Workplace Health Promotion

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Workplace health promotion ( WHP ) refers to a strategy of action on the levels of people - organization - work, comprising several levels of analysis and design, which strategically and methodically aims to build health resources in the company.

From a methodological point of view, the application of the essential principles of health promotion - such as the principle of salutogenesis by Aaron Antonovsky  - to the field of "company" is relevant .

In terms of definition and health policy, the Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion plays an important role in the European Union .

Workplace health promotion is also becoming increasingly important in the area of reconciling private life, family and career and work-life balance .

Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union

Workplace health promotion (BGF) comprises all joint measures by employers, employees and society to improve health and well-being in the workplace. This can be achieved by combining the following approaches:

  • Improvement of work organization and working conditions
  • Promotion of active employee participation
  • Strengthening personal skills.

The basis for the current Europe-wide activities for workplace health promotion are two factors. On the one hand, the EU framework directive on health and safety (Council Directive 89/391 / EEC) has introduced a reorientation of traditional health and safety in legislation and practice. On the other hand, the importance of the company as a field of action for public health care is growing. According to this understanding, healthy and qualified employees are an essential prerequisite for the future success of the European Union, both socially and economically. The responsible service of the European Commission has therefore supported an initiative to set up a European network for workplace health promotion. Members of the European network are organizations from the member states and the countries of the European Economic Area. They are also national contact points. The aim of the network is - on the basis of a continuous exchange of experience - to identify and disseminate models of best practice for workplace health promotion. The EU is thus encouraging the member states to attach great importance to workplace health promotion and to include questions of health at work in political decisions.


One example is the salutogenesis principle of Aaron Antonovsky, which contradicts classical pathogenesis . While pathogenesis describes the development of diseases, salutogenesis is about how health and well-being arise. This also includes the mental well-being of the employees.

The literature also states that “pure health promotion” is not possible. The starting point for health-promoting efforts is only created when there is a manifest problem.

The following guidelines for the implementation of workplace health promotion emerge from the Luxembourg declaration.

  1. The entire workforce must be involved (participation).
  2. WHP must be taken into account in all important decisions and in all areas of the company (integration).
  3. All measures and programs must be carried out systematically: analysis, prioritization, planning, execution, continuous control and evaluation of the results ( project management ).
  4. WHP includes both behavioral and situation-oriented measures. It combines the approach of risk reduction with the development of protective factors and health potentials (holistic approach).

With the help of this approach, the aim is to filter out and analyze health-related operational fields of action (e.g. health situation in the company, sick leave, fluctuation, absenteeism, questions of motivation, working atmosphere) in order to build up health resources in the company on this basis with the appropriate participation of employees. Salutogenically effective company health projects methodically focus on packages of measures that have been generated taking the setting approach into account and also strive for corresponding empowerment , i.e. topic-related competence development on the part of the target group. Another basic requirement for sustainable corporate health promotion is the permanent evaluation of such projects. This evaluation is mandatory for projects with which the Occupational Safety and Health Act is to be implemented.

In essence, there is no obligation for employee or works council to have a say in corporate health promotion . Only certain analysis procedures, above all the written employee survey, and certain measures are subject to co-determination. Nevertheless, it is considered beneficial to involve staff representatives in order to promote acceptance and participation of employees. Health circles are a popular tool for employee involvement .

target direction

In short, a salutogenic company health policy can be seen as an expression of the tendency to reshape, transform and integrate classic prevention topics (sick leave, health at work, work motivation, absenteeism, accident prevention, humane design of work and organization). This places increased professional demands on industrial psychology and occupational medicine . Employees in human resources and members of the works and staff councils also have to undergo further training here. Ultimately, corporate health promotion also represents a management issue or a modern corporate control, integration and management tool. The basic approach here is always to involve employees and increase their health-related ability to act ( empowerment ).

The ROI ( return on investment ) for measures in the field of company health promotion is given in relevant international studies (e.g. Federal Association of German Company Health Insurance Funds ) at a ratio of 1: 3, which shows that these instruments are economically highly effective. In addition, operationally advantageous personnel policy control options (resources in person, organization, work - such as improved health behavior at work and leisure, optimized internal cooperation / increased work pleasure, professional handling of workloads) are generated, which extend to corporate policy, culture and strategy can ( corporate health management ). A methodically secured conception of company health promotion projects also guarantees the possibility of transferring existing project designs and relevant project results to other, structurally comparable company locations. In the course of the changing world of work, more and more digital methods of workplace health promotion have to be taken into account.

Related subject areas that can play a role in workplace health promotion are: the prevention of burnout and psychomental stress , dealing with domestic violence and addiction prevention or therapy.

Implementation and practice

Legal regulation

Social security law

In terms of social law, the concept of workplace health promotion in Germany is legally defined in Section 20b (1) sentence 1 of the Book V of the Social Code . According to this, the health insurance companies promote health promotion in companies (company health promotion), in particular the development and strengthening of health-promoting structures.

Tax law

In Germany, according to § 3 No. 34 EStG, in addition to the wages owed anyway, services provided by the employer to prevent and reduce the risk of illness and to promote health in companies that meet the requirements of § 20 and § 20b in terms of quality, earmarking, purposefulness and certification SGB ​​V is sufficient, up to 600 euros per calendar year tax-free.

Corporate Health Management

The company health promotion, which is voluntary for employers and employees, is part of company health management in addition to the legally binding occupational health and safety , company integration management in accordance with Section 167 of Book IX of the Social Code and medical services for prevention in accordance with Section 14 of Book VI of the Social Code.

Many small and large companies are already successfully implementing workplace health promotion. Basically, the companies rely on a combination of measures on the behavioral and relationship level. Companies achieve the best results with a balanced mix of measures at both levels. The relationship level includes health-promoting framework conditions such as ergonomics at the workplace, changes to work processes or the development of managers. The behavior level includes the behavior of each individual employee. Measures at this level include exercise workshops, specialist lectures on healthy nutrition and relaxation units.

In addition to nutrition and stress management, the promotion of physical activity is one of the three central pillars for improving the health of employees - across all sectors and regardless of all framework conditions. Movement-related interventions are among the most frequently implemented measures in companies.

The German automobile manufacturers Daimler , VW and BMW support their employees at the relationship level with limited access to e-mails in their free time. Daimler offers its employees the option of automatically deleting e-mails while on vacation. Volkswagen prevents e-mails from being sent to the company cell phone during leisure time, and BMW has the right to be unavailable after work. The German Cancer Aid is also involved in workplace health promotion with training seminars and events for occupational physicians. In cooperation with the German Cancer Aid, employees can use company offers for the prevention and early detection of cancer.


In Austria there is no legal definition of the term workplace health promotion. The law obliges the employer in labor protection law to ensure safety and health of workers. This legal passage largely concerns occupational safety . For companies, workplace health promotion is a voluntary additional service.

Company health promotion was expanded with the 2015/2016 tax reform.


  • Bernhard Badura , Wolfgang Ritter, Michael Scherf: Company health management - a guide for practice. Edition Sigma , Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89404-877-8 .
  • Eva Bamberg: Handbook of Workplace Health Promotion. Work and organizational psychological methods and concepts. ISBN 3-8017-0980-9 .
  • Ferdinand Gröben, Klaus Bös : Practice of workplace health promotion. Measures and experiences - a cross-section. Edition Sigma, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89404-879-4 .
  • Uwe Lenhardt, Rolf Rosenbrock : Closed for renovation? Effects of operational reorganization on health protection. Edition Sigma, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-8360-8670-0 .
  • EuPD Research: Occupational Health Management 2007/08. Study examines the health management of the 800 largest German companies. Created in cooperation with the Handelsblatt, Bernhard Badura, Bertelsmann Foundation, Hans Böckler Foundation and the BKK Bundesverband, ISBN 978-3-9812322-3-3 .
  • EuPD Research: Health Management 2010. Created in cooperation with Handelsblatt and TÜV SÜD. ISBN 978-3-941632-04-2 .
  • Karin Struhs-Wehr: Company health management and leadership - health -oriented leadership as a success factor in OHM. 1st edition. Springer, Wiesbaden 2017, ISBN 978-3-658-14265-0 .
  • Ingo Weinreich, Christian Weigl: Corporate advice on occupational health protection management: Basics - methods - personal skills. Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-503-13057-3 .
  • Thorsten Uhle, Michael Treier: Workplace health promotion. 1st edition. Springer, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-540-95933-5 .
  • Cornelia Schneider: Health Promotion at Work. Hans Huber, Bern, 2010
  • S. Mayländer, M. Walden, TS Kaeding (eds.): The vital company: How to get your employees moving. Richard Pflaum Verlag, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-948277-00-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. European Network For Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP): Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union in the version of January 2007.
  2. The Occupational Safety and Health Act is based on a broad concept of health that also includes the psychological well-being of employees. ( BVerwG January 31, 1977, NZA 1997, 483).
  3. ^ Ingo Weinreich, Christian Weigl: Corporate health management guide: Basics - methods - personal skills. 2011, ISBN 978-3-503-13057-3 .
  4. Review of the effectiveness, ArbSchG §3 Abs. 1.
  5. ^ Ingo Weinreich, Christian Weigl: Corporate health management guide: Basics - methods - personal skills. 2011, ISBN 978-3-503-13057-3 .
  6. Workplace health promotion: tax advantages. Federal Ministry of Health, accessed on August 6, 2020 .
  7. ^ GKV Spitzenverband (Ed.): Prevention Guide Berlin, 2018. Fig. 8, p. 100.
  8. S. Mayländer, M. Walden, TS Kaeding: The vital company: How to get your employees moving . Richard Pflaum Verlag, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-948277-00-0 ( [accessed June 7, 2019]).
  9. Workplace health promotion (BGF) | Practical examples worldwide. Retrieved June 19, 2018 .
  10. Deutsche Krebshilfe Bonn, Action Plan 2013.
  11. RIS - Employee Protection Act - Consolidated Federal Law, version dated June 19, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2018 .
  12. ^ Ingrid Szabo: Workplace Health Promotion April 1, 2016.
  13. Income tax guidelines 2002. 3.3.14 Use of facilities and systems as well as health promotion (§ 3 Paragraph 1 Z 13 lit. a EStG 1988) Guideline of the BMF of December 11, 2015, BMF-010222/0088-VI / 7/2015, valid from December 11, 2015.