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Guidelines for Healthy Working Environments


Media Release

National Guidelines for Healthy Working Environments Released

April 10, 2006

The National Guidelines for Healthy Working Environments have been launched.

The guidelines, put together by the Health Workforce Advisory Committee, encourage the health and disability sector to develop healthy workplace environments which will help recruit and retain appropriate staff.

Hon Stan Rodger, chair of the Health Workforce Advisory Committee says, "there are several definitions of healthy working environments. These guidelines concentrate on the 'healthy' side and are primarily concerned with issues such as mental and physical occupational health and safety, or the use of the workplace as a site for generally improving the health of the workforce."

"Others emphasise the 'working environments' aspect and focus on developing an environment that encourages a positive and effective workforce", says Stan Rodger.

"It's a time of significant change facing New Zealand's health and disability sector and these national guidelines will ensure that workplaces are 'healthy'. That's critical to retaining an appropriate and sustainable supply of health and disability support workers", Mr Rodger says.

"Healthy workplace environments benefit the health provider organisation, the organisation's workforce and the health outcomes of the service users."

In 2003, the Health Workforce Advisory Committee (HWAC) said developing healthy workplace environments was a key priority for New Zealand's health and disability support sector. HWAC is committed to challenging the health and disability sector to create ideal working environments that are notable for positive people, high productivity, low staff turnover and efficient and effective processes.

Stan Rodger says, "all workplaces should be positive and enjoyable environments in which to work, that don't impact negatively on people's physical, social, cultural and mental well-being."

Frequently asked questions:


What is the Health Workforce Advisory Committee?

The Health Workforce Advisory Committee (HWAC), is an independent committee, appointed by and reporting directly to, the Minister of Health, Pete Hodgson. HWAC was established in 2001 to provide strategic advice to the Minister of Health on the health and disability workforce and to provide an independent assessment for the Minister of Health of current workforce capacity and foreseeable workforce needs to meet the objectives of the New Zealand Health and Disability Strategies. HWAC advises the Minister on national goals for the health workforce and recommends strategies to develop an appropriate workforce capacity. The Committee facilitates cooperation between organisations involved in health workforce education and training to ensure a strategic approach to health workforce supply, demand and development. It reports progress on the effectiveness of recommended strategies and identifies required changes.


What are healthy working environments?

There is no single, universally accepted definition of healthy working environments. Some versions of the concept concentrate on the 'healthy' side and are primarily concerned with issues such as mental and physical occupational health and safety, or the use of the workplace as a site for generally improving the health of the workforce. Others emphasise the 'working environments' aspect and focus on developing an environment that encourages a positive and effective workforce. General attributes of healthy workplaces have been defined as including a strong vision, people-centred values, effective teamwork, customer service or product quality, information-based management decisions, genuine employee involvement in decision-making, open communication, support for individual learning and development, an emphasis on innovation and creativity and support for work-life balance.


Who is responsible for providing healthy working environments in the health and disability support sector?

The development of healthy workplaces is the responsibility of all those in the health and disability support sector and not the sole responsibility of the employing organisation or individual.


What are the benefits of healthy working environments?

Healthy working environments will be critical to retaining an appropriate and sustainable supply of health and disability support workers. One study says the foundations of a healthy work environment are good communication, a positive relationship with one's supervisor, friendly and helpful co-workers and receiving recognition. Both employees and employers benefit from these 'healthy' relationships through higher job satisfaction and commitment, reduced turnover and less absenteeism. Implementing healthy workplace environments can have positive outcomes not only for the workforce, but for the financial status of organisations themselves. This will be of particular benefit given the financial constraints experienced by many of New Zealand's health and disability support providers.

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