- By Ian Bradley
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public health ofïicials face a no-win situation with respect to future disease threats: any level of concern may seem unduly alarmist if an epidemic does not occur, but no level of preparation will be considered sufficient if an epidemic does occur.
Brown and Barrett, The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2008
Brown and Barrett’s quote highlights the dilemma faced by public health agencies as they prepare for H1N1. Clearly any form of action taken will be met with criticism, giving way to an inevitable no-win situation. The same prognosis may be made for even the best-conceived plans by Human Resource departments in organizations across North America. Their best efforts to develop contingency plans for potential absenteeism, promote vaccination among their employees and encourage hand-hygiene habits in the workplace might also be considered in the same negative light “ damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
However, I would argue that the H1N1 threat has presented HR departments with an opportunity to promote a sure winner- wellness.
Whether the pandemic materializes or not, fit and healthy employees will be less susceptible to infection and in all likelihood will show faster recovery if stricken. However, under what is appearing as the most likely scenario, the worst of the influenza may have already passed. In either case, fit and healthy employees are more productive and less costly employees.
Shifting the HR focus to include Wellness, as well as H1N1 prevention/coping, will change the psychological gears in a very positive direction. Regrettably even the very best HR initiatives that I have seen are based on avoidance that is, refraining from sneezing or getting vaccinated in order to AVOID the flu.
Psychological research has shown that avoidance worry about illness is stressful in itself. . Avoidance demands vigilance, constant effort, and at best, it’s success only brings our spirit back from fear to neutral.
In contrast, actively doing something about our health makes us feel good. Humans work best and feel best about themselves when they set goals, develop plans to achieve them and actualize those goals. Striving for something as important as our health makes us feel good.
While employees are listening, here are some suggestions for HR department to consider as they broaden their H1N1 focus to include Employee Wellness.
Health Metrics, have a lunch-hour biometric assessment of
– body fat
– blood pressure
– strength and flexibility
call it Accounting for Your Body
– start a lunch-time walking club
– arrange an after-hours or weekend swap of sports
-bring in a motivational speaker to talk about smoking cessation
-hire someone to explain meditation and its applications
-offer a workshop on stress management