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A letter from São Paulo: Improving Health and Wellbeing for workers in Brazil

Ksenia Zheltoukhova

02 November 2011

Last week I was invited to speak at a conference on Health at Work hosted by CPH Health in São Paulo. The meeting brought together over 350 of Brazilian employers looking to improve their business outcomes by investing into health and wellbeing of their workforce.

John Harris, Vice-president of Healthways, spoke about a range of innovative technologies that are available to monitor and encourage healthy behaviours of employees. The use of such technologies within the workplace places the responsibility for employee wellbeing both on the individuals and the employers. A recent Work Foundation’s white paper has similarly emphasised that the use of social technologies at the work place offers major advantages to organisations through such shared responsibility.

One online tool developed by Healthways offers registered employees to take gradual steps to improved wellbeing by engaging them in personal daily challenges or mock competitions in healthy behaviours with friends and colleagues. A range of social technology tools ranging from iPhone app to desktop widgets is available to support the users in their achievements. 

A similar initiative has been introduced by the Department of Public Health in the UK. The Work Foundation is among organisations that pledged to support healthy work practices through the Responsibility Deal. Five networks, on food, alcohol, physical activity, health at work and behaviour change, have been established to develop pledges for action.

The second part of the conference explored European and Brazilian experience in maintaining employee workability. Brazilian employers are rightfully concerned with the extent of absenteeism and presenteeism, as they aim to remain competitive in the global economy. 

The panel discussion concluded that the organisations have to look beyond health and safety issues when managing employee health. It is in the employers’ duty of care to provide not just employment, but quality work for their staff. Many are beginning to acknowledge that meaningful work supports employee health and wellbeing, which in turn contributes to increased performance and customer satisfaction.

The conference has once again proven that employers around the world are arriving to the understanding of the value of Good Work in improving organisational outcomes. Having to compete in the context of global economy, modern organisations have to acknowledge the business benefits of quality jobs.