Centre for Confidence and Well-being

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Work and Well-being

Traditionally, when looking at the relations between work and health and work and well-being the focus has been on the hazards of work, the adverse effects work can have on life and well-being and on securing work safety and health.

Sometimes there is also the impression that the focus is on reducing ill-health and increasing job satisfaction due to financial losses of the public sector, the economy and businesses caused by sickness and low satisfaction levels and not due to the worship of health as a value itself. Programs and initiatives seem to have the goal to increase worker`s productivity and decrease public health expenditures by changing the behaviour of individual workers (eating, physical exercise, stress-coping behaviour, time-management).

Such programmes of course have legitimacy and they do indeed have a large value and positive impact on the individual and the societal level, but is seems that some of the more causal, more complex and more fundamental issues have not extensively been on the agenda of organizations and public policy. The focus has been more on the change of the individual and its behaviour and less on the change of systems, structures and values.

There is of course a business case to staff with high levels of well-being (see e.g. a PriceWaterhouseCoopers Report entitled “Building the case for wellness”). High levels of well-being result in enhanced productivity, less sick notes, increased creativity, etc. Hence, they make an impact on the bottom line. While this is an eligible goal for companies and the economy to pursue it should probably not be the foundation of our efforts to improve well-being at work. People in the workforce on average spend 60% of their wake time at work. Considering the fact that health is a human right that also includes the right to a safe and healthy workplace we do not even have to go as far as looking to bottom line figures.

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