Introduction The concept of work-life balance, health and well-being is about behaviour change management in ones physical, social, and mental state to attain a measure of stability. This stability can be achieved through creative and substantial preventative and or corrective actions taken in a collaborative manner with other relevant persons.
Professors Jodi Oakman and Siew Chan in their safety journal on the topic Risk management: Where should we target strategies to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorder; did a study on Australian companies with high reported instances of work related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). In this study, it was found that there was evidence to support the claim that there is a link between WMSD and psychosocial factors. Psychosocial factors such as stress, work place demand, job security and working hours are said to be predicators of WMSDs. The study also revealed that there is an inverse relationship between work-life balance and psychosocial factors. A low level of work-life balance indicates that there is a high level of stress, workplace demand complicated by work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
It’s a general belief that the mean age for employees at the reproductive age is 35 years. It is at this crossroads that most employees are working the hardest at balancing their priorities; work, family, social and their personal development. It is at this juncture of their lives that the psychosocial factors of work related stress, economic stress, physical inactivity and life style illnesses take centre stage. The imbalance occurs as one or two priorities are given more attention and the focus on the others significantly decreases.
From the premise of a proactive employer who is concerned about the health and wellbeing of the workers; behaviour change intervention programs become necessary. These interventions are relevant to ensure that workers remain healthy so that productivity does not suffer and the worker will benefit, eventually with financial rewards. The worker more often is sometimes is not able to individually, and unilaterally, restore the require work-life balance, hence the support of the employer becomes important.
Methods To achieve this balance there has to be a vision of what the behaviour change intervention programme is to achieve. How will the program impact lifestyle and lay the foundation for good health, a decent quality of life and wellbeing.
From the vision, the mission will be derived as to the targets; how they will they be measured and over what time period. The values of the program has to be shared where workers and the employer agree and work together to achieve common goals.
To strategically attain work life balance; a principled health and wellness programs has to be developed and integrated into the business operations as a key performance indicator. By so doing the programs will be aligned to the business strategies.
Results With this alignment some of the possible results that could be realised are:
A culture of safety
Reduction in on the job accidents
Increased productivity and reduced absenteeism
Reduction in sick days leading to reduction in utilisation of health insurance scheme
Improved profit margins
Improved brand image – employer of choice
A more satisfied employee
A changed worker with improved attitude and behaviour
Discussion Many blue chip companies in developed countries have established programs in place to achieve work-life balance, health and wellbeing for their staff. Some of these companies are Google, Alcoa, Fiat and Virgin Airlines, to name a few well know ones. Paul O’Neill, former CEO of Alcoa in a CNN May 2014 interview spoke about safety as a priority at Alcoa. It could be gleaned from his remarks that work life balance was achieved from the involvement of management and their commitment to a vision. Also that the desired values and attitudes for a culture of safety, work-life balance, health and wellbeing were cascaded down to the workers from the strategic level and were accepted by the employees.
In summary, Work-Life Balance Health and Well-Being is not an insurmountable goal. To support the achievement of this balance for workers, the ILO under its pillar of Decent Work has a health and safety convention that serves as an international standard for nations to pattern in their national programs. In this respect, legislations have been passed in many countries in support of the Convention. It is of note that European countries in support of the promotion of workers health and wellbeing have passed legislations. The European Framework Agreement on work-related stress was one such legislation that was passed on 8 October 2004.
There is also the Italian Regulatory Framework for Health and Safety in the Workplace, Legislative Decree 81/08. This was bench marked form the UK Health and Safety Management Standard for Work related Stress, Belgian Screening, Observation, Analysis, Expertise (SOBANE) Strategy of Risk Management and German stress–psychology–health (start).
The principle of work of work-life balance is generally accepted globally. However there is a perception of institutional inertia in many developing countries to enact the necessary legislations to support a national policy and program framework for occupational health and safety. It is hoped that developed countries that are signatories to the ILO Occupational Health and Safety Convention as well as countries in the European Unions, will extend more significant and substantial support in the areas of human resource and capacity building, as well as financial assistance to help developing countries strike that desired balance.
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