How EAP Programmes Can Create a Culture of Health | EAPA-SA

A culture of health is a strategic advantage

Employee-orientated organisations understand that engendering a culture of health is a worthwhile investment, which will pay dividends through enhanced employee morale and engagement and lead to a boost in productivity.

It takes whole-organisation engagement to create a culture of health

When a culture of health becomes an integral part of the work environment from the top down, it is conducive to bringing about widespread, lasting lifestyle changes among employees.  As a result workers become less inclined to add risky behaviours to their health profiles.  What’s more, they are likely to feel an enhanced sense of community, sharing a positive outlook.  A culture of health also engenders mutual respect between employer and employees, stimulating teamwork, creativity and enthusiasm. Without whole-organisation involvement it is possible for organisations to implement wellness programmes, but to fail to create a true culture of health in their workplace.   Awareness and employee participation in programmes to create wellbeing may be low, workers may resist the attempt to affect changes to their lifestyle behaviour, and organisational leadership may not be leading by example by engaging in healthy lifestyles.

EAPS in South Africa are moving toward supporting organisational cultures of health

While EAPs are currently considered one of the main vehicles for mitigating the effects of occupational and personal stress, as well the effects of substance abuse and addictions, on productivity in the workplace, they are rapidly evolving into being the providers of holistic wellbeing programmes in the workplace that ensure better employee engagement and productivity.

In her report back on findings from the EAPA-SA international conference board member, Radhi Vandayar, states:

“The South African market is moving increasingly towards wellness so that EAP programmes now include counselling, absence management, occupational issues, safety issues, guidance regarding financial and legal needs, and health days.  Sometimes organisations will use a combination of providers, but oftentimes the larger EAP providers are equipped to offer all-in-one programmes, a combination model, where internal EAP managers or service providers offer wide ranging services that are easier to manage.  The big question today, from an international perspective, is should the EAP industry call these Employee Wellness Programmes?  For me, the term misrepresents what we do. The term “wellness” is widely associated with the work of hospitals and insurance companies.  If the EAP industry does  change the term I believe we should rather use the term ‘wellbeing’ as EAPs take into account all aspects of the employee – the whole person in their environment.”

How can EAPs build a culture of health?

A high-quality EAP is one that focuses not just on the needs of the employees but is also a strategic partner to the organisation in helping to support its business objectives through employee wellbeing. EAPs offer expertise and support for behavioural changes at the individual, management and organisational levels.  Building on an organisation’s strengths, the EAP can help management to develop and sustain a shared vision that promotes health and productivity across the organisation.

In much the same way that they have been used to promote a drug-free workplace, a culture of safety and a workplace that embraces work/life balance, EAP programmes can be used to promote wellbeing.  The EAP can be instrumental in the following key areas:

  • strategy design
  • policy development
  • training of management and employees on topics that support a healthy workplace culture
  • wellbeing programme-promotion and visibility campaigns
  • supporting key organisational messages around a culture of health
  • expanding on the more traditional perception of EAP to include life services such as health coaching and health advocacy
  • outcomes analytics design and measurement

Better engagement from the top down ensures that organisations look at how they communicate wellbeing programmes to employees. This approach embodies a sense of individual and group responsibility toward achieving and maintaining good health. It acknowledges that individuals need a supportive culture in order to be successful at work, at home or in their community.



Essential Programme Elements for in Developing a Culture of Health

Making the investment in the practical implementation of programme aimed at instilling a culture of health includes clear communication and promotion of the intrinsic service offerings on hand. Employees must know what options are available to assist them in their wellbeing. The best practices for workplace health promotion programmes usually include:

  • Developing leadership commitment and support
  • Establishing specific programme goals and expectations
  • Employing ongoing strategic communications
  • Involving employees in the design and implementation of programs
  • Putting in place behaviour-change programmes that are scientifically sound
  • Employing effective screening services
  • Measuring and monitoring program achievements on an ongoing basis to ensure maximum effectiveness. 

The crux of establishing a healthy company culture is that it should not just be viewed by management as an initiative that will positively affect the organisation’s bottom line.  To be effective, workplace programmes aimed at employee wellbeing need to be woven into the cultural fabric of the organisation. They need to be experienced by workers as a way of life that integrates employee wellbeing into every aspect of business practices and supports physical, emotional, career, financial, social, and even spiritual wellbeing.