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Introduction to workplace wellbeing strategies

According to Arnold and Randall (2016: 425),

‘…the costs of stress indicate that the case for intervention is strong.’

Interventions to reduce stress and improve wellbeing fall into three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.

We’ll look at each of these in more detail later on in the program. For now, let’s briefly explore the aim of each level and consider some specific interventions.

Primary interventions

Arnold and Randall (2016: 425-426) assert that primary interventions attempt to tackle the organisational sources of stress, they change the design, organisation and management of work in an attempt to design wellbeing sources into a job.

The aim of primary interventions is to remove or reduce as much as possible to various sources of work-related stress (some of which we identified earlier on in the course).

Most primary interventions are aimed at a targeted group of employees where work stress has been identified, rather than the individual employee.

They provide the following examples of primary interventions:

Jobs enrichment. This is the removal or automation of mundane tasks with the introduction of more complex or interesting tasks that allow individuals to make better use of their skills and abilities Setting up quick informal meetings to provide timely feedback and help with decision-making
Improving the planning and forecasting of workload so that employees face more realistic deadlines Analysing employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities to ensure that they are equipped to do the job and providing opportunities for them to develop further
Adjusting staffing levels so that they reflect peaks and troughs in workload Increasing variety by, for example, allowing people to rotate around the different tasks carried out in their team
Training specialist staff to deal with difficult or complex tasks that eat into the time, and increase the workload, of other team members Using information technology to reduce the cognitive load on staff, for example, systems to help staff monitor the progress of tasks that are carried out over a number of days or weeks, or when they are dealing with many simultaneous tasks
Allowing staff ‘protected time’ to deal with complex or difficult tasks that require concentration Setting fixed and protected break times
Introducing flexitime or compressed working weeks Establishing and communicating predictable shift patterns well in advance so that employees can be prepared for them and organise their home and leisure activities accordingly
Allowing employees to make arrangements with colleagues whereby shifts may be swapped (but that the work is still being done) Ensuring equity and fairness in the allocation of shifts, for example by allowing all staff the opportunity to, at some point, be involved in the construction of shift rotas
Having particularly influential individuals act as role models (eg by having successful staff leave the office on time, or be seen to take regular breaks)  

Secondary interventions

Secondary interventions aim to help employees learn to cope with work stressors.

They are directed at the individual level and are usually designed to help an employee cope with work stressors by changing their psychological reserves. This approach is based on the premise that the working environment cannot change, and so the individual must change their capacity to meet the demands of place on them (Arnold and Randall 2016: 430).

Secondary intervention might consist of some of the following:

  • Stress management training
  • Relaxation training
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness training

Tertiary interventions

Arnold and Randall (2016: 432) assert that tertiary interventions aim to help rehabilitate those employees who are already affected by stress. They are particularly important when the use of primary and secondary interventions are not practical, or in a situation where they are unlikely to be effective. They can be used to supplement primary and/or secondary interventions but not in isolation.

Tertiary interventions are increasingly taking the form of employee assistance programmes and can be used to assist the employee with a number of different health issues.

Examples may include:

  • Telephone or internet-based helpline and information services
  • Health promotions, activities such as on-site fitness classes or relaxation classes
  • Mindfulness or yoga
  • An open door policy
  • Access to management support
  • Workplace counselling

Adapted from Arnold and Randall (2016:425 – 432)

Your task

Read this article on exercise and wellbeing, then answer the following questions:

How can exercise improve employee wellbeing?

Have you found that exercise has increased your own wellbeing inside or outside of the workplace?

Post your thoughts in the comments and ‘like’ or reply to posts you find useful or interesting.


Arnold, J., Randall, R. (2016) Work Psychology: Understanding Human Behaviour in the Workplace [online] Harlow, England: Pearsonavailable from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=COV_ALMA2183136280002011&context=L&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=LSCOP_COV&isFrbr=true&tab=local&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]

Willmot, R. (2019) ‘Exercise Can Fast-Track your Workplace Well-Being – Here’s How’. The Conversation [online]. available from https://theconversation.com/exercise-can-fast-track-your-workplace-well-being-heres-how-107473 [March 29th 2019]

Further reading

For further reading on workplace interventions see Arnold and Randall (2016) Chapter 10

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This article is from the free online course:

Wellbeing at Work: An Introduction

Coventry University