There is strong evidence to show that work is generally good for people's physical and mental health and wellbeing.1 However, the workplace environment can both positively and negatively affect people's health in similar domains. Recognising the strong influence workplaces have on health, public health theory is increasingly recognising the workplace as a determinant of health. i.e. the condition under which people work has a direct impact on their health.2
There is a key document and framework that informs workplace wellbeing health promotion and strategic development - the World Health Organisation document, Healthy Workplaces: A Model for Action.
There has been a shift in the theory from specific health initiatives to a more holistic approach that supports employees' physical, emotional and social wellbeing; looking at the overall wellbeing of a person and supporting employees to make sustainable behaviour changes over the long term.
In any sector there is jargon. Recently, in workplace health there seems to have been an up-swell in the terms 'wellness' and 'wellbeing'. What do they actually mean? Is there any difference between employee wellness programmes and employee wellbeing programmes?
Both aim to improve employees' health status, but wellness tends to refer to physical health alone and is commonly delivered through routine health checks. Health checks provide people with useful information such as whether their blood pressure is normal, their blood sugar levels are too high or what their cholesterol levels are. However, health checks do not provide people with support to actually change and improve their behaviours.
Wellbeing programmes take a more holistic approach by supporting employees' physical, emotional and social wellbeing. This holistic support highlights how many different areas can impact on one another and contribute to the overall wellbeing of a person. They also support people in making sustainable behaviour changes over the long term.
2.Skills for Health Promotion Toolkit - Public Health Ontario