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Employee health codes of conduct: what would they look like and who wants to accept them?

Rebecca Robbins (Department of Communication and Health, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)
Brian Wansink (Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 14 September 2015




Most workplace health promotion efforts have failed to consistently and sustainably encourage employees to take responsibility for their health. The purpose of this paper is to explore a potentially high-impact solution – Health Codes of Conduct – for engaging and motivating employees to assume responsibility for their health.


This mixed methods study draws on interview and survey methodology with a sample of 149 working adults to examine the feasibility of Health Codes of Conduct. Descriptive and inferential statistics are calculated to understand reactions, characteristics of the companies likely to support the idea, and components of a Health Code of Conduct.


Nearly all employees offered moderate to high support for Health Codes of Conduct; this included overweight but not obese employees. Additionally, all demographic groups either moderately or strongly supported the policy when they included either monetary incentives (such as prescription discounts) or often overlooked non-monetary incentives (such as employee recognition). Some of the more popular features of Health Codes of Conduct included annual physical exams, exercise routines, and simply being encouraged to stay home when ill.

Research limitations/implications

Health Codes of Conduct offer a surprisingly well-supported potential solution. Favorable reactions were observed across all examined segments of workers, even overweight (but not obese) employees. Using the specific features of Health Codes identified here, visionary companies can tailor their company’s Health Code of Conduct with the appropriate monetary and non-monetary incentives and disincentives.

Social implications

What if the workplace could be a positive source of health and empowerment for valued employees? The authors show employee Health Codes of Conduct could be this empowering, engaging solution that has been missing.


This paper is the first to propose the concept Health Codes of Conduct and solicit feedback from employees on this novel idea. Furthermore, the authors identify both the monetary and non-monetary incentives and disincentives that employees believe would be most compelling.



Robbins, R. and Wansink, B. (2015), "Employee health codes of conduct: what would they look like and who wants to accept them?", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 214-229.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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