Leadership support in worksite

Employers sponsor #wellness programs to impact employee health behaviour and to reduce their healthcare costs, but much remains to be known about the factors influencing employees’ participation in wellness programs and improvement in their actual health behaviours. Research suggests that participation rates in worksite wellness programs tend to be low and that generally, the healthiest and least stressed employees have greater participation rates than the most stressed employees who report the greatest health risks.

The foundational importance of #leadership support for worksite health promotion has been widely discussed. Given the potential importance of organizational leadership support for health promotion as a construct, research is needed to explicate the means by which this support plays a role in employees’ wellness behaviours and perceptions. A measure of leadership support for health promotion has been operationalized and found to be psychometrically sound but not yet widely used in studies pertaining to employees’ perceptions of factors affecting their wellness program participation and wellness behaviour.

In terms of the relationship between leadership support for health promotion and employee participation in worksite wellness programs, there have been several research studies suggesting that, generally, health promotion support from organizational leaders is positively related to employee participation in wellness activities. There seems to be agreement among employers that worksite wellness programs should be offered, as 92% of employers with 200 or more employees reported offering a wellness program in 2009.


Much of the early research on wellness program participation focused on individual determinants of participation such as sex and age, but did not incorporate the work environment or leadership support factors into their investigations. One of the seminal studies investigating both individual and organizational factors that influence employee wellness participation in worksite health promotion programs found that supervisor support and control over work matters were significantly greater for wellness program participants.

One factor that has been shown to be significantly related to employees’ health and wellness activities, and would seem to be influenced by a culture of leadership support for health promotion, is employees’ experience of job stress, with greater experiences of stress related to lower participation in health and wellness activities. A few studies have examined job stress in relation to organizational health climate factors, reporting findings that greater levels of supervisor social support are associated with less perceived job stress on the part of employees. In addition, employees experiencing greater job stress report lower levels of health/safety outcomes and poorer general health, along with greater rates of absenteeism and intentions to leave their jobs

Overall leadership support for health promotions seems to be an important factor influencing the effectiveness of worksite wellness programs.

Source: The Role of Leadership Support for Health Promotion in Employee Wellness Program Participation, Perceived Job Stress, and Health Behaviors
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