THE CHALLENGE

It has been well documented that as the number of hours worked steadily increases, the level of sedentary nature or low physical activity of the employment role also increases, as does the likelihood of having an inadequate diet. Adults now spend approximately one third of their waking hours at work. Associated with this trend is the alarming growth rate of chronic disease in the community such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and issues relating to mental health.

There are many contributing factors, however many of the health problems of the workforce are attributable to worsening personal lifestyle choices and the growing levels of workplace stress. Increasing chronic ill health is affecting local and global business performance and national and global economies. Much of this financial burden will be felt by corporations in the form of: absenteeism, presenteeism and lack of productivity both directly and indirectly. Governments, business and individuals all have a role to play in tackling the crisis.

The workplace environment is increasingly becoming the focus for detection and intervention programs that aim to reduce the risk of such chronic diseases. Given that the majority of adults are employed, spend a considerable amount of time at their workplace, and eat at least one main meal during this time, interventions in the workplace are a successful way of influencing risk factors for chronic disease in the total population. Successful organizations of the future will see Employee Wellness not as a nice to have but as a core part of their employee workforce resilience strategy.

Developing sustainable strategies addressing the lifestyle issues affecting chronic disease that educate and enable employees to eat more healthily, be more physically active and in the process reduce chronic disease should be a cornerstone of these programs.

It should be acknowledged that a growing number of employers are adopting these types of measures, aimed at promoting health and well-being among their employees. These, often larger, organizations have recognized that the workplace can be used to promote or reinforce healthier working practices and lifestyle choices. They realize that they can influence several aspects of their employees physical and psychological well-being in ways which can improve their productivity, commitment and attendance. The workforce will become healthier and more productive through prioritized investment in evidence-based prevention strategies.

POTENTIAL POSITIVE BUSINESS OUTCOMES FROM BEING INVOLVED IN (AND RESEARCH RELATING TO) EVIDENCE BASED WORKPLACE INTERVENTION PROGRAMS

  • Visible business commitment with reduced sickness absence
  • Increased retention
  • Higher employee commitment and engagement
  • Higher labour productivity
  • Enhanced employer brand
  • Greater employee resilience
  • Improved corporate image

Whilst there is growing interest in the use of workplace intervention programs to stem the growth of chronic disease AND improve the productivity and engagement of employees, there is a definite lack of evidence based research substantiating the 'benefits' of these programs.

FCDP is the research arm of Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) - a low impact, pedometer based, workplace intervention program that encourages increased activity. FCDP was established to work in partnership with universities to help bridge this identified research gap and provide relevant bodies (governments and businesses) with proven outcomes on the use of evidence based prevention strategies in the workplace.