standing up.

Bike racks

Bike racks are a convenient way to store bikes and encourage your workforce to grab a bit of exercise by cycling to work.

Lockers, showers, changing room

If people are cycling or jogging to work then you will need to have showers, changing room facilities and lockers for storage.

Bike pooling

Having a bike on-site that everyone is free to use will provide a healthier option to the company car.

Vending machines

If you have a vending machine at work, make sure you pack it full of healthy options like dried fruits and nuts.

Lunch room

Ensure you fit out your lunch area with kitchen utensils, a microwave, a sandwich press and fridge to ensure there are the facilities available for staff members to make their own healthy lunch.

Signage

Reinforce the Smoke-free policy through signage or put up signs to show people the health benefits of using the stairs instead of the lift.

Education & Activities

Once your policy is in place and the workplace environment is supportive of healthy behaviours, education and activities will help to build a healthy workplace culture by engaging staff directly in the program.

Education provides employees with health knowledge, allowing them the opportunity to identify where they could make improvements in order to lead a healthier lifestyle and reduce their risk of chronic disease.

Activities allow employees to actually participate in healthy behaviours. This provides them with an opportunity to learn new healthy living skills and can provide a kick start to forming a new healthy habit.

For example, a cooking class could teach employees about healthy cooking as well as practice in preparing healthy meals. Also, a workplace exercise program could encourage employees to continue regular exercise, once the program has completed.

Together, the key elements work to optimise the impact on healthy behaviours. Individually they also have clear functions.

Click on the symbols below to reveal more information.

Environment

Making healthy options and opportunities available to staff (e.g. providing healthy food options at meetings can influence a healthier choice).

Policy

Influencing those that won’t engage in programs through removing unhealthy enablers1 (e.g. implementing a Smoke-free workplace policy).

Activities

Providing opportunities for those looking to make a change (e.g. a healthy cooking class or lunch time walking group).

Education

Providing information on the risks associated with unhealthy behaviours and identifying healthier choices.

Policy, environment, education and activities working together

Best Practice

Moving from good practice through to best practice can take time and commitment. Strategies can be implemented and built upon over a period of time, gradually moving towards a program that is considered best practice. Here’s an example using healthy eating and drinking.

Good practice strategies could include:

  • Displaying healthy eating information (posters etc.) at the workplace
  • Providing basic kitchen facilities such as eating utensils, a fridge, pantry and washing up facilities
  • When providing catering, giving preference to food outlets with healthy choice

Better practice strategies could include:

  • Organising a social soup or salad group where staff bring in healthy meals to share
  • Providing food preparation equipment such as sharp knives, chopping boards and a toaster
  • When providing catering, requesting healthier foods from providers and ensuring portion size is considered

Best practice strategies could include:

  • Providing healthy cooking classes and healthy eating education
  • Providing advanced kitchen facilities and equipment such as an oven, a stove, blender, grater etc.
  • Having a catering policy in place ensuring a minimum of 50% of provided food and drink is healthy and no more than 20% of provided food and drink is unhealthy

Download our Best practice guide: Workplace health and wellbeing strategies factsheet for a range of good, better and best strategies for each of the SNAP risk factors.

Specialist Service Providers (SSPS)

Funded by the Department of Health WA and delivered by Cancer Council WA, Healthier Workplace WA (HWWA) supports workplaces across Western Australia by providing a range of free tools, resources and support to assist them to introduce healthy lifestyle policies and practices in their workplace.

Along with the generalist services outlined above, HWWA offers a free referral system to a range of health promoting agencies which offer free and low cost services and specific support around physical activity, healthy eating, minimising alcohol harms and the uptake of active transport.

Click on the links below to find out more about the programs and services:

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