Total Worker Health in Unprecedented Times

The events of 2020 proved to be significant disrupters for businesses, families, schools, communities, worksite organization, and employee well-being. Without exception, the events of 2020 impacted all of us, at all levels of the organization and society. Strategies are now needed to ensure employee well-being and safety. 

A Gallup (Maise and Edmond, 2020) survey of over 200 Chief Human Resource Officers about their priorities. Employee well-being and mental health initiatives were identified as their most significant imperatives for 2021. One of the quotes summarized this as,

“We are surely entering a new era in which corporate wellbeing and mental health 
support are no longer perks or status symbols.
They are simply the requirements for doing business.” (Maise and Edmond, 2020)

As many workers return to the ‘new normal’, safety and occupational health professionals must consult with senior executives regarding the safety and well-being of workers; physical safety requirements as well as psychosocial well-being needs cannot be overlooked to ensure productivity and organizational success.  Virtual meetings made it easy to ignore the human experience as pandemic data were updated, physical COVID protection discussed, and productivity needs outlined. However, a more holistic and comprehensive approach is needed to encompass all elements of safety and well-being. The interconnectedness between personal well-being, safety, and workplace culture is the framework that Total Worker Health (TWH) provides.

TWH, a framework developed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), includes guidance for an integrative approach to health and safety; a model to customize policies, programs, and practices for protection from work-related safety and health hazards; and promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being; rather than a program to be purchased off the shelf and implemented.

Every organization has unique needs and cultures, thus TWH looks different at each organization. TWH uses a systems approach to safety and health management, prioritizes a hazard-free work environment, considers all aspects of work in integrated interventions, and recognizes environment and social determinants of health, which including the workplace influence. This has never been more apparent – it IS a requirement of doing business.

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