Health management

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[edit] Introduction

The term health management refers to a corporate strategy aimed at preventing absence from work due to ill health and maintaining work ability. Health management is implemented as an integral part of a company’s day-to-day activities. Many larger companies appoint a central contract with responsibility for management and coordination of the strategy.

[edit] Facts

Corporate health management is a company management system with the objective of comprehensively promoting and improving the health of management and staff over the long term. It is related to company objectives such as improving customer satisfaction and productivity and preserving competitiveness. Demographic change within European workforces is also making issues related to age and ageing an increasingly important component of health management. Concretely, companies can incorporate these issues into their analysis activities, for example by producing age-related sickness data (analysis of incapacity for work) or carrying out age-focussed ergonomic analyses, or develop age-specific upskilling programmes (such as mental training) and occupational coaching.

The first step in a health management programme is usually to analyse the current situation within the company and to examine specific employee health problems. Depending on the type of company, the prevalence of mental or physical issues may differ: physical stresses in manufacturing companies, for example, or mental problems such as depression and burnout in organisations where time pressure is high.

Following analysis, companies may implement measures such as reorganisation of workspaces, additional sports or fitness facilities or flexible working time arrangements. It is important to include employees in the health management process so that their issues can be addressed in a targeted manner and solutions can be developed jointly.

According to a Europe-wide study by consulting firm Mercer in 2008, companies have been expanding their health management programmes over recent years, despite rising costs. On average, the 800 companies surveyed were spending 5.3% of their total salary budget on company health benefits. Health maintenance measures require the goodwill and commitment of employees. In many cases, therefore, they include measures aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle in general as well as purely work-related measures. The health management measures most commonly offered include health checks, subsidised gym membership, coaching for personal or work-related issues, smoking cessation support and nutritional advice. Measures also include flexible working time arrangements and additional days’ leave.

Social importance

Health promotion measures are more important for companies and society than ever before, as a glance at the statistics shows. In 2008, around 22% of employees exited the labour force on health grounds. The average age of these employees was around 55. The number of employees taking early retirement is particularly high in physically demanding occupations for example in the construction industry and in occupations such as tile-laying and painting. Only rarely do engineers, physicists, chemists or mathematicians take early retirement on health grounds.

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