04/07/2013

A case-by-case approach to well-being at work

Dr Christa Sedlatschek

Improving well-being at work can be achieved in a variety of different ways, and our case studies provide excellent examples of this. Focusing on the practical ways in which organisations have promoted well-being at work, the case studies demonstrate that each approach is unique and context specific. A standard approach is not possible, partly because every organisation is different, each with its own requirements, but also because there is no agreed definition of ‘well-being at work’.

Recently, we published an interesting report that reveals how the concept of ‘well-being at work’ in fact has many different meanings, both within and across countries, cultures and organisations (a summary of the report is also available). The report is, in part, based on the results of a survey across 30 European countries which shows that there are as many as 11 different terms in use to describe well-being at work, with the concept being used to cover both physical and mental well-being, as well as psychosocial issues and the working environment.

It is not surprising, then, that organisations across Europe are tackling improving well-being at work in different ways.

A case study from Ferrari demonstrates a very holistic approach, in which worker well-being is seen as an inseparable component of the business performance overall. With this in mind, the company redesigned and constructed new facilities with the aim of creating an environment that is pleasant, but also one in which safety and environmental awareness are priorities. The working environment was also redesigned to facilitate a social and friendly atmosphere, by providing good natural lighting and ventilation and a central restaurant and ‘piazza’ for socialising. Alongside these physical improvements, the company also invested in safety and health training, and in the self-development of employees.

Heiligenfeld hospitals took a different approach to improving well-being at work, focusing on building a ‘culture of attentiveness’ – one of care and respect. Improving the health of employees is the overall priority, with health understood in a broad way as encompassing physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The initiatives that the hospitals have organised promote all these aspects. For example, health promotion activities for employees, training, courses and workshops cover nutrition and stress management, while attention is also given to developing the social skills of employees, both within and beyond the hospitals.

Rodda’s creamery provides a further example of an organisation with a strong commitment to worker well-being. This is demonstrated by the company’s testimonial, which puts employees at the heart of the business. At Rodda’s, worker well-being is seen as the responsibility of not only the individual employee but also the employer. The company has developed many different initiatives to improve the well-being of employees, for example by including fitness and nutrition in the lives of staff by promoting cycle-to-work schemes, helping workers to stop smoking, providing fresh fruit, and health and well-being check-ups.

All these case studies demonstrate good practice in addressing well-being at work, and are a reminder that there is no single approach to tackling this issue.