Worksite-based Settings

Given that most adults spend many of their waking hours at work, worksites are seen as a potentially useful place to offer opportunities for increasing physical activity. Worksites may include interventions focused on the individual, the physical built environment (e.g., walking trails, fitness facilities) and/or changes in policies to encourage physical activity (e.g., flexible work hours). Some programs and policies have been offered by management, while others have been developed jointly through labor/management negotiations. There are also interventions that have been developed to build support for physical activity both from fellow employees and family and friends.

In developing your intervention, it is important to consider the feasibility of engaging in these various strategies and to consider alternatives as appropriate. For example, many small businesses find it useful and cost effective to work with existing community organizations and fitness facilities rather than developing their own fitness programs and facilities on site. It is also important that the opportunities created are flexible enough to meet the needs of a wide variety of employees. For example, you might choose to bring a certified exercise instructor into the workplace, build a walking trail around the worksite, or change worksite policies for flex-time.

It is important to remember that not all employees have equal resources or supports for being physically active. As a result, worksites that are truly interested in enhancing physical activity of their employees may need to provide a wide range of programs and policies. Examples include flexible schedules, gym membership compensation, and childcare/adult care.  Similarly, because worksites are part of a larger community, a worksite interested in enhancing physical activity may choose to work with broader community initiatives such as building walking trails, enhancing public transportation, decreasing rates of crime, or developing more physical activity friendly communities as means of enhancing the ability of their employees to be physically active.

These programs have been implemented in a wide variety of unionized and non-unionized workplace settings, including:

  • Manufacturing (automotive plants, textile)
  • Printing
  • Fire department
  • University campuses
  • Municipal worksites
  • Service worksites
  • Military worksites

Previous work in worksite-based settings has found:

  • Worksite settings have the potential to reach a large population of adults so physical activity interventions are desirable. Information can be sent home with workers to address the family.
  • Since the majority of adults are employed, the worksite represents a large, accessible audience for health promotion efforts. Workers are generally healthier than their non-working counterparts, so they are excellent candidates for primary prevention, which is the general aim of most public health interventions.
  • The worksite has been endorsed as an excellent place to establish health education interventions because this setting allows an opportunity to conduct multiple and repeated interventions for a somewhat captive audience.
  • The workplace is a viable site for health promotion programs since it provides an opportunity to make environmental, structural, and policy changes that support educational messages (e.g., fitness centers or walking trails) and it provides the ability to provide social support for physical activity behaviors.

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