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Health and Work

A man working in an office.

Numerous debates among experts and the public at large have focused on how issues relating to business and the workplace can be reconciled with desires for personal development and optimal health. On-the-ground studies of today’s working world reveal a number of competing trends: more opportunities exist for workers to contribute and to take the initiative, on the one hand, while accelerated workflows bring more uncertainty and stress, on the other. For many people, their job provides life with meaning and serves as an important arena for personal growth. Above all, however, it remains a way of meeting basic existential needs.

In light of these developments, the Bertelsmann Stiftung convened an expert commission, whose brief was to examine “The future of occupational health policy.” The commission not only considered health issues, but identified which responses are necessary to today’s challenges on the economic, social and individual levels as well. The Initiative for Occupational Health Policy was then launched together with the Hans Böckler Foundation to further develop these responses and to increase awareness in the business community of their importance. The result was a 10-point program for reforming Germany’s statutory accident insurance system. The commission’s recommendations also gave rise to the Modern Occupational Health Policy project, which is dedicated to disseminating information how occupational health policies can be improved.

In addition, to address the health risks that increasingly affect higher-level employees, the Health Check Up project focused on helping companies promote an awareness of preventative measures among executives.

Our partnership with the Hans Böckler Foundation and the Initiative for a New Quality of Work focused on healthy workplaces in an era of demographic change, i.e. promoting health and productivity, especially of older workers, over the long term. A key element in this effort was the creation of regional networks of excellence, designed to provide small and midsized enterprises with access to resources relating to occupational health policy.

Businesses today are global. At the same time, however, standards relating to health issues and work/life balance are often based on cultural attitudes and national definitions, as are notions of how corporate leaders should act. Approaches to addressing these topics therefore vary greatly. As a result, the Enterprise for Health (EfH) network is dedicated to communicating information about these “soft” leadership factors and to serving as a platform for organizational actors – HR departments, managers and corporate medical personnel – that can help them augment their knowledge. Experience has also shown that ensuring effective occupational health and HR policies requires creating or expanding an organization’s partnership-based corporate culture.

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