Corporate Wellness - Systems approach to Wellness

Employee Wellness


Does your management system include Psychosocial risks? Focus on the source of Burnout in a systematic way? Do you really know what employees value in relation to wellbeing?


Remember the primary duty in any risk management is to initially attempt to eliminate or minimize it at the source. This has been highlighted by a leading specialist who has warned employers that contrary to popular belief, building workers' resilience to make them ‘tougher’ isn't a solution for preventing the adverse health effects of a poor workplace environment.

The International Labour Office (ILO)  defined psychosocial factors (hazards) in 1984, in terms of “interactions between and among work environment, job content, organizational conditions and workers’ capacities, needs, culture, personal extra-job considerations that may, through perceptions and experience, influence health, work performance and job satisfaction”. Why are we still struggling to grapple with this in 2018?

Professor Leiter, an industrial & organizational psychologist at Deakin University told the Australian Psychological Society congress in Sydney he was concerned about suggestions that if workers are stronger, healthier & more organized they won't suffer from burnout.

For employers, the “CREW solution” offers an intensive process for workgroups to create fulfilling, supportive work environments, emphasising “Civility, Respect, and Engagement with Work.” Leiter also noted.

He says workers who experience the phenomenon, a prolonged response to chronic emotional & interpersonal job stressors, are the workplace indicators that things aren’t quite right " in the workplace.


To manage this the preference should not be to only manage the response to the stressors

but to remove the source of those stressors. Leiter, suggests that some workers might be able to learn the skills & attitudes that define resilience & adapt to a tough work life, but that still requires employers to improve workplace flexibility & responsiveness, &

provide workers with stability, resources & control by sharing decision-making & ensuring timeliness of information.


The UK regulator HSE has for some time,  created a systematic approach to improving the fundamentals rather than managing the response which is also needed.  They look at 6 key risk areas and follow a management systems approach:


·       Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment

·       Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work

·       Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues

·       Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour

·       Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles

·       Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation


The Professor suggests that people want to have a sense of agency & autonomy at work, to feel like they're a part of causing things to happen, not simply being affected, they want to be effective.


According to the Professor, there are limits to what traditional individual & organizational interventions & initiatives can achieve in reducing burnout due to employee pushbacks & the risk of the underlying message being ignored.


An integrated approach to improving workplace civility & community, by increasing positive interactions & decreasing negative ones, can eliminate burnout levels & improve worker engagement & fulfilment.


Any interventions should involve group sessions covering: acknowledging respect in the workplace; promoting the positive; responding to disrespect; & working with the things that can't be changed.


Weaving in the HSE’s key 6 areas into policy, functional role evaluations, employee reviews and training along with leadership in staying congruent with this, is all part of the approach.


Corporate wellness plans which also focus on fundamentally limiting the source of psychosocial risk; whilst embedding services such as employee assistance programs and corporate massage can show direct commitment and can be ‘felt’  by staff.  These fundamental factors should be targeted as part of a long term approach. See figure 1 for a review of what employees value vs receive, in relation to wellbeing which is extremely valuable information.




I challenge you to do a deep dive and take a preventative approach to employee wellness as turning around dysfunctional workplaces is an arduous task and people deserve to be growing positively while at work and it is leaders and risk managers roles to ensure that, along with physical risks the human element is equally imperative.


Edward Foord  - 05/10/2018 -  Founder Youphoria™ Group © 2018




Edward Foord