Formal definitions of workplaces, as used for example by statistical agencies, do not seem appropriate for the ProMenPol project. Instead, the word workplace is defined in a broader sense as a site where people work in some kind of contractual relationship with an employer. This relationship is embedded in a specific working environment, work organisation and corporate culture and offers particular possibilities for participation and personal development for employees. All these aspects will be referred to when the word workplace is used in the ProMenPol project.
The definition of workplace is not intended to be exclusive - the interest of ProMenPol is to include as many workplaces as possible in the definition so that as many employees and employers as possible can benefit from the activities of mental health promotion.
Therefore at one level all workplaces can be considered to be in the "workplace setting". However, there are many different types of organisation and so the "workplace setting" is a general title which incorporates the many specific organisational settings, including:
- large organisations
- small and medium sized enterprises
- Micro enterprises
- public administrations
- health service and welfare (e.g. hospitals)
- education and training (e.g. schools)
- labour market and administration
The key feature workplace is that there is an employer who can set policy and who can enable mental health promotion to proceed with their workforce.
Although the final target group for the project is employees, employers and their organisations, the primary target group to be addressed in the ProMenPol toolkit is human resource managers or other practitioners that can actually apply the tools. Health care professionals involved in mental health promotion are also a target group for the project.
Why is the Workplace Important
“An important characteristic of mental health is that mental disorders often start at a relatively young age and mortality from these disorders is relatively low. This means that people can live for a long time with the effects of mental ill-health and that the indirect costs, from lost or reduced productivity in the workplace, are high.” (The State of Mental Health in the European Union 2004)
The workplace is considered to be an important setting for health promotion activity for the following reasons:
- Structures already exist within the workplace for occupational health and health and safety requirements. These can be easily used to deliver health promotion activities.
- The psychosocial structure of workplaces and work processes impact on mental health.
- The workplace offers enormous potential to reach large numbers of people with information and assistance to improve their health and well-being. Some of these people are in groups which are otherwise hard to reach.
- It is in the common interest of employers and employees to promote health at work.
- Forward thinking organisations recognise that the management of their human capital is as important as the management of their financial and other resources. Employee health and wellbeing and fitness for work are closely linked and are key factors in any organisations drive towards greater effectiveness, competitiveness and productivity.