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Becoming Committed to Health↔Work Culture

Workplace culture is 'the way things are done around here'.

Often we fall into habits and keep doing things the same old way without ever stopping to think if it could be done better or more easily.

We all deserve to be able to do our work without risking injury or damage to our health. It is equally important that what we do at work does not adversely affect others.

The right workplace culture will minimise the likelihood of injury and health problems at work, because things will be consistently done in ways that are healthy as well as safe. The culture should be based on collaboration and cooperation. Of course, there are always times when the boss needs to be the boss. But, good bosses are committed to the Health↔Work culture, and ensure it develops at all levels throughout the workplace - from bottom to top.

TIP: This is best achieved by fostering an organisation-wide team approach, based on a dual responsibility. This recognises the 'we're in it together' aspect. It is is important to convey the idea that success is most likely if responsibility and ownership of work-relevant common health problems problems is shared between employer and employee.

In medium and larger organisations this inevitably means commitment from the senior management team, who can set expectations throughout the whole organisation. An 'us and them' culture is good for nobody and is a major obstacle to providing good jobs and supportive workplaces. A good workplace culture will prevent this.


Engaging Senior Management


Getting 'buy in' at a senior level is a generic step that can usually be led by the senior manager responsible for occupational safety and health. Employee representative groups and trade union reps can provide useful prompts to ensure the process is started.

It is not possible to prescribe how to gain the backing of every organisation’s senior management team. However, the process is easily guided by the generic information in this toolbox, enabling the building of a moral, legal and business case for minimising work-relevant common health problems and their impact. This is achieved by preventing escalation of work-relevant health problems early, effective, and targeted management.


TIP: Useful persuasion techniques to target senior management include posing two key questions. Ask these using the relevant collated data:

  • Do we have a problem?

  • Can we do better?


Suggestions on how to define and prioritise actions through consensus


Senior Management - consider the following in addition to using available risk assessment guidance:

  • Line management style that encourages participation, delegation, constructive feedback, mentoring and coaching.

  • Communication practices should incorporate worker involvement, and processes to obtain staff feedback on their wellbeing.

  • Information systems should make accurate information about work-relevant common health problems available.

  • Line manager training should incorporate specific topics into regular safety training programmes:

    • how to be positive and empathetic in early contacts with workers.

    • how to arrange modified work.

    • how to follow-up and problem solve on a regular basis.


Human Resource Managers - consider the following in addition to using available risk assessment guidance:

  • Adopt an organisation-wide approach to promoting the well-being of all employees, working in partnership with them. This approach should integrate the promotion of mental well-being into all policies and practices concerned with managing people, including those related to employment rights and working conditions.

  • Promote a culture of participation, equality and fairness that is based on open communication and inclusion.

  • If reasonably practical, provide employees with opportunities for flexible working according to their needs and aspirations in both their personal and working lives.

  • Review the sustainability of management support.


Occupational Health Staff - consider the following in addition to using available risk assessment guidance:

  • Establish ways of providing support and advice on developing and implementing organisation-wide approaches to promoting health and well-being.

  • Collaborate with line managers at all levels and in all areas of the workforce, no matter the size of the group.


CHECK: The key outputs needed from senior management are

  1. Visible commitment to Health↔Work culture, in the first instance through providing 'permission' to the entire organisation and then with promotion of the culture through participation (e.g. problem-solving circles, communities of practice)

  2. Resource commitment (e.g. a suitable organisation-wide communication strategy, and access to information and this toolbox)

  3. Sustainable management support. It's a good idea to check workplace culture at least every two years


Create Meaningful Incentives


Create a selection of meaningful incentives for using the toolbox relevant to different end-user groups. For examples, the business and legal case may have the greatest influence on senior managers, whereas the moral case may have more impact at the individual level.

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