Prepare companies for health-promoting home offices
Authors: Gert Lang & Kathrin Hofer-Fischanger
To support companies the Austrian Health Promotion Fund and the FH JOANNEUM - University of Applied Sciences have recently published a practice-oriented guide on the health-promoting organisation of the home office.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an accelerated upheaval in the world of work in spring 2020, which meant a rapid transition for many companies towards "working from home". While the home office was often an exception before COVID-19, it now became the new normal of everyday working life in many companies.
In order to contain the spread of the Corona virus in spring 2020, maintain workers' employment and limit the negative economic impact of the pandemic, many companies or units had to switch to home office wherever possible. Some were better prepared for this than others, but many entered completely new territory with the changeover.
Workplace health promotion (WHP) can play a decisive role in preparing employees and companies for the new challenges in the work environment, supporting them in taking appropriate measures. This is especially true in phases of profound change (e.g. digitalisation, flexibilisation and most recently COVID-19) in the "new work", in which the central framework conditions for health and work are constantly changing.
Research studies report both positive and negative effects of home office work on physical, mental and social health and wellbeing. The conditions for working in a home office are not exclusively beneficial to health, as they often require a close look at important factors that influence health, such as the design of the workspace, the organisation of work or the individual and social competences of the individual employees. Despite this, little attention has been paid to the possibilities of the health-promoting home office to date. However, the available findings suggest that decision-makers in the field of health promotion need to build up their competence and knowledge with regard to the home office.
The brochure "Health-promoting home office. A guide for companies and employees", now freely available in German, is intended to contribute to sustainable capacity building in companies, so that on the one hand the necessary strategic decisions can be made and on the other hand suitable offers and measures can be taken with the aim of promoting the health of employees in a holistic sense when working at home. Furthermore, the guideline can help provide responsible persons and actors within companies (e.g. OHS, HR, management, works council) with knowledge and skills as well as the necessary know-how to act themselves or bring about the necessary decisions in the company. The information and materials can also be put to good use in daily work with companies in the sense of high-quality occupational health promotion.
The Health-promoting home office is addressed using a holistic definition of health promotion and includes several determining factors and levels of action (ENWHP 1997; ÖNBGF 2021; WHO 1986). These are communicated in the guide in a low-threshold and practical manner. Topic-specific questions, examples as well as tips and tricks for practice, but also useful links underline this practical approach. A quick and easy-to-use self-reflection tool for companies completes the compendium.
The guideline is not only intended to provide concrete support for implementing the holistic guiding principles of modern WHP, but also for its continuous quality development.
Gert Lang, Austrian Health Promotion Fund, Vienna, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathrin Hofer-Fischanger, FH JOANNEUM – University of Applied Sciences, Bad Gleichenberg, email@example.com
ENWHP (1997) Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union. European Network for Workplace Health Promotion. www.enwhp.org. Accessed 18.09.2021
ÖNBGF (2021) 15 quality criteria of the Austrian Network for Workplace Health Promotion. http://www.netzwerk-bgf.at/. Accessed 10.11.2021
WHO (1986) Ottawa Charter for health promotion. World Health Organization, Ottawa