Research Xtra: Working well?

Exclusively for Digital and Premium subscribers, here are two case studies as part of our overview of the health and well-being category in OPI.


These case studies are awarded and commended entries from The Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards, which are organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work as part of its Europe-wide Healthy Workplaces Campaigns.

The 2016-2017 campaign promotes sustainable work and healthy ageing right from the start of people’s working lives. It raises awareness of good occupational safety and health management, the importance of risk prevention throughout the working life, and tailoring work to individual needs.

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Zumtobel Group, Austria

Zumtobel Group, a manufacturer of lighting and lighting management systems, recognised the need to consider the issues arising from an ageing workforce and developed a comprehensive concept for health management with the main focus on work ability, improved well-being, and the retention of staff.

The company established a ‘Health and Age Department’ to investigate and manage ageing workforce challenges. An initial evaluation discovered that its largest group of employees was in the 40-49 age range, with few aged over 62. An assessment found that the work ability of 25% of employees was either ‘critical’ or ‘only modest’.

The new department sought solutions for the following issues:

  • How can the work ability of the largest group of employees (40-49 years) be maintained and improved?
  • How can the company keep young workers?
  • How can the company retain older employees (50-59 years) for longer?

 To solve the issues, changes were made to its policies and practices that aimed to ensure staff were physically able to continue working, and remain in the workforce for longer.  

Six key areas were identified:

  1. Statutory workplace safety: ergonomic changes were made to workstations so that workspaces were age-appropriate
  2. Presence management: preventive and corrective support was introduced
  3. Workplace health promotion: employees were encouraged to exercise, supported by investment in electric bicycles, yoga classes and a series of talks on fitness for work
  4. Leadership style and behaviour: training was introduced for team leaders that emphasised employee well-being, appreciation and recognition
  5. Occupational reintegration management: a procedure for the return to work of staff after long periods of absence was established
  6. Generation management: measures were taken to remove any stigma from the term ‘ageing’

Following the implementation of the new policies, a number of employees have been successfully reintegrated into the company following extended periods of absence, mostly involving illnesses. Return-to-work meetings were introduced after periods of sickness to identify measures that could prevent further absences.

SAP Netherlands

Employees at global software manufacturer SAP face a number of risks to a sustainable working life, such as stress, reduced job satisfaction and work-life balance due to the fast-paced nature of the technology industry. In addition, sedentary desk-based work can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other health problems.

SAP Netherlands introduced a year-long programme, Run Your Health, to raise awareness of the risks of occupational inactivity, encourage behavioural changes to improve long-term health, and foster a healthy workplace culture through strong leadership. Over half the workforce voluntarily participated in the initiative.

Tools and equipment including poster campaigns were introduced into offices to encourage employees to move more frequently throughout the day, and biofeedback trackers were provided. With the aim of reducing the risks of MSDs, ergonomic improvements were also made to workspaces. These included height-adjustable desks, desks for ‘standing meetings’ and other exercise equipment.

Workshops on well-being topics were offered to explain the impact of overall health. Alongside those, fun health challenges – with small incentives – took place throughout the campaign to keep employees engaged.

To complement the Run Your Health programme, SAP Netherlands also focused on individuals, offering employees personal health counselling services to support them in making changes for a healthier lifestyle.

The results:

  • All participants stated a positive change in behaviour and mindset
  • All participants reported improved understanding of the long-term health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle
  • All participants described better comprehension of the connection between good health and a sustainable working life
  • Participants reported a 100% increase in regular exercise, a 30% increase in the number of steps recorded per month, and a 56% reduction in sedentary time
  • A follow-on programme, Run Your Balance, is planned, which will focus on work-life balance and happiness