A healthy workplace is one where the health and wellbeing of employees is a priority. High standards of health and safety are allied with policies and procedures which take into account the physical, mental, emotional and social health of workers.

Employers can also contribute to health and regeneration outside the workplace by employing locally and enhancing the skills of their workforces, and purchasing locally and ethically – thereby developing their corporate role as socially and environmentally responsible businesses.

There are many different types of organisation and so the ‘workplace setting’ incorporates:

  • large organisations
  • small and medium sized organisations
  • public or private sector organisations.

In addition, it is important to recognise that nearly all healthy settings programmes – whether focused on schools, prisons or hospitals – include a workplace health dimension.


Evidence suggests that unemployment and worklessness are not only bad for the economy, but also for the health of individuals and communities. Enabling people to gain employment and get back into work is therefore an investment for health.

However, the quality of work and workplaces also affect people’s health and well-being. Work is good for your health, provided attention is paid to health and safety, a good working environment, work-life balance and to the way in which people are supported at work. There is increasing evidence that investing in workplace health can reduce sickness rates and accidents; improve performance, productivity and competitiveness; and improve health and reduce health inequalities in society. The workplace has enormous potential as a setting for improving the health of the adult population because of:

  • ease of access to a large number of people, many of whom are at risk of adverse health effects
  • a potentially low level of attrition as the population is relatively stable
  • cohesion of the working community which can offer benefits such as positive peer pressure and peer support
  • established channels of communication which can be used to publicise programmes, encourage participation and provide feedback.

Furthermore, many companies are recognising the value of using 'triple bottom line accounting', whereby they focus on their corporate social and environmental impacts, in addition to traditional economic considerations. Viewed in this way, a commitment to health and wellbeing at work can form an integral part of Corporate Social and Environmental (CSR) and Corporate Citizenship agendas.

Working for a Healthier Tomorrow – Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of Britain’s working age population – estimated that the annual economic cost of ill-health in terms of working days lost and worklessness was over £100 billion and concluded that “improving the health of the working age population is critically important for everyone, in order to secure both higher economic growth and increased social justice.”


A successful Healthy Workplace initiative usually combines a focus on whole system organisational development with innovative high-profile initiatives focused on identified priority issues – and balances top-down commitment with employee engagement and participation.

More generally, a healthy settings approach to workplace health focuses at the many different intervention points along the continuum – improving access to work for socially and economically excluded groups; ensuring provision of a safe and fulfilling working environment; reducing the ill-effects of work on the health, well-being and quality of life of individuals, families and communities; utilising the workplace as a setting to promote good health; and increasing the positive impact and decreasing the negative impact of workplaces on the health of the communities in which they are placed and on the health of society and the environment more generally.

Working for a Healthier Tomorrow sets out a vision with three objectives:

  • prevention of illness and promotion of health and well-being
  • early intervention for those who develop a health condition
  • an improvement in the health of those out of work – so that everyone with the potential to work has the support they need to do so.

The policy response, Improving Health and Work: Changing Lives, includes a range of initiatives built around three aspirations:

  • creating new perspectives on health and work (electronic ‘fit note’, GP education; regional health, work and well-being co-ordinators; national centre for working-age health and well-being)
  • improving work and workplaces (business health check tool; national strategy on mental health and employment; NHS Plus expansion; occupational health helpline; challenge fund); review of health and well-being of NHS workforce)
  • supporting people to work (piloting early intervention services; access to work).


European Agency for Health and Safety at Work: aims to make Europe’s workplaces safer, healthier and more productive.

European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions: carries out research and development projects, to provide data and analysis for informing and supporting the formulation of EU policy on working and living conditions.

European Network for Workplace Health Promotion: promotes good practice in workplace health promotion and advocates the adoption of such practice in all European workplaces.

Health and Safety Executive: provides a wealth of useful information and links to the Strategy for workplace health and safety.

Health, Work and Well-Being: Government-led initiative to protect and improve the health and well-being of working age people.

National Clean Air Award: UK scheme that rewards employers who implement effective workplace no-smoking policies.

Trade Union Congress (TUC): this section of the website focuses on health and safety.

WHO Healthy Settings Portal – Workplaces

WHO Workplace Health Promotion


Health, Work and Wellbeing – Caring for our Future

Improving Health and Work: Changing Lives: Government’s response to Dame Carol Black’s review

Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union

North West Regional Workplace Health Strategy| Cover

Revitalising Health and Safety (Health and Safety Executive & Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions)

Securing Health Together: Occupational Health Strategy (Health and Safety Executive)

Top Tips for Healthier Workplaces

Working for a Healthier Tomorrow: Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of Britain’s working age population


Kirstie Haines
North West Health, Work and Wellbeing Co-ordinator
Tel: 0161 952 4262