Employer Role in Integrative Workplace Health Management: A New Model in Progress
The health of the international workforce has been an increasing area of concern for the last two decades. Globalization of the world economy and rapid technological changes continue to change the nature of work and employment practices, exposing employees to new and serious health risks. These challenges are inescapable in any workplace, therefore it is important that employers examine how they can best fulfill their legal and leadership roles to protect and promote the health and well-being of their employees. This paper explores employer roles in employee health in the context of global and local challenges. A strategy is suggested for employers to deal with the multifaceted workplace pressures and health impacts on employees i.e. implementing an integrative holistic model of workplace health management (workplace health management is an approach to workplace health that includes health promotion, disease prevention, safety management and organizational development). Workplace health management has emerged from the latest developments in the settings approach to workplace health promotion. The changing world of work and the implications on employee health in the current climate of globalization and technological changes is also examined. In particular, it highlights mental health issues associated with the emerging epidemic of work stress from increased workplace pressures. The paper reviews the changing conceptions of the role of employers and contemporary approaches to management practices in a range of disciplines, drawing out the common principles and strategies to respond to changes. One essential message which has emerged from the review is that employers need to become change agents and visionary leaders who adopt a proactive, interdisciplinary and integrative system approach to formulate and develop company policies and workplace culture that facilitates employee participation, professional growth and team work. These contemporary management principles and strategies form the basis of the integrative model for workplace health management presented in this paper. In essence, the integrative model of workplace health management uses a participatory problem solving cycle to identify and address the numerous issues associated with health promotion and disease prevention, occupational safety and hazard reduction, and organizational improvement and human resource management. Specifically this involves the employees and employer participating in a needs-based program development and implementation cycle: identifying health priorities and addressing environmental, organizational, occupational and lifestyle determinants of employee health. The paper concludes with an overview of international development of workplace health management and reports on successful examples from European, Western Pacific and Pan American regions.
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