OH needs to work more with other professions on wellbeing strategies, says SOM

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Occupational health professionals should get more involved in the provision of wellbeing services and need to work more with other professional groups to improve health outcomes, according to SOM, the Society of Occupational Medicine.

In a new report, The value of occupational health to workplace wellbeing, SOM argued that OH practitioners’ knowledge, skills and competencies can add significant value to organisations’ wellbeing programmes.

But OH will need to collaborate and work more with other professionals such as HR or diversity and inclusion specialists, rather than in silos, for wellbeing provision to be successful.

This was for two reasons, the report said. Firstly, some programmes might be tied to wider employer initiatives such as job redesign, flexible working, employee benefits, diversity and inclusion and cultural transformation. Secondly, the benefits of wellbeing programmes might not be seen explicitly in health outcomes, for example through employee engagement or staff retention.

A survey of 62 SOM members found that 84% offered workplace wellbeing programmes as a preventative measure to improve the health of staff; 50% introduced them to support other metrics, such as reducing sickness absence; and 45% thought they would improve productivity.

Two-thirds (66%) said their HR department was responsible for wellbeing activities, 60% said OH had some responsibility in this area and 40% said they had appointed a wellbeing manager or similar position to oversee the development and deployment of wellbeing programmes.

Mindfulness and mental wellbeing activities formed part of 84% of SOM members’ wellbeing programmes. Half said their programme included activity/exercise and 45% identified management training as a core component in their wellbeing offer.

SOM’s report identifies four major areas of knowledge, skills and competencies required by OH practitioners to implement workplace health and wellbeing programmes. These were: building the business case for health and wellbeing; acquiring and using evidence; knowledge of health and wellbeing; and building and sustaining a programme of activities.

The report concluded: “It is clear from the available evidence that in addition to technical and functional knowledge of health conditions and the ability to appraise evidence critically, occupational health practitioners can add value to workplace health and wellbeing programmes by acquiring and using skills related to change management processes.

“Specific challenges in developing such skills across the occupational health professions may relate to adding new material into what may be already crowded curricula in academic and professional qualifications.”

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