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What really improves employee health and wellbeing: Findings from regional Australian workplaces

Virginia Dickson-Swift (Rural Health School, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia)
Christopher Fox (Faculty of Medicine – Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Karen Marshall (Rural Health School, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia)
Nicky Welch (Prevention & Population Health Branch, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia)
Jon Willis (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 2 September 2014

Abstract

Purpose

Factors for successful workplace health promotion (WHP) are well described in the literature, but often sourced from evaluations of wellness programmes. Less well understood are the features of an organisation that contribute to employee health which are not part of a health promotion programme. The purpose of this paper is to inform policy on best practice principles and provide real life examples of health promotion in regional Victorian workplaces.

Design/methodology/approach

Individual case studies were conducted on three organisations, each with a health and wellbeing programme in place. In total, 42 employers and employees participated in a face to face interview. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and the qualitative data were thematically coded.

Findings

Employers and senior management had a greater focus on occupational health and safety than employees, who felt that mental/emotional health and happiness were the areas most benefited by a health promoting workplace. An organisational culture which supported the psychosocial needs of the employees emerged as a significant factor in employee's overall wellbeing. Respectful personal relationships, flexible work, supportive management and good communication were some of the key factors identified as creating a health promoting working environment.

Practical implications

Currently in Australia, the main focus of WHP programmes is physical health. Government workplace health policy and funding must expand to include psychosocial factors. Employers will require assistance to understand the benefits to their business of creating environments which support employee's mental and emotional health.

Originality/value

This study took a qualitative approach to an area dominated by quantitative biomedical programme evaluations. It revealed new information about what employees really feel is impacting their health at work.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the State Government of Victoria Department of Health. The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of the State and Regional Department of Health and Bendigo Community Health Services as partners in this project, as well as the participating organisations and their employees.

Citation

Dickson-Swift, V., Fox, C., Marshall, K., Welch, N. and Willis, J. (2014), "What really improves employee health and wellbeing: Findings from regional Australian workplaces", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 138-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJWHM-10-2012-0026

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited