Healthy Work Tools

For Employers

What can we do now?

If your organization used the StressAssess survey to find out if you have (un)healthy work at your workplace, you’re probably asking what you can do about the results (beyond what the survey recommends).

Below you will find recommendations, tools and resources from experts in the field of work stress to help you take action to address the work stressors that threaten the health and well-being of employees and make your organization less productive.

Remember, these tools and resources are meant to complement your own organizational resources, which may already include:

  • A commitment to improve organizational culture and the health and safety of workers.
  • Implementation of wellness programs, employee assistance programs, or assessments of employee/organizational health and productivity.

Not one set of recommendations fits all. Healthy work can be achieved by improving the quality of jobs and by reducing specific work stressors. Which work stressors—and how to best accomplish this—will depend on your industry, the size of your company, and your existing resources and infrastructure.

Before deciding on the best course of action for your organization, your team (at all levels, including employees) should be consulted, since they know your organization and can offer a diversity of perspectives.

What can our organization do to combat work stress?

Step One – Review and share your organization’s Survey Report and LEARN what exposure to particular work stressors may mean to your employees and organization, using the Principles of Healthy Work.

Step Two – Is your organization ready for healthy work? Find out what unhealthy work is costing your organization.

Step Three – Find out some ideas for implementing “healthy work” and examples of some relevant, evidence-based research and programs/policies your organization could consider to promote healthy work and reduce the work stressors specific to your workplace.

Step Four – Plan and design your own “healthy work programs/policies” with participation at all levels of your organization (especially employees).

Want to know more? Read on.

STEP ONE:

Review the findings from your survey report and LEARN about how the work stressors common in your organization can be reduced or improved to make healthier work and healthier workers. Share your ideas and thoughts with key members of your organization. If you have questions about your report, you can Get Feedback.

STEP TWO:

Is your organization ready for healthy work? Find out what unhealthy work is costing your organization.

  • Read our case for why it benefits organizations to reduce work stressors and improve job quality: Business Costs of Unhealthy Work.
  • Need more help convincing leadership about prioritizing the health and safety of workers? Or to find out how your current employee wellness or health and safety resources might work more effectively?
    • Check out the NIOSH Total Worker Health® program to enhance your policies and practices around workplace health and safety. The Total Worker Health (TWH) approach includes strategies that recognize that working conditions are important factors that can lead to illness and injury, and that job-related factors such as wages, hours of work, workload, coworker and supervisor support, access to paid leave, and health-promoting workplaces all can have an impact on the well-being of workers, their families, and their communities. Implementing TWH policies, programs, and practices in your organization can be a good starting point in promoting #healthywork. Also take a look at the TWH “Business Case” and this checklist if you want to implement the TWH approach in your organization. 
STEP THREE:

Find out some general ideas that could be used to implement healthy work, as well as some examples of evidence-based research/programs or what other organizations are doing to improve the quality of jobs and to promote healthy work by reducing work stressors.

  • Enhance job control, reduce excessive job demands, balance efforts with appropriate rewards, and create a more supportive work environment.
General Ideas**

Enhance job control; reduce demands

  • Develop standards for job descriptions so that there are reasonable workloads, a variety of tasks, clear responsibilities, as well as a clear line of reporting.
  • Establish policies and train managers to encourage employee participation in decision-making and encourage employees ability to carry out their tasks with more independence and autonomy.
  • Cultivate employee performance and development.
  • Evaluate manager performance in the areas including:
    • Involving all employees in discussing problems and solutions,
    • Communicating frequently with employees about important decisions and future plans,
    • Arranging work assignments to prevent excessive demands,
    • Planning work carefully with employees to agree on achievable deadlines or work pace,
    • Ensuring that tasks and responsibilities are clearly defined, and
    • Providing employees with opportunities for learning and skills development.

Create a more supportive work environment.

  • Organize job roles to allow employees to participate in work teams.
  • Train managers/supervisors on effective leadership of work teams and effective communication.
  • Form labor-management committees (where they don’t already exist) to allow effective feedback from employees and management on all issues pertaining to worker health, safety, and work stress.
  • Sponsor social events to foster teamwork and positive relationships.
  • Make sure that meal break areas are clean, furnished, and well-equipped, so employees can socialize at break times.
  • Organize peer support groups (such as healthy lifestyle, elder caregivers, illness/injury prevention) for employees in the workplace and help employees to connect with support groups in the community.

** Adapted from the Job Stress Intervention Guide, TWH Center for Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace, 2015

Examples of Research/Resources/Organizations

A labor-management program to reduce work stressors and burnout: This is one example of a program (among many “intervention research” studies) that effectively increased job control and social support, and reduced job demands and effort-reward imbalance. The study was conducted by researchers in partnership with healthcare staff in a hospital in Quebec, Canada beginning in 2001. It involved a team of workers (in this case, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders in the hospital) who met regularly to come up with specific ways to improve the health of all care staff at the hospital by reducing psychosocial stressors through: teamwork and team spirit (support), staffing processes (demands), work organization (hours, schedules), training (skill discretion, job control), communication (support) and ergonomics. After three years, there were significant reductions in burnout, and improvements in effort-reward imbalance, job control, demands and other factors compared to a similar hospital that did not have this type of program.

Partnering with researchers to conduct a study is not always possible, but following the steps in this Healthy Work Tools page is. This can include forming a committee or “design team” that represents your organization to assess, plan and design programs or policies that may reduce work stressors and promote healthy work in innovative ways.

  • Address work-life balance.
General Ideas**
  • Adopt policies on fair and flexible work schedules appropriate to the industry; communicate policies and procedures to all employees.
  • Establish firm limits to avoid excessively long work hours.
  • Train supervisors how to communicate and support existing work-life policies and programs.
  • Expand benefits and programs to assist with managing personal and caregiving needs, including workplace breastfeeding supports.
  • Develop vacation or sick leave pool programs to help employees during hardship.

** Adapted from the Job Stress Intervention Guide, TWH Center for Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace, 2015

Examples of Research/Resources/Organizations

The Work Family Health Network is an interdisciplinary team of researchers who have conducted research on work-life balance (and other issues) to improve the health and well-being of working people and benefit employers. These researchers found that workers supervised by family-supportive managers were significantly more likely to experience lower levels of work-family conflict, higher job satisfaction, lower intention to change jobs, and higher reports of physical and mental health. If your organization has high levels of work-life conflict, check out these important scientifically validated toolkits that could be used to help your organization find ways to reduce work-family conflict and increase productivity by decreasing unnecessary work and increasing everyone’s control over their time.

1 Million for Work Flexibility is a national initiative in support of work flexibility. “Work flexibility” is a term for options in the workplace that give organizations and their staff the freedom to better decide when, where, and how work will get done (i.e., job control). Examples include: flexible and alternative schedules, remote work options, and other types of work flexibility. Benefits for employers are many. Work flexibility increases productivity, produces cost savings, improves employee wellbeing and morale, and leads to better retention.

U.S. Breastfeeding Committee is an independent non-profit organization that includes representatives from government, non-governmental organizations, and health professional associations, who advocate for policies and practices that support breastfeeding across the U.S. They offer resources for employers regarding the “Breaktime for Nursing Mothers” law and provide webinars for employers to understand their responsibilities in this important area of work-family balance. Also check out these resources from the Office on Women’s Health about Supporting Nursing Moms at Work.

  • Reduce incivility/promote justice and fairness in all policies and practices.
General Ideas**
  • Establish policies and procedures to deal with incivility, abuse, harassment, and violence at work.
  • Use precise definitions in policies for workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination, and include proactive steps that address the bully/perpetrator—not the target.
  • Incorporate respect and fairness into the company mission statement, personnel policies, and expectations for daily interactions.
  • Provide training for all employees on respectful and fair treatment in the workplace; involve executives, managers, supervisors, production employees, and all new hires.
  • Reward employees for being good role models for respect and fairness in the workplace.

** Adapted from the Job Stress Intervention Guide, TWH Center for Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace, 2015

Examples of Research/Resources/Organizations

Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) offers comprehensive resources about workplace bullying, including for organizations that want to address bullying in the workplace. WBI includes self-help advice for individuals, personal coaching, research, books, public education, union assistance, training for professionals, employer consulting, and legislative advocacy. In 2001, WBI launched the Healthy Workplace Bill, which has now been introduced in 31 states/territories. If you want to get involved in supporting this bill in your state, review your options.

U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs – Civility, Respect and Engagement in the Workplace (CREW) is a culture-change initiative launched by the VHA National Center for Organizational Development after employee feedback that low levels of “civility” were affecting job satisfaction. More than 1,200 VA work groups have utilized this program to improve the work climate by encouraging more civil and respectful interactions. The results have been higher job satisfaction and intent to stay, reduced sick leave, fewer EEO complaints, and better patient care outcomes.

  • Address job security and precarious jobs.
General Ideas
  • When possible, extend the same pay and benefits to non-standard employees that are offered to similar status permanent employees.
  • Include all non-standard employees in workplace health and safety training programs, wellness programs and employee assistance programs.
  • Prior to implementing restructuring, consider:**
    • Evaluating the economic and social impact on workers, families and communities, and the long-term impact on company innovation and sustainability.
    • Early communication with employees, their representatives, and other local stakeholders (e.g. communities, local authorities).
    • Instituting employee skill development and job retraining or cross-training.
    • Alternatives to layoffs including temporary or long-term working-time reductions, re-negotiation of working conditions.
    • Help with job-search, including paid time off to search for jobs.

**Adapted from the European Parliament adopted report to The Commission on Information and Consultation of Workers, Anticipation and Management of Restructuring, 2012.

Examples of Research/Resources/Organizations
  • NIOSH Science Blog – Non Standard Work Arrangements include workers considered temporary help, contingent, part-time, on-call, direct hire, agency, contract, app-based, on-demand, freelance, and gig workers. Independent contractors do not have a legal right to a safe workplace and are not legally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. Many non-standard, low-wage workers do not earn minimum wage. Studies have shown that non-standard workers are more likely to get injured on the job and are more likely to become ill compared to permanent workers which may be related to a lack of paid sick leave. OSHA and NIOSH have developed a joint guideline for employers of temporary workers (e.g. staffing agencies): Recommended Practices for Protecting Temporary Workers and Cal OSHA has also produced a Safety and Health Fact Sheet on this issue.
  • Responsible Restructuring” is an innovative, alternative set of strategies and recommendations for minimizing the impact of restructuring. A 2002 article published in the Academy of Management Perspectives points out that while organizations use employment downsizing to reduce operating costs and enhance their competitive positions in a global marketplace, there are serious doubts as to the long-term payoff of this approach. The article highlights several alternative approaches to restructuring, as well as company examples and research-based findings that illustrate mistakes to avoid and affirmative steps to take when intending to restructure responsibly. Given the known impact of restructuring on the health and well-being of downsized employees and their families and communities, a network of experts in Europe have developed a website on responsible restructuring that includes a number of projects funded by the European Commission. In 2013, the European parliament adopted a set of 14 recommendations in a plenary session, regarding corporate restructuring.
  • Address hours, shifts and schedules.
General Ideas
  • Establish firm limits to avoid excessively long work hours.
  • When possible, avoid “on-call scheduling” and give an employee reasonable advance notice of their schedule.
  • Recognize the dangers (and productivity costs) of disrupted sleep and fatigue due to shift work and long work hours, and consider redesigning the work schedule, redistributing the workload, or offering longer recovery times.
  • Avoid frequent rotations between night and day shifts when possible.
  • Offer shift workers educational programs and resources to improve sleep strategies, exercise and diet programs, and relaxation techniques.
Examples of Research/Resources/Organizations

US Department of Labor – Laws governing work hours: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not limit the number of hours an employee can be required to work. For non-exempt employees (usually wage earners), the FLSA requires workers to be paid at time and a half after working 40 hours in a work week. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates hours for drivers (truck, bus, rail etc.) only. Passenger-carrying drivers are limited to 10 hours of driving, and property-carrying drivers are limited to 11 hours.

NIOSH resources on sleep, fatigue, shift-work and long hours: A significant number of U.S. workers are exposed to health and safety risks associated with shift work, long work hours, and related workplace sleep and fatigue issues. If you are an organization in the aviation, transportation, or healthcare industries, or are in emergency services, or have found employees in your organization are working long hours and night shifts, this can be particularly dangerous to the health and well-being of your employees and organization—and potentially the public. NIOSH has made available a webinar series and other resources about how shift work and long hours affect fatigue and sleep, as well as trainings and resources for coping and minimizing the effect of shift work and long hours.

  • Provide fair pay/living wages/benefits.
General Ideas
  • Pay all low-wage workers at least a “living wage.” (See the MIT living wage calculator based on your region’s cost of living.)
  • Consider implementing a “parity policy” for subcontracted or temporary workers.
  • Expand benefits and programs to assist with managing personal and caregiving needs.
  • Develop vacation or sick leave pool programs to help employees during hardship.
Examples of Research/Resources/Organizations

In 2002, Harvard University (after protests by the student-led “Harvard Living Wage Campaign”) instituted a “parity policy” which means that service workers on the payroll of an outside contractor earn the same pay and benefits as direct university employees, thus removing economic incentives to outsource service work to save on labor costs. Harvard’s experiment meant that the 1,000 low-wage dining, security, and janitorial workers previously earning $10/hour now earn the equivalent of a middle-class income. A former Treasury Secretary, Mr. Summers, argues that this is “an important private-sector policy innovation and a good template for a socially-minded organization.”

Costco is another good example of a corporation that is willing to pay its workers a living wage, has a large unionized workforce, has lower turnover of staff than similar retailers, and has a highly profitable business model. Costco co-founder and CEO Jim Sinegal, who refuses to charge their customers more or shave the benefits and salary of their employees, said “We think when you take care of your customer and your employees, your shareholders are going to be rewarded in the long run.”

Family Values @ Work is a national network of 27 state and local coalitions helping spur the growing movement for family-friendly workplace policies, such as paid sick days and family leave insurance, which will result in better individual and public health, and greater financial security for families, businesses and the nation. If you would like more information about the benefits of family-friendly work policies such as paid sick days and paid leave, check out these resources, toolkits, and employer examples.

Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment (RAISE) is an association of restaurant industry leaders committed to taking the "high road" to profitability. Through RAISE, restaurant owners learn about sustainable business models that champion living wages, basic benefits, fair promotion policies, among other "high road" employer practices as recipes for success, not impediments to profitability. Convened by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), the leading restaurant workers' rights advocacy organization in the country, RAISE is including restaurant owners in the conversation.

Healthy Families Act: The American Public Health Association (APHA) urges support for this bill (currently in Congress) which would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. Creating a national paid sick leave standard would allow millions of Americans to earn the time necessary to recover from illnesses like the flu, access health care, and take care of a sick family member.

STEP FOUR:

Plan and design your own “healthy work programs/policies” with participation at all levels of your organization (especially employees).

  • Consult all stakeholders about what you found when your organization took the survey.
  • Based on Step Three, introduce stakeholders to the evidence-based research, programs or strategies from other organizations that have successfully improved work stressors or promoted healthy work.
  • Ask all stakeholders for feedback about feasible and sustainable ways to implement similar programs/policies that would reduce work stressors and promote healthy work in your organization.
How? Read more.
  • Check out the Healthy Workplace Participatory Program (HWPP) developed by the Center for the Promotion of Health in New England (CPH NEW), a NIOSH Total Worker Health® Center of Excellence. As the next step for setting up a program to address work stressors, it must involve employees and all stakeholders in your organization committed to providing healthy work.
  • How will this program benefit your organization?
    The HWPP is scientifically “field-tested” and engages employees and all levels of management in addressing a wide range of work environment, work organization, safety, and employee health issues. It works for starting new programs or enhancing existing programs and includes tools and information that you can pair with the report you received from the survey.
  • It offers you specific guidance on
    1. How to conduct focus groups with employees/other stakeholders to get feedback about the survey findings.
    2. How to introduce work stress intervention ideas and programs. (See Step Three for examples.)
    3. How to create “design teams/committees” to review survey and focus group findings, discuss evidence-based programs to reduce work stress, and design/plan innovative healthy work interventions for your specific organization.
    4. Ways to implement and evaluate healthy work programs.

More Resources

Selected organizations committed to promoting good, quality jobs or healthy workplaces**

NIOSH Total Worker Health® Centers of Excellence: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health funds six Centers of Excellence (COE) to conduct research on Total Worker Health (TWH) approaches. The COEs advance knowledge to improve the overall safety, health, and well-being of the diverse population of workers in our nation. The COEs use multidisciplinary research projects, including intervention-focused research, outreach and education, and evaluation activities to improve our understanding of which solutions work. Check out the Essential Elements of Effective Workplace Programs and Policies for Improving Worker Health and Wellbeing, which is a guide for employers and employee-employer partnerships that identifies 20 components of a comprehensive work-based safety and health program, and includes both guiding principles and practical direction for organizations seeking to develop effective workplace health programs.

NIOSH also provides a Stress at Work guide that provides a comprehensive approach to preventing job stress, including resources and steps that organizations can take.

In 2014, the NIOSH Office of TWH developed its Promising Practices in TWH program which identifies best practices in the “design, implementation, and evaluation of an integrated approach to worker health,” and includes small, medium, and large workplaces.**

APA Center for Organizational Excellence: Creating a Psychologically Healthy Workplace: Psychologically healthy workplace practices foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity according to the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, and include five features: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth & development, health & safety, and employee recognition. These categories and the criteria they include, align with many of the HWC Principles of Healthy Work. Organizations of any size (for-profit and nonprofit) can apply to the APA’s annual “Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards” which recognizes organizations that excel in these five categories. Check out past award winners.**

B Corps is a community and certification process for businesses who seek to redefine success in business and to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. The B-Corp community works towards reducing inequality and poverty, building a healthier environment, stronger communities and the creation of high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. Certified B-Corporations undergo a rigorous assessment of the company’s impact on its workers, customers, community, and environment and are required to amend their legal governing documents to require their board of directors to balance profit and purpose. Check out the B-Corp Directory for companies that have been certified and may offer many of the elements of a healthy workplace.**

The Good Jobs Institute is a nonprofit that was established to help companies thrive by creating good jobs. The Institute offers tools and resources to executives who want to improve the jobs and lives of their employees in a way that improves the performance and competitiveness of their companies. The Good Jobs Strategy is a book authored by co-founder of the Good Jobs Institute, Zeynep Ton, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. It is a system offered to businesses interested in providing good jobs by combining investment in employees with operational choices that increase employee productivity, contribution, and motivation.

Good Companies, Good Jobs Initiative is anchored within MIT Sloan’s Institute for Work and Employment Research (IWER). The Good Companies, Good Jobs Initiative strives to be a catalyst for ideas, a testing ground for new management models, and a hub where learning and business practice meet. The Initiative strives to answer the questions: What is good work? What are good jobs? What is a good company? What factors encourage or hinder the creation of high-quality jobs?

International Labor Organization (ILO) Stress Prevention at Work Checkpoints is a manual and an app which is designed for use by anyone interested in workplace stress prevention: national authorities, company and organizational managers, trade unions, human resource personnel, and occupational safety and health practitioners. The ILO SOLVE program is also available to download. It is an interactive educational program designed to assist in the development of policy and action to address health promotion issues at the workplace. It deals with the prevention of work-related stressors (both workplace stress and economic stressors), alcohol and drug abuse, violence (both physical and psychological), the prevention of HIV/AIDS, as well as the promotion of tobacco-free workplaces and health lifestyles, including good eating, sleeping and exercise habits. It includes guides for trainers and participants.

The Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces’ (UC Berkeley) mission is to reinvent workplaces by applying interdisciplinary sciences to achieve worker health and psychological well-being. ICHW has built relationships with researchers, practitioners, policymakers, service providers and corporate representatives to learn about the ways health and well-being are addressed and the barriers to achieving greater progress. ICHW’s interdisciplinary team reviews and evaluates the effectiveness of interventions, programs and practices.

World Health Organization (WHO) Preventing Suicide: A Resource at Work is a guide to addressing the organizational and work-related psychosocial elements that can increase the risk of suicide among workers. It provides information for employers, managers, and colleagues about how they can promote workforce mental health. The WHO has estimated that one suicide occurs every minute. Suicide accounts for 8% of all working days lost due to death. Recent research shows that those exposed to work stressors such as job strain and effort-reward imbalance are twice as likely to think about committing suicide. (Loerbroks et al, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2016)

**Note: Not all of the companies acknowledged by the organizations in this list will reflect all of the Principles of Healthy Work or be completely consistent with our Healthy Work Agenda.

Share this: