3 Most common pitfalls in health policy

Companies are increasingly aware of their responsibility to keep their employees healthy and vital. However, not every approach is equally effective. What are the pitfalls that companies may have to deal with?

1. Increasing the health of healthy employees

One of the methods many companies use to encourage employees to play sports is offering (discounts on) a gym membership. The idea behind this makes sense: a physically activ employee is sick less often and for a shorter period of time and is less likely to suffer from health problems such as cardiovascular diseases. However, the problem is that employees who already exercise are the ones who use such a service the most, as research shows. Those who do little to no physical activity will not be persuaded by this. On the other hand, offering such a service can work well in a broader intervention package, taking into account people who may fall back into old (unhealthy) habits. When drawing up a health policy it is therefore important to pay attention to any methods that can be used to activate employees and prevent relapses.

2. The lack of adapting the work environment

Another common issue is policies that take insufficient account of the working environment and are instead very focused on influencing personal factors. An effective health policy focuses, among other things, on investigating and influencing risk- and health behaviour.

Adjusting the social and/or physical aspects of the working environment can lead to healthier behaviour. A simple example is the design of the cafeteria: offering healthy options encourages healthy eating behaviour. It becomes more complex if we want to reduce sitting behaviour. Some systems are designed to give a warning after a certain period of work, but in places where this is not the case, the corporate culture plays a greater role.

3. Absenteeism as medical problem

It is still common for organizations to regard absenteeism as a medical problem. As a result, the responsibility for absenteeism may mainly lie with the occupational health and safety service. Managers and employees then see absenteeism less as something they can actively tackle. This often goes hand in hand with the fact that absenteeism is considered on an individual basis and underlying organisational factors receive less attention.